John Kerry is on track, with no significant US Senate opposition on the horizon, to become the next US Secretary of State. President Obama formally announced his nomination yesterday at the White House. In his remarks, Obama said: “…we’ve got to harness all elements of American power and ensure that they’re working together — diplomatic and development, economic and political, military and intelligence…” Of course, those tools need to be brought to bear on the pressing issues of climate change and sustainability. The Department of State has an awful lot in its portfolio and increasingly that has included taking these matters of the health of the planet and its people much more seriously than ever before. Hillary Clinton as Secretary has taken that part of the mission seriously and in her statement yesterday noted that Kerry, as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has “led the way on climate change.”
I referred in passing in my post on the Doha talks recently to the fact that Kerry is “a proven warrior on climate change.” An excellent piece at the National Journal at the same time also anticipated Kerry’s appointment: A Secretary John Kerry Would Elevate Climate Issues. “While many lawmakers speak passionately about climate change, Kerry has also logged years doing the thankless behind-the-scenes work of climate diplomacy and in the process has earned the respect of the rest of the world on the issue.”
Grist has some things to say about Kerry on climate change, quoting others, like Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones: “For climate hawks, having Kerry at the helm at State would be very good news.” They quote Kerry himself from a Senate speech in June: “Climate change is one of two or three of the most serious threats our country now faces, if not the most serious, and the silence that has enveloped a once robust debate is staggering for its irresponsibility.”
The Huff Post also has a roundup of Kerry’s deep background on climate and sustainability and has quotes as well from a number of interested worthies like Senator Jeff Merkley: “1 of the most pressing challenges is to reverse potentially devastating climate change. Kerry understands need to tackle this threat head on.” Christopher N. Fox, Co-Director of the Policy Program at Ceres, said: “I am thrilled to hear Senator John Kerry will be named US Secretary of State – he has been a strong leader on climate change.”
By and large, this appointment is being treated as a real plus by climate activists. One of Kerry’s jobs in this regard may be properly educating his boss on the dire consequences if we don’t accelerate our actions on clean tech and boost the ability of critical actors like China and India to get their energy houses better in order. Kerry will be Secretary over the next three years of critical talks leading up to a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol. He just might be precisely the right man for the job at this time.