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John Podesta Is Replacing John Kerry as Top US Climate Diplomat

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden is tapping veteran Democratic strategist John Podesta to be the top diplomat representing the US in global climate talks, succeeding John Kerry.

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“In three years, Secretary Kerry has tirelessly trekked around the world – bringing American climate leadership back from the brink and marshaling countries around the world to take historic action to confront the climate crisis,” White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients said in a statement Wednesday. “We need to keep meeting the gravity of this moment, and there is no one better than John Podesta to make sure we do.”

The decision, which the Washington Post first reported, comes at a tumultuous time for both domestic and international climate policy. Podesta is already a top adviser to Biden on climate, working at the White House to shepherd the implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act, which allocates hundreds of billions of dollars to clean energy production and global warming mitigation.

Unlike Kerry — who occupied an office at the State Department — Podesta will remain at the White House in the new role, officially senior adviser to the president for international climate policy. That allows him to sidestep a requirement for Senate confirmation required for envoys to the State Department, administration lawyers contend.

Podesta “has – and will continue to be – at the helm of driving the implementation of the most significant climate law in history.” Zients said.

At the White House, Podesta, 75, will remain close to the tight-knit group of senior aides — and longtime personal friends — that set Biden’s agenda. He will continue to oversee implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act, which could help connect international ambitions with domestic climate efforts that have occasionally roiled allies.

Read More: Kerry to Step Down as Biden Administration’s Climate Envoy

Kerry, 80, is well-known internationally from his former roles as US Secretary of State, Massachusetts senator and Democratic presidential nominee. His relationships with foreign leaders were assets in negotiating the contours of past climate agreements. Podesta is unlikely to maintain the grueling schedule of international travel that defined Kerry’s tenure.

Climate Talks

Podesta will be thrust into deliberations this year over how much rich nations should devote to helping poor, developing countries address climate change. UN talks will likely focus on how much the US — historically the largest emitter of greenhouse gases — should contribute, as well as China, which is currently the top polluter.

Podesta previously championed environmental policies while working in President Bill Clinton’s White House as chief of staff, and later, he advocated climate action as founder of the left-leaning Center for American Progress and chair of the board of the ClimateWorks Foundation.

Podesta also has experience leading unofficial “track two” diplomacy as a private citizen, “which has given him a strong foundation in the global challenges of the climate crisis,” Kerry said. That includes advancing action tied to the COP28 climate agreement inked in Dubai last December.

“He will bring important expertise to the work ahead, particularly in respect to the down-to-earth challenges of implementing COP28,” Kerry said.

(Updates with further details on Podesta’s role from fifth paragraph)

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