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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 
getting real."

   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 

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