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Cheers! US state department to abolish ‘climate change envoy’ to UN


Secretary of state Rex Tillerson has informed Congress that the US will no longer have a special envoy for climate change, the official that has led delegations to UN climate talks since 2009.

In a letter (below) addressed to Bob Corker (R-Tenn), the chairman of the Senate committee on foreign relations, Tillerson outlined a plan to abolish 36 out of 66 special envoy positions.

Some of the positions would be entirely scrapped, said Tillerson, or “if an issue no longer requires a special envoy or representative, then an appropriate bureau will manage any legacy responsibilities”. This was the case with climate change, which will now be managed under the Bureau of Oceans and International and Scientific Affairs (OES).

“I believe that the Department will be able to better execute its mission by integrating certain envoys and special representative offices within the regional and functional bureaus and eliminating those that have accomplished or outlived their original purpose,” Tillerson added.

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The OES will subsume seven employees currently working for the vacant office of the special envoy for climate change, as well as $761,000 in support costs.

The position of climate envoy was established by Barack Obama in 2009 and was filled by Todd Stern until 2016. The envoy for Obama’s last year in office was Jonathan Pershing, who left the political appointment when the government changed in January this year.

The special envoy was the US’ diplomatic figurehead, a position Stern used to become one of the major forces behind the eventual shape of the Paris deal, right down to the 11th hour wrangling over a troublesome “typo” in the text.

A state department official told Climate Home that the goal of Tillerson’s bonfire of the envoys was to ensure that the resources of the state department were more aligned with the administration’s policy priorities.