Joe Biden’s appointment of John Kerry, an Obama cabinet alum, to tackle climate change, raised the hackles of Republicans but drew delight from moderates and some corners of the progressive wing on Monday.
Mr Kerry, President Obama’s secretary of state from 2013-2017, who ran against George W Bush for the White House in 2004, was named the special presidential envoy on climate.
He will serve on the National Security Council, the first time it will have an official dedicated to climate change, reflecting president-elect Biden’s view that it is "an urgent national security issue", according to a statement from the transition team.
Sec. Kerry was among the architects of the landmark Paris climate agreement, which Donald Trump withdrew from in 2017 and which Mr Biden intends to immediately rejoin.
“America will soon have a government that treats the climate crisis as the urgent national security threat it is. I'm proud to partner with the President-elect, our allies, and the young leaders of the climate movement to take on this crisis as the President's Climate Envoy,” Sec. Kerry tweeted after the announcement.
He later added: “The work we began with the Paris Agreement is far from done. I'm returning to government to get America back on track to address the biggest challenge of this generation and those that will follow. The climate crisis demands nothing less than all hands on deck.”
The work we began with the Paris Agreement is far from done. I'm returning to government to get America back on track to address the biggest challenge of this generation and those that will follow. The climate crisis demands nothing less than all hands on deck. pic.twitter.com/xxfakodQ6d
— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) November 23, 2020
Tom Steyer, a former presidential candidate who later led the Biden campaign group on climate change, tweeted: "Extremely proud of my good friend and Former Sec. of State @JohnKerryset to be named as the President's Climate Envoy!
“His leadership is needed as we seek to tackle the climate crisis, re-establish America as a world leader on climate & work internationally to save the planet.”
Al Gore, former VP and climate activist, tweeted: “A superb choice by President-elect@JoeBiden of@JohnKerry as Climate Envoy. Kerry’s experience and passion are exactly what we need to restore American leadership abroad and repair the alliances that are crucial to solving the climate crisis.”
Sec. Kerry was congratulated by Senator Ed Markey, co-sponsor of the Green New Deal with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and a fellow New Englander.
“There simply is no one better to coordinate a bold government-wide response to the defining crisis of our time - climate change - than John Kerry. These nominees reflect tremendous leadership for our foreign policy and national security when we need it,” he tweeted. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, Washington governor Jay Inslee and incoming chief of staff Ronald Klain also tweeted their support.
Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, who has repeated misleading statements on climate change, also was quick to comment on the appointment on Twitter.
“John Kerry thrilled at prospect of returning to his dream job of living in Central European luxury hotels while negotiating deals that are bad for America," the GOP official wrote.
John Kerry thrilled at prospect of returning to his dream job of living in Central European luxury hotels while negotiating deals that are bad for America.
— Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAR) November 23, 2020
Dean Browning, a Republican former commissioner in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, posted on Twitter that Kerry “as climate czar is a complete joke. I don't even have words”.
“John Kerry is going to fight for climate change with his big mansion,” tweeted Republican Omar Navarro, who has ran repeatedly and unsuccessfully against California Rep. Maxine Waters.
Sec Kerry launched World War Zero, a bipartisan coalition involving US politicians, world leaders and a host of celebrities last year.
He told The New York Times that to tackle the global climate crisis, it was important to “mobilise an army of people who are going to demand action now on climate change sufficient to meet the challenge”, similar terms to which president-elect Biden has spoken of his own climate plan.