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Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden is naming former Secretary of State John Kerry as a special presidential envoy for climate change.

Why it matters: The transition team's announcement sought to show that it will be an influential role, noting that Kerry — a former Massachusetts senator and the Democrats' 2004 presidential nominee — will be on the National Security Council.

  • "This marks the first time that the NSC will include an official dedicated to climate change, reflecting the president-elect’s commitment to addressing climate change as an urgent national security issue," the transition team said in a statement.

What to watch: The transition team said that in addition to Kerry's position, it will name a "high-level White House Climate Policy Coordinator" next month.

Between the lines: The moves underscore Biden's goal marshal a wide-ranging federal approach that involves many agencies, which increases the importance of having some kind of coordinating officials.

Yes, but: It's not the first time that a president has had a climate adviser.

  • Former EPA boss Carol Browner was President Obama's first climate "czar."
  • During his second term, the longtime Democratic insider John Podesta worked heavily on climate as a top White House aide.

The big picture: Kerry has been involved with climate efforts for decades. He led the failed effort to steer a sweeping climate bill through the Senate in 2009-2010, and was later secretary of state during the negotiations that led to the Paris climate agreement in late 2015.

  • As secretary, Kerry also made climate a conversation point for all his bilateral meetings worldwide, since the problem transcends national borders. He also traveled above the Arctic Circle and to his seventh continent, Antarctica, to see the effects of global warming firsthand.
  • He's remained active on the topic too even outside of government, helping last year to launch the bipartisan "World War Zero" coalition designed to marshal public support for stronger policies.
  • He and Biden served in the Senate together for over two decades, with Kerry assuming the chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden became vice president. Biden also swore Kerry in as secretary of state, a sign of their political and personal closeness.

Go deeper: Biden's Day 1 climate challenges

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 29, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Pew survey provides snapshot of immense partisan divide over climate

Reproduced from Pew Research Center; Chart: Axios Visuals

New Pew Research Center polling underscores the immense difference in how much Democrats are concerned about climate change compared to Republicans.

Driving the news: The chart above shows the five issue areas with the largest partisan gaps in Pew's survey of what U.S. adults want the federal government to prioritize this year.

Police officers' immunity from lawsuits is getting a fresh look

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Nearly a year after the death of George Floyd, advocates of changes in police practices are launching new moves to limit or eliminate legal liability protections for officers accused of excessive force.

Why it matters: Revising or eliminating qualified immunity — the shield police officers have now — could force officers accused of excessive force to personally face civil penalties in addition to their departments. But such a change could intensify a nationwide police officer shortage, critics say. 

The U.S. coronavirus vaccines aren't all the same

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The U.S. now has three COVID-19 vaccines, and public health officials are quick — and careful — to say there’s no bad option. But their effectiveness, manufacturing and distribution vary.

Why it matters: Any of the authorized vaccines are much better than no vaccine, especially for people at high risk of severe coronavirus infections. But their differences may fuel perceptions of inequity, and raise legitimate questions about the best way to use each one.