Statement on the Departure of U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern and the Appointment of Jonathan Pershing

Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
March 21, 2016


For seven years, Todd Stern has helped lead U.S. efforts to address one of the greatest challenges facing the world today, culminating in the historic global climate agreement reached at COP 21 in Paris last year. On behalf of the entire State Department, I extend my profound thanks to Todd for his outstanding service to our nation, and wish him the very best as he departs his position on April 1.

I first met Todd in my Senate office back in 2009. He had just been appointed as the U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change, and he wanted to discuss what an ambitious and effective global agreement on climate change could look like. I could tell from that initial meeting how committed Todd was to reaching that goal – and that he had the persistence and dedication to see it through.

Climate has been a top priority of mine for decades, and establishing it as a top foreign policy priority has been a focus of my time as Secretary of State. I have felt fortunate from day one to have Todd on my team, and we have all benefitted from his mastery of the climate challenge and all of its nuances, his diligence, and his negotiating skills. He played an enormous role in achieving so many of our climate milestones, and the tireless work by Todd and his team over many years will benefit future generations in every corner of the globe.

The global community took a critical step forward in Paris, but it’s also true that, in many ways, the work to address climate change is just beginning. Whether we are able to build on the momentum we’ve seen in recent months and years – by encouraging clean energy investment and innovation, pursuing more sustainable development in cities and communities around the world, protecting threatened ecosystems and more – will determine whether we’re able to bend the curve of carbon emissions and address one of the most complex challenges humankind has ever faced.

I’m pleased to announce that, upon Todd’s departure, Dr. Jonathan Pershing will become the U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change. A trained scientist who has worked in government, in the private sector, and in the non-profit world, Jonathan has spent the past three years helping run the policy shop at the Department of Energy and serving as the senior climate advisor to Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz. Previously, Jonathan was also part of the Nobel prize-winning International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has literally helped write the book on climate change and what we can do about it. Jonathan’s new role is a homecoming of sorts for him, as it follows his previous service at the State Department as Todd Stern’s deputy and his key role on the State climate negotiating team during the 1990s.

For those reasons and many others, Jonathan is the perfect person to pick up the baton and continue to advance our global climate goals, and I look forward to working closely with him in the time ahead.