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Joe Biden has named his clean energy adviser, John Podesta, as America’s top climate diplomat, moving quickly to fill the position despite a looming presidential election.
The appointment comes at a critical time for U.S. international climate and energy policy, as allies raise concerns about the country’s commitment to global climate goals if Donald Trump wins the 2024 presidential election.
The White House said Podesta, who is currently responsible for rolling out clean energy subsidies and other parts of the Biden administration’s flagship inflation-reduction law, would continue in his current role alongside the duties. additional to advise the president on international climate policy.
The move puts Podesta, 75, a veteran of the Bill Clinton and Barack Obama administrations, at the heart of U.S. international climate policy. He replaces John Kerry, who announced his intention to step down as the president’s climate envoy earlier this month.
Among Podesta’s other duties, he will oversee climate negotiations between the United States and China. Although cooperation between the world’s two biggest polluters is key to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, broader geopolitical tensions have often hampered climate progress in recent years.
Shortly before leaving his role as climate envoy earlier this month, Kerry and his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, struck a deal to support a tripling of global renewable energy capacity by 2030 and include a wider range of greenhouse gases, including methane. – in their climate objectives.
Podesta has been an aggressive advocate of the IRA, the landmark climate law passed by Congress in 2022, as a tool to reindustrialize parts of the U.S. Rust Belt that have suffered from globalization in recent decades . The law has drawn criticism from U.S. allies, who say it amounts to protectionism by the world’s largest economy.
Podesta told the Financial Times last year that the United States would make “no apologies” for prioritizing domestic jobs in its quest to win the global clean energy race against China and other competitors.
Podesta’s nomination comes amid concerns among climate activists that U.S. climate policy could change rapidly again if Biden loses the race to Trump this year.
The former president previously withdrew the United States from the historic 2015 Paris agreement that pledged to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Under Biden, who rejoined the Paris agreement, the United States pledged to reduce emissions by 50 percent to 52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients said Podesta would face “the gravity of this moment” and was “a leader who the world will know without a doubt has the confidence of the President of the United States and let him speak in his name.”
Manish Bapna, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, welcomed Podesta’s appointment, saying he was “one of the most respected public servants in Washington.”
“He knows people, politics and what needs to be done to meet the existential challenge of our time,” he said.