"We need everybody in this fight," John Kerry, the U.S. special climate envoy, said after meeting Pope Francis

By Sean Neumann
May 17, 2021 11:18 AM
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Pope Francis meeting with US special climate envoy John Kerry
From left: Pope Francis and John Kerry
| Credit: VATICAN MEDIA/CPP/IPA/Shutterstock

John Kerry, the Biden administration's special envoy on climate change, visited the Vatican over the weekend to meet Pope Francis and discuss the world's efforts to quell the growing environmental crisis.

Kerry, 77, greeted a "smiling" Pope Francis, 84, on Saturday, according to America Magazine, the Catholic news service.

"The Pope is one of the great voices of reason and compelling moral authority on the subject of the climate crisis," Kerry said in a Vatican News interview after their meeting. "He's been ahead of the curve. He's been a leader."

President Joe Biden named Kerry the first-ever U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, giving him the role of coordinating the country's efforts to combat climate change with other nations around the world.

Kerry stopped to visit Pope Francis amid a trip to European cities including Rome, London and Berlin.

"We need everybody in this fight," Kerry said. "All the leaders of the world need to come together and every country needs to do its part." 

Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry
John Kerry
| Credit: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
| Credit: Vatican Pool/Getty

Kerry, the former U.S. senator and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, said Pope Francis "speaks with a moral authority that is quite separate" from political leaders around the world.

"It's unique and we need all the power we can bring to the table," Kerry added.

Biden, 78, has made efforts to slow climate change one of his administration's top priorities.

Besides creating the special climate envoy position in the presidential cabinet and naming Kerry to the post, Biden has taken executive action to roll back some controversial environmental policies put in place by his predecessor, Donald Trump.

Through executive orders, Biden halted the construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and re-committed the U.S. to the global Paris Climate Agreement.

Biden created the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology in late January, a 26-member team that will advise the president about climate change.

The president also vowed that the federal government will "make evidence-based decisions guided by the best available science and data."

Climate change has become a rapidly pressing issue in the U.S. and around the world, leading to more frequent and graver natural disasters — from raging wildfires on the nation's West Coast, to extreme flooding in the Midwest, to pummeling hurricanes and other tropical storms on the country's East Coast. 

Experts also say climate change is also a contributing factor for other issues, like global migration, and has been pointed to as a partial cause for influxes of migrants arriving at the U.S. southern border in recent years, with many fleeing from Central America in part because of more extreme weather and the ensuing impact.

Kerry said all countries around the world need to similarly make climate change a top priority, pointing out that even "if the United States was at zero-emissions tomorrow, we'd still have crisis" on Earth.

"Everybody shares an obligation here," Kerry said. "No one country can get this job done."