WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration’s second-ranking climate diplomat is leaving his government job after one year, special U.S. climate envoy John Kerry said Friday.
Jonathan Pershing is a veteran of decades of U.S. government climate efforts, with work that included helping to negotiate the 2015 Paris accord under the Obama administration. Pershing had returned to government to help the Biden administration restart global U.S. climate efforts following President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris accord.
As soon as Joe Biden called Kerry about serving as climate envoy, “I called Jonathan in California to tell him we needed him on Day One. I told him we had to get the band back together,” Kerry said in a statement, calling it “a critical call for us.”
The New York Times first reported Pershing’s departure. It said he would be returning to manage climate programs for the Hewlett Foundation.
The No. 2 climate envoy’s departure comes after a year of all-out global diplomacy by Kerry, Pershing and and their team to push governments to commit to more, and faster, cuts in climate-wrecking emissions from petroleum and coal.
The first year of Biden administration diplomacy succeeded in raising attention globally to what governments were doing to help. Numerous nations, including the United States, increased their pledges of emissions cuts by November’s U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland.
“After four years of disengagement and distrust, we needed not just the A team but the A+ team to rebuild our credibility and diplomacy,” Kerry said in the statement. He credited Pershing with making a “real difference.”
But Kerry and his team had a harder time engineering big, game-changing breakthroughs. China in particular refused U.S. entreaties to make a faster break from its building and operation of dirty-burning coal-fired power plants.
And after pledging to lead the world by example on cutting emissions, the Biden administration has failed so far at getting its centerpiece climate legislation through Congress. U.S. emissions, including from coal, surged in Biden’s first year as the economy recovered from the pandemic.
China is the world’s worst emitter of climate-destroying petroleum and coal emissions currently, while the United States is the worst over time.
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