The veteran Democratic strategist has a long history in climate politics, including on the international stage. Podesta will be the U.S. face at the COP29 negotiations later this year in Baku, Azerbaijan.
But the international talks come after the U.S. election. That leaves U.S. positioning uncertain if President Joe Biden should lose to Republican frontrunner former President Donald Trump, who pulled the nation out of the Paris climate agreement when he was in the White House.
News of the decision earned praise from Biden’s environmental allies.
“One of the most respected public servants in Washington, he’s served at the senior levels of government for three decades, helped drive the strongest U.S. climate action ever and weighed in on more than a dozen rounds of global climate talks,” said Natural Resources Defense Council CEO Manish Bapna. “He knows the people, the politics and what must be done to confront the existential challenge of our time.”
Podesta was a chief go-between as the Obama administration negotiated a surprise 2014 joint statement with China that for the first time committed China to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a step that built momentum for the Paris climate agreement a year later.
China, the world’s top emitter, is also breaking in a new climate envoy, Liu Zhenmin, following the retirement of Xie Zhenhua — a longtime counterpart to Kerry — earlier this month.
Podesta has also acted as a liaison with governments like the European Union that have been distressed by the IRA, which they fear puts them at a competitive disadvantage in developing clean energy technology.