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Kerry Pick Signals 'War Footing' on Climate

For first time, a climate adviser will sit on the National Security Council
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 24, 2020 8:23 AM CST

(Newser) – Joe Biden unveiled several picks for his administration Monday, including John Kerry as his special presidential envoy for climate. Kerry will not be the first presidential "climate czar," but he will be the first to sit on the National Security Council. That alone is seen as a signal that Biden's administration plans an abrupt shift from the current White House on climate issues. Or as Foreign Policy puts it, Biden is putting the climate on "war footing." Coverage:

  • A 'bridge': In terms of the climate, Biden has taken flak on the left for his support of natural gas and fracking, but he views it as a "bridge" between coal and greener sources of energy, writes Lisa Friedman at the New York Times. Conservatives, meanwhile, fear an onslaught of progressive policies under the "Green New Deal." Kerry's role here? "It may be Mr. Kerry who serves as the bridge—between the dissatisfied left, the unmoving right and the waiting world."

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  • Long record: Kerry is 76, and his status as a former secretary of state and senator should give him clout in striking deals with other world leaders, per the AP. In fact, Kerry helped negotiate the Paris climate accord as secretary of state, the pact from which President Trump withdrew. (Biden has pledged to quickly rejoin.) Axios notes that Kerry's work on the climate goes back decades. Last year, he helped created the bipartisan "World War Zero" coalition with the goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. "We've got to treat this like a war," he said then.
  • Counterpart: As Kerry focuses on the big picture, Biden is expected to name a climate counterpart to focus on domestic initiatives, reports CNN. However, if Republicans retain control of the Senate, they could block them, which threatens to undercut Kerry's pleas to other world leaders.
  • Symbolism: “The United States’ credibility on climate change has plummeted over the last four years,” Nicholas Burns, a Harvard professor who served in the State Department under Republican and Democratic administrations, tells the Times. He sees the appointment of Kerry as a "powerful signal" to the world that the US, whose greenhouse gas emissions are second only to China, intends to get serious.
  • Criticism: On the left, the Food and Water Action group says Kerry isn't aggressive enough on limiting fossil fuels. "Kerry’s proposals are tired ideas from years past that will do little or nothing to address our climate crisis," says the group, per Common Dreams. It also calls him an "apologist" for fracking. On the right, the New York Post editorial board calls Kerry "one of the biggest gasbags in American politics" and unleashes this line: "We look forward to the anti-carbon lectures from a guy who travels the globe on private jets and luxury yachts." The latter line of attack might become a familiar one among Republicans, suggests the Times.
(Read more John Kerry stories.)

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