Kerry: US Back to Lead Role in Climate 01/27 06:12
(AP) -- From a wood-paneled library in his Boston mansion, new climate envoy
John Kerry is talking the U.S. back into a leading role in global climate
action, making clear the nation isn't just revving up its own efforts to reduce
oil, gas and coal pollution but that it intends to push everyone in the world
to do more, too.
Kerry's diplomatic efforts match the fast pace of domestic climate
directives by the week-old Biden administration, which created the job Kerry
now holds. Those directives include a Biden order expected Wednesday spelling
out how U.S. intelligence, defense and homeland security agencies should
address the security threats posed by worsening droughts, floods and other
natural disasters under global warming.
At 77, Kerry is working to make a success out of the global climate accord
that he helped negotiate in Paris as President Barack Obama's secretary of
state --- and that he then saw rejected by President Donald Trump, who also
spurned all other Obama-era legacy efforts to wean the U.S. and global
economies off climate-damaging fossil fuels.
Success for Kerry is hardly assured. At home, he faces pushback from the oil
and gas industry and hears concerns that jobs will be lost. Internationally,
there's uncertainty about whether Biden's climate commitments can survive the
United States' intensely divided politics, let alone the next presidential
Meanwhile, environmentalists are pushing him to be aggressive --- even
demonstrating outside his house on his first full day on the job.
Underscoring the urgency, Kerry -- working from his home on Boston's
patrician Beacon Hill during the COVID-19 pandemic -- sat before a computer
screen and started talking before sunup last Thursday, his first full day in
his new job, to a global business forum in Europe.
Since then, he has spoken virtually with U.S. mayors, foreign presidents and
premiers, government ministers and others, until the light from the setting sun
slides down the gilt spines of the shelves of leather-bound books in his
Kerry exhorts: Put your big one-off COVID-19 economic recovery funding into
projects that boost cleaner energy. Get green projects going fast in
Republican-leaning U.S. states to prove renewable energy can mean jobs and
build needed political support. Get everyone to talk to China about things like
stopping the building of dirty-burning coal-fired power plants.
If China and the U.S., as the world's No. 1 and 2 top carbon emitters, don't
spell out exactly how they will curb climate-damaging emissions more quickly,
"we're all going to lose credibility," Kerry told an online gathering of
American mayors last weekend.
The U.S. has to have the "credibility to go to the table, show people what
we're doing and push them to do more," Kerry said then. "So everybody can can
understand it's not fake, it's not a phony, empty promise --- it really is
Kerry is a full-time principal member for climate on the White House's
National Security Council. The role acknowledges what climate and military
experts say will be growing conflicts around the world as climate change
increases competition for natural resources. It takes into account a lack of
U.S. readiness to protect military installations and overall infrastructure
from worsening flooding and other natural disasters as temperatures rise.
By giving someone of Kerry's stature a job with equally high prominence,
Biden aims to "bring the climate issue into the conversation" on national
security matters routinely, said John Podesta, a climate counselor for Obama
and a White House chief of staff for President Bill Clinton.
Kerry is expected to have desks at both the White House and the State
In the meantime, the home library where Kerry now holds most of his big
online meetings earned him a 10 out of 10 from the popular "Room Rater" Twitter
account that judges the backdrop dcor in people's Zoom calls and TV
appearances. That's despite expressing doubt about whether it was a room or a
Kerry and other Biden administration climate leaders will be working to set
a tougher goal for the U.S. for cutting emissions, as well as making good on
pledges to increase climate funding for poorer countries.
On Thursday, the progressive Sunrise Movement's Boston branch had
demonstrators outside his Boston house holding signs saying "Kerry be brave."
The move shows the left keeping up pressure for what could be a politically
tricky level of aggressiveness on cutting fossil fuels.
"Our role is ... now to hold them accountable," Sunrise Movement
spokesperson Ellen Sciales said Tuesday, and keep them "pushing us forward to
meet the scale and the urgency of the climate crisis."
On the right, some Republican lawmakers and the politically influential oil
and gas industry have been subdued in the first week of the Biden
administration, saying they hope to work with Kerry and others on climate
Kerry told the mayors he talked with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West
Virginia at Biden's Jan. 20 inauguration. Kerry said he and Manchin, who has
fought climate regulation he sees threatening his coal state's economy, agreed:
Winning the U.S. fight on climate change will depend on getting
renewable-energy jobs into places like West Virginia and Tennessee as soon as
Then, "boom, you will begin to have believers," Kerry declared from his
library. "They're not going to believe it when we just say it. We have to do