U.S. Secretary of State positioned to elevate climate change issue

• December 20, 2012
John Kerry

John Kerry, Creative Commons: Mark Mathosian, 2012

One of the U.S. Senate’s most outspoken advocates on climate action is a likely pick for the new Secretary of State.  Senator John Kerry (D-MA), a staunch supporter of both domestic climate policy and international negotiations, could bring new energy and purpose to President Obama’s uncertain agenda to tackle climate change in his second term.

Widely seen as a ‘climate hawk’ for his bold speeches on the Senate floor against climate deniers, Sen. Kerry’s appointment could stir optimism amongst environmentalists.  As longtime member and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Kerry frequently calls attention to the role fossil fuels and climate change play in undermining national security and international stability.  He has pushed the U.S. to be a leader in UNFCCC negotiations since their beginnings in 1992, and helped to author the Senate cap-and-trade bill in 2010.

This past August, he elevated the political discussion on climate by drawing attention to its role in creating and exacerbating civil conflicts abroad: “I believe that the situation we face [with climate change] is as dangerous as any of the sort of real crises that we talk about.”

If Sen. Kerry becomes the new Secretary of State, U.S. environmentalists will be looking to him to provide a fair and objective review of the Keystone XL pipeline, a dangerous and risky project to carry tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico through America’s heartland.  His leadership on international climate action will also be watched carefully, as he could turn the U.S. from a climate obstructionist to an engaged and ambitious world leader.

The news of Sen. Kerry’s pending appointment emerged after UN Ambassador Susan Rice, largely criticized by environmentalists, withdrew her name from the nomination pool for the position.  Rice was under attack not only from Senate Republicans, but also from environmentalists pointing to her large financial holdings in tar sands giant TransCanada, whose proposal for the Keystone XL Pipeline is currently under a second review by the U.S. State Department.  Her appointment would have created a conflict of interest in this review process, stirring cries of foul play similar to those raised against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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About the Author

Emily is a graduate of St. Mary's College of Maryland with a B.A. in psychology. While in school, she spent her time leading environmental and social justice campaigns. She recently worked for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network as a grassroots organizer for a moratorium on natural gas fracking in Maryland.

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