John Podesta will take over for John Kerry as top US climate diplomat

John Podesta, a senior White House adviser focused on clean energy and climate, will take over as US climate diplomat after John Kerry steps down this spring, according to a source familiar with the move.

Podesta is a longtime Democratic strategist, campaign manager for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid and the current White House senior adviser on clean energy and Inflation Reduction Act implementation. He plans to stay within the White House in his new role as chief climate diplomat, rather than moving to the State Department, and will keep both his current portfolio as a senior adviser to the president on climate change and engage in international climate diplomacy on behalf of the Biden administration, the source said.

Podesta first came to the Biden White House in September 2022, when he was tasked with implementing the climate measures in the Inflation Reduction Act. Podesta also previously served as a top climate adviser to former President Barack Obama, where he was involved both in domestic and international climate policy.

Podesta was integrally involved in the Obama administration’s executive actions on climate and international negotiations that resulted in the Paris climate accord.

Kerry is leaving the position after three years at the helm of US climate diplomacy under the Biden administration. The 80-year-old former secretary of state and Democratic nominee for president led US negotiations at three international climate summits, the most recent of which was held in Dubai.

White House chief of staff Jeff Zients said in a statement Kerry brought “American climate leadership back from the brink.”

“We need to keep meeting the gravity of this moment, and there is no one better than John Podesta to make sure we do,” Zients said. “John has – and will continue to be – at the helm of driving the implementation of the most significant climate law in history.”

Kerry commended Podesta in a statement as a “longtime climate ally” who “knows the issue.”

“He will bring important expertise to the work ahead, particularly in respect to the down-to-earth challenges of implementing COP28,” Kerry said. “We’ve made historic progress these last three years and I know that in his new role as President Biden’s senior advisor for international climate policy, John will continue to grow the momentum from Glasgow, Sharm el-Sheikh, and Dubai.”

Speaking to CNN recently, Kerry said he would be putting his focus on trying to get Biden reelected in November and touting the president’s climate agenda.

“He’s going to everything he can in the campaign to be able to make [climate] a key issue, and I’m going to do everything I can to help the president be able to be reelected,” Kerry said.

Podesta will inherit a more favorable international climate landscape than Kerry did when he took the role in 2021.

The outgoing envoy struck several significant international agreements that brought the US back to the international table after former President Donald Trump pulled the country out of the landmark Paris agreement.

Kerry was aided in his negotiations by the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in August 2022, which put significant investment behind Biden’s ambitious climate commitments. And Kerry prioritized restarting international climate talks between the US and China, after China abruptly halted cooperation over other geopolitical issues. Kerry was key in negotiating the Sunnylands agreement struck in November – a wide-ranging climate agreement between the two countries before COP28.

Kerry was optimistic at his last UN climate summit as the country’s climate envoy.

“The message coming out of this COP is we are moving away from fossil fuels,” Kerry said in Dubai in November. “We’re not turning back.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

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