“This is the first time that the NSC will also recruit a Climate Change Officer, reflecting the President – elect ‘s commitment to addressing climate change as an urgent national security issue,” the Biden Interim Group said in a statement.
Putting the issue at the forefront of Kerry’s appointment foreshadows a shift in policy and approach, as opposed to the current president repeatedly denying the scientific reality of the crisis and the systematic withdrawal of environmental policies.
“It will be an honor to work with our allies and partners with the growing young leaders of the climate movement to tackle the climate crisis with the seriousness and urgency it deserves,” Kerry wrote in his tweet.
The energy around the problem of the climate crisis has increased in a short time. When Bernie Sanders, a Vermont senator, called climate change the most important national security crisis during his first presidential campaign in 2016, he was captured because he didn’t take foreign policy seriously. Five years later, the White House will have a separate climate variable, which will be the seat of National Security Council meetings.
In 2019, Kerry co-founded a bilateral initiative by world leaders and celebrities to tackle the climate crisis called Zero World War. Following the Democratic pre-election, he co-chaired the Biden-Sanders Task Force, which focused on developing policy recommendations on climate, along with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
The co-founder and CEO of the leading progressive group on climate change, Sunrise Movement, congratulated Kerry on his appointment and said the creation of the role was an “encouraging sign”. Varshini Prakash, who served alongside Kerry in the unit’s working group, described it as “committed to committing to and listening to young voices – even if we may not always agree – and ensuring that we get a seat at the table”.
But Prakash said one role was “not enough” and that Biden’s White House “should also include a domestic colleague who reports directly to the president on the leadership of the Climate Mobilization Office.”
The elected president is expected to work with the White House’s climate director on domestic issues, who will be on an equal footing with Kerry, a source familiar with the matter confirmed to CNN.
Kerry served alongside Biden in the Senate for decades. He was first elected to the Senate to represent Massachusetts in 1984 after serving as governor of the state under Governor Michael Dukakis.
In 2004, Kerry won the Democratic presidential nomination before losing George W. Bush’s incumbent president in the general election. In 2009, when Biden became Vice President, Kerry took over as chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. Obama was nominated for the Secretary of State in 2012.
Kerry served in the Vietnamese Navy as an armed ship officer in the Mekong Delta and was awarded a silver star, a bronze star, and three purple hearts.
CNN’s Arlette Saenz and Greg Krieg contributed to this report.