Reactions To John Kerry As New US "Climate Czar"

4 Dec 2020 by Staff - Water Diplomat
WASHINGTON DC, United States

United States President-elect Joe Biden’s appointment of John Kerry as “climate czar” has been met with praise as Kerry is a leading architect of the Paris (2015) climate agreement. In addition, former Secretary of State Kerry is viewed to have the experience and stature to negotiate with other state leaders when the US rejoins the agreement in 2021.

Kerry’s Twitter feeds are clear: “America will soon have a government that treats the climate crisis as the urgent national security threat it is. I’m proud to partner with the President-elect, our allies, and the young leaders of the climate movement to take on this crisis as the President’s Climate Envoy.”

The newly created position will be part of the National Security Council and underscores the new administration’s view that climate-related disasters have an effect on conflict and migration that could weaken US defense.

Domestically, the soon-to-be administration of Biden has received multiple appeals from advocacy groups to provide for vital investment in water infrastructure. In a letter sent on behalf of its 50,000 members, the American Water Works Association (AWWA) cites its own research with respect to revenue shortfalls at US drinking water utilities and calls for urgent COVID-19 relief that includes, among other things, funding to assist local water utilities that have suffered significant revenue declines and are less able to repair aging infrastructure.

In addition to the efforts of AWWA, at least 5 other water sector member associations and advocacy groups are also calling for approval of increased funding, particularly for assistance for low-income customer and those utilities whose revenues have been affect by rate relief offered to low-income customers affected by COVID-19.

Targeted assistance is vital to getting vulnerable customers “back on track” but is also needed to provide a stream of operational funds to water and wastewater systems.

Separately, over 80 environmental and conservancy groups have appealed to both houses of Congress to support adequate funding to “protect clean water and [our] public health by including strong water infrastructure funding in Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21).”

“By boldly investing in water infrastructure, Congress can not only protect our drinking water and public health, both in this time of crisis and beyond, but also spur economic activity and create much needed jobs.”

This letter requests $11.7 Billion USD, the bulk of which would be dedicated to Clean Drinking Water activities at the state level, including lead pipe replacement programs, with some funding for stormwater and sewerage infrastructure. These proposals also include almost $13 Million USD for scientific and regulatory work on per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and funding for PFAS remediation.While there is support from advocacy groups for the creation of the job and its appointee, others suggest that the administration should create a new federal office to push other agencies on their respective climate efforts. Others want to see additional (and younger) actors involved in the government’s efforts.

Meantime, others have been critical of Kerry for a record that is viewed to be too conciliatory to fossil fuel interests.

Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food and Water Action has said in a statement that: “Having held cautious optimism that President-elect Joe Biden could be persuaded to take a bold, determined approach to tacking the climate crisis from day one, we are suddenly alarmed by his choice of John Kerry for climate czar. Kerry has been a long-time apologist for fossil fuel fracking, and a reliable promoter of false climate solutions like market-based carbon-trading schemes".

"Kerry’s proposals are tired ideas from years past that will do little or nothing to address our climate crisis, and will actually continue to place a disproportionate, unjust burden on vulnerable communities that have borne the brunt of fossil fuel pollution and climate impacts for decades now....Biden’s appointment of John Kerry is a clear indication that he is not yet motivated or prepared to adequately address the climate crisis with the seriousness it requires. We have our work cut out for us".