President-elect Joe Biden Monday named John Kerry, who has served as Secretary of State under former president Barack Obama and who is one of the leading architects of the Paris climate agreement, as his special presidential envoy for climate change. Following the announcement, Kerry tweeted: “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.”

Who is John Kerry?

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In February, 2013 Kerry was sworn in as the 68th Secretary of State and also became the first sitting Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman to become Secretary in over a century. He also volunteered for the Navy and has served two tours of duty in Vietnam.

Significantly, Kerry is considered to be one of the key architects of the Paris agreement, which has also been seen as one of the most important achievements of the Obama administration. He signed the Paris Climate Agreement on behalf of the US in 2016 and launched a bipartisan organisation called World War Zero in 2019 to bring together unlikely allies on climate change and with the goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions in the country by 2050.

The agreement was signed by over 195 countries in December 2015 with the idea of slowing the process of global warming by making efforts to “hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels”.

Why is Kerry’s appointment considered to be significant?

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Under President Donald Trump’s administration, the US withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement formally earlier this month. Trump has said that the agreement was “unfair” to US interests and announced his decision to quit the accord in 2017, a move which was criticised by environmentalists.

On the other hand, Biden has maintained through the course of his campaign during the presidential elections that if he was voted to power he would rejoin the agreement and therefore, Kerry’s appointment is being seen as Biden keeping his promise to work on climate change. In fact, on November 5, Biden had tweeted: “Today, the Trump Administration officially left the Paris Climate Agreement. And in exactly 77 days, a Biden Administration will rejoin it.”

During his campaign, Biden has proposed a $2 trillion spending plan to tackle climate change that includes promoting clean energy and climate-friendly infrastructure, according to

As per a study published by the Pew Research Center in June, over two-thirds of Americans think that the government should do more on climate change and about 63 per cent of Americans believe that climate change is affecting their local communities.

Kerry’s appointment is especially pivotal since it “elevates the issue of climate change to the highest echelons of government,” a report in The New York Times noted. As the special envoy with a cabinet rank, Kerry will be tasked with persuading other nations to take “increasingly bold” steps so that they cut their carbon-dioxide emissions by 2030, the Times report says.

His childhood and early life

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Photo: NBC News

John Forbes Kerry was born in Aurora, Colorado, on December 11, 1943 to Richard John Kerry, a Foreign Service officer and lawyer, and Rosemary Isabel Forbes, a nurse and social activist. He has three siblings—elder sister Margaret, younger sister Diana, and younger brother Cameron.

When his father was discharged from the Army Air Corps, his family moved to Washington, D.C. in 1949, and Richard became a diplomat in the State Department's Bureau of United Nations Affairs.

During his school days, Kerry was very religious and was an altar boy at one point of time. He prayed all the time and thought that he would become a priest.

He attended the Fessenden School in Newton, Massachusetts, and later went to St. Paul's boarding school in Concord, New Hampshire as his father was posted at the US Embassy in Oslo, Norway at that time. At St. Paul's he started developing an interest in politics. He founded the John Winant Society at St. Paul's, which still exists today.

In 1962, he joined the Yale University and graduated in 1966 with a bachelor's degree in political science. At Yale, he played on the varsity Yale Bulldogs Men's soccer team. He also played hockey and took flying classes.

He was the Chairman of the Liberal Party of the Yale Political Union in his sophomore year, and a year later, became the President of the Union. He won many debates against the students of other colleges from across the nation. He received the Ten Eyck prize as the best orator for a speech about the US foreign policy.

After his graduation, he joined the US Navy and fought in the Vietnam War as a gunboat officer.

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