“Climate change was a high priority in the Obama administration, but climate was generally handled by specialists, just in some sort of niche area in different departments,” said Jon Finer, Biden’s deputy national security adviser and former chief of staff to Mr. Kerry. He added that the issue is now “a core element of our overall strategy, not just a detached priority”.
However, climate activists said it was difficult to reconcile this claim with some of the government’s recent decisions, particularly those related to the OECD
According to several people familiar with the closed door process in which nations selected Mathias Cormann from Australia, the Biden government has backed its rival Cecilia Malmström from Sweden. But the United States is usually the kingmaker in the international economic policy forum, with a traditionally strong voice on the OECD directorate. Activists have alleged that Mr Cormann could never have succeeded if the Biden government had resolutely opposed him.
“If you want to be seen as the world’s climate champion, you have to fight for a candidate who understands climate science and is willing to lead an organization like the OECD,” said Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International.
“It doesn’t appear that the Biden administration has made this a top priority and that is clearly disappointing,” she added.
Climate lawyers around the world had launched a violent campaign against Mr Cormann, as had the British Labor Party and the Australian Green Party. In a letter to the OECD, nearly 30 influential scientists, activists and leaders of research organizations said that Cormann’s report on “Preventing Effective Climate Action” should exclude him from leading the organization, which must urge developed nations to drastically reduce emissions. As Australian Treasury Secretary from 2013-2020, Mr Cormann helped get rid of the country’s carbon pricing system, took no steps to curb carbon pollution and described the restrictions commercial banks had placed on coal issuance as “very, very disappointing “.
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Alden Meyer, senior associate at E3G, a European think tank on climate change, said Cormann’s selection “raises real questions about whether the countries that have supported him are serious about changing the world economy as we need to, if we want to avoid a climate catastrophe or just exchange it for another interest. “