The New Yorker Interview:

As he steps down from office, the first Presidential envoy on the climate says that we have made progress, but we’re not moving fast enough.

By Bill McKibben

We’re used to thinking of Joe Biden—first elected to the Senate in 1972—as the personification of a career public servant. But John Kerry can match him. Kerry, who was awarded three Purple Hearts, among other honors, for his service as a Swift-boat commander, first testified to the Senate in 1971, in his role as a leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam?” he memorably asked the assembled members of the Foreign Relations Committee. “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

It took him a dozen more years to be elected to the Senate from Massachusetts, but he eventually became the chair of that same Foreign Relations Committee, and then the Democratic Presidential nominee, in 2004, and then Hillary Clinton’s successor as Barack Obama’s Secretary of State. Among other accomplishments in that role, he signed the landmark Paris climate accord for the United States, in 2016, which stipulated a global effort aimed at limiting temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. When Biden became President in 2021, he named Kerry the first Presidential climate envoy, and charged him with helping to coördinate global action on the climate crisis, which has included negotiating arrangements with countries such as Vietnam to speed their transition from coal, working to secure pledges from much of the world to work on plugging methane leaks, and coördinating research on reducing emissions from agriculture.

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