John F. Kerry, who has served as the U.S. special climate envoy for nearly three years, will leave the Biden administration by the spring, according to three people close to the situation.
Kerry informed President Biden during a Wednesday meeting at the White House, and he told his staff during a virtual meeting on Saturday, according to one of the people. The individuals spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly.
Kerry is expected to become involved in Biden’s reelection effort, though he is unlikely to have a formal role on the campaign, one person familiar said. He is expected to focus on publicizing the president’s work to combat climate change.
The exact date of Kerry’s departure has not yet been set, although it will probably be between late February and late April, the people said. Kerry is still scheduled to attend the Munich Security Conference in mid-February, and he is traveling to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, next week.
Kerry, who turned 80 during the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Dubai last month, helped clinch a landmark agreement at the summit. For the first time, the deal calls for phasing out fossil fuels, the primary driver of rising temperatures around the globe.
Kerry also played a pivotal role in restarting formal climate talks between the United States and China, the world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters. He enjoyed a close relationship with his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, who recently stepped down due to health reasons.
Axios first reported Kerry’s plans to leave the administration.
Over the last three years, Kerry has kept up a fast-paced schedule, flying around the world to cajole other countries to curb their planet-warming pollution. He contracted the coronavirus at the U.N. climate talks in 2022 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, and was sidelined to his hotel room during the final days of negotiations.
It is unclear who would replace Kerry, who previously served as secretary of state during the Obama administration and as a senator from Massachusetts. His two top deputies at the State Department, Sue Biniaz and Rick Duke, would probably face a bruising confirmation process in the Senate, especially if Republicans retake the chamber in the November elections.
A provision in the 2022 defense policy bill requires the Senate to confirm special envoys reporting to the State Department. Kerry was not subject to Senate confirmation before the provision took effect.
Michael Birnbaum contributed to this report.