In a major reshuffling of the Biden administration's environmental policy team, veteran Democratic political strategist John Podesta is set to take over as the top U.S. climate diplomat, replacing John Kerry. The shift comes at a critical point in President Biden's climate agenda. The news, first reported by sources in the Washington Post, has been confirmed by Podesta and other White House officials.
Podesta, currently serving as senior adviser on clean energy, will remain at the White House in his new role, taking on the title of senior adviser to the president for international climate policy. He has played key roles in past administrations, helping broker the 2015 Paris climate agreement as a counselor to President Barack Obama, and steering President Bill Clinton’s environmental policies as White House chief of staff.
His new role comes at a crucial time as the Biden administration races to finalize strong environmental regulations, while former president Donald Trump campaigns on a promise to roll back many of these actions. This political and climate tug-of-war puts U.S. credibility on the line as the world's largest historical emitter of greenhouse gases, ahead of the next U.N. Climate Change Conference this fall in Azerbaijan.
In a phone interview with The Post, Podesta credited Kerry for reinstating U.S. leadership in global climate efforts: “Secretary Kerry has put the U.S. back in leadership on climate around the world, and we’ll ensure that we keep up the momentum that has been built up through his efforts.”
Podesta will continue to focus on domestic deployment of clean energy, directing the billions of dollars allocated under the Inflation Reduction Act to accelerate the transition to wind, solar, and other clean energy sources. Despite the demanding domestic responsibilities, Podesta affirmed his commitment to his international role, assuring that his team at the White House would support efforts to promote clean energy across America.
In a statement, White House chief of staff Jeff Zients lauded Podesta as an "American statesman, a fierce champion for bold climate action, and a leader" with the trust of the president.