U. S. Secretary of State John Kerry on 7th March 2014 issued his first official Policy Guidance to all Ambassadors and other heads of missions abroad. It’s not about Russia’s aggressive takeover of the Crimea, a part of the sovereign state of Ukraine. It’s not about China’s naval buildup. It’s not about the implosion of Venezuela’s elected dictatorship. It’s not about Iran’s ongoing program to build nuclear weapons. It’s not about the continuing civil war in Syria. It’s about what Secretary Kerry thinks is the major national security threat facing the United States—global warming!
Here is how Secretary Kerry introduces his Policy Guidance:
Leading the way toward progress on this issue is the right role for the United States, and it’s the right role for the Department of State. That’s why I’ve decided to make climate change the subject of my first Policy Guidance as Secretary of State. I have been deeply impressed by the way Secretary Clinton elevated global women’s issues as a top-tier diplomatic priority, and believe me, we’re committed to keeping them there. When the opportunities for women grow, the possibilities for peace, prosperity, and security grow even more. President Obama and I believe the same thing about climate change. This isn’t just a challenge, it’s also an incredible opportunity. And the Policy Guidance I’m issuing today is an important step in the right direction.
One thing’s for sure: there’s no time to lose. The scientific facts are coming back to us in a stronger fashion and with greater urgency than ever before. That’s why I spoke in Jakarta about the threat of climate change and what we, as citizens of the world, can do to address it. That’s why I raised this issue at our senior management retreat here in Washington, and why I’ll be raising it again at our Chiefs of Mission Conference next week. This challenge demands elevated urgency and attention from all of us.
I’m counting on Chiefs of Mission to make climate change a priority for all relevant personnel and to promote concerted action at posts and in host countries to address this problem. I’ve also directed all bureaus of the Department to focus on climate change in their day-to-day work.
After spelling out some of the details, Secretary Kerry concludes:
Climate change has special significance for the work we do here at State, and so do clean water, clean air, sustainability, and energy. We’re talking about the future of our earth and of humanity. We need to elevate the environment in everything we do. There’s nothing I’m more proud of then when we send one of our diplomats somewhere to really get out in the field and engage, to solve a problem, and to make something happen. I want all of you to feel empowered to think and operate that way on climate change. That’s our mission as diplomats and that’s our call to conscience as citizens of this fragile planet we inhabit. So let’s get to work.
So if you have wondered why the Obama Administration seems to be caught unprepared by one foreign policy challenge after another, it might be because the State Department is focused on climate diplomacy. Read the rest of Secretary Kerry’s Policy Guidance here.