Key Democratic Strategist to Take On White House Climate Role

January 31, 2024 by Dan McCue
Key Democratic Strategist to Take On White House Climate Role
John Podesta in the East Room ahead of President Joe Biden's remarks before the U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting at the White House, Friday, Jan. 19, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON — John Podesta, whose crowded resume includes such entries as advisor to presidents and founder of the Center for American Progress, the left-leaning think tank, will succeed former Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., as the nation’s climate envoy.

President Joe Biden’s selection of Podesta, who has already been serving him as a senior adviser on renewable energy, wasn’t widely known until Wednesday afternoon, when a statement was sent out by White House chief of staff Jeff Zients.

His official title will be senior adviser to the president for international climate policy.

“When President Biden signed the largest-ever climate investment into law, the Inflation Reduction Act, he tapped John to drive the implementation of the law’s historic clean energy provisions — which has unleashed a clean energy boom across the country, creating more than 210,000 new jobs and helping attract more than $365 billion in private sector investment since the president took office,” a White House official said as part of Zients’ announcement.

“In John’s [new] role … he will continue to oversee the talented team implementing the Inflation Reduction Act,” the official continued. “John will dedicate a significant amount of time to international climate policy — working in coordination with the strong team at the State Department — representing the United States as a fierce champion for bold climate action. 

Podesta certainly has the bona fides. Back in the 1990s he was one of the key players who helped mold President Bill Clinton’s regulatory policies on the environment, and a decade later, he helped broker the 2015 Paris climate agreement during the Obama administration.

More recently, he’s overseeing the implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act, helping to invest billions in solar, wind, electric vehicles and other green technologies in a bid to sustainably address climate change.

The man Podesta is replacing, Kerry, the U.S. special climate envoy, had previously announced he planned to step down this spring, but he’s yet to set a date for his departure.

Getting Podesta in place quickly, however, is seen as key, officials said. Not only can he use as much time as possible to prepare for the next U.N. climate conference, which is slated to be held in Azerbaijan in the fall, but it is an election year that determines whether Biden’s climate legacy stands or is potentially shunted aside by a different winner of the contest.

In his statement, Zients praised Kerry for having “tirelessly trekked around the world” over the past three years.

Kerry’s efforts, he said, brought “American climate leadership back from the brink and marshaled countries around the world to take historic action to confront the climate crisis.” 

“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. Having served the three most recent Democratic presidents over three decades, he is an American statesman, a fierce champion for bold climate action, and a leader who, without a doubt, the world will know has the trust of and speaks for the president of the United States.

“President Biden has been clear that the climate crisis is the existential threat of our time — and we must continue to meet the urgency of the moment,” he said.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and @DanMcCue

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  • climate
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  • international climate policy
  • Jeff Zients
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