February 27, 2024

The White House senior adviser John Podesta will add international climate policy to his job responsibilities, replacing the special climate envoy, John Kerry, as the top US official on international climate issues, the White House said on Wednesday.

Kerry announced in mid-January that he would step down from the climate job to work on Joe Biden’s re-election campaign. Podesta will take over Kerry’s responsibilities, though not his title, when he departs, probably this spring, the White House said.

Podesta was a behind-the-scenes veteran on climate in past Democratic administrations. He was brought back to the White House last year to put into place an ambitious US climate program revived with the $375bn approved in the 2022 climate law. He also led the administration’s climate taskforce.

Kerry’s job was created by the Biden administration specifically to fight climate change on the global stage. Kerry has been in the position since the president took office in 2021.

Kerry’s appointment did not require confirmation by the Senate, but a law passed in 2022 requires that special envoys reporting to the secretary of state will have to win Senate approval.

In a step that avoids a potential partisan fight in the Senate, Podesta was not named as climate envoy, but rather a senior adviser to the president for international climate policy.

As outlined Wednesday by the White House, Podesta will continue to be involved in overseeing federal spending under the climate law, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, along with domestic climate priorities, adding the international portfolio that Kerry handled. The job will not require Senate confirmation.

The White House chief of staff, Jeff Zients, said Kerry “has tirelessly trekked around the world” to help confront the climate crisis, most recently at a UN climate conference in Dubai late last year.

“There is no one better than John Podesta to make sure” the US continues to “meet the gravity of this moment”, Zients said, calling Podesta “a fierce champion for bold climate action” who has served three Democratic presidents and has Biden’s trust.

The Washington Post first reported Podesta’s appointment.

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