President-elect Joe Biden has selected former Secretary of State John Kerry to serve as a presidential international envoy for climate change issues as the incoming administration seeks to reposition the U.S. as a leader in the fight against global warming.
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Kerry, who represented Massachusetts as a U.S. senator before joining the Obama administration in 2013, was one of the nation's chief negotiators behind the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.
While outgoing President Donald Trump officially pulled the U.S. out of the Paris deal on Nov. 4, Biden has promised to begin the processing of rejoining the accord as soon as he is sworn in as president in January.
In a Nov. 23 news release, the Biden transition team noted that Kerry will be the first Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change to also sit on the National Security Council. The position will not require Senate confirmation.
Kerry's seat on the National Security Council reflects Biden's "commitment to addressing climate change as an urgent national security issue," the transition team said.
"America will soon have a government that treats the climate crisis as the urgent national security threat it is," Kerry said on Twitter after the announcement. "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."
Kerry, 76, currently helps run a climate action nonprofit called World War Zero, a bipartisan coalition of world leaders, climate scientists, youth activists and celebrities.
As part of its nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement, Kerry helped engineer a U.S. pledge to cut economywide emissions 26% to 28% from 2005 levels by 2025. However, parties to the Paris deal acknowledged that governments' initial climate commitments would not be enough to limit average global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by the end of the century.
According to Climate Action Tracker, an independent scientific analysis, the world would be on track for 4 degrees Celsius of warming by 2100 if governments adopted climate commitments consistent with those made by the U.S.
Meanwhile, an October 2018 special report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned of devastating climate shocks even if warming is limited to 2 degrees Celsius.
In November 2021, signatories to the Paris Agreement will meet in Glasgow, Scotland, for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26. There, countries such as the U.S. will face pressure to strengthen their nationally determined contributions as part of a collective effort to bring the Paris Agreement in line with the latest climate science.