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Greek American John Podesta Appointed US Climate Envoy

John Podesta
John Podesta standing behind President Obama aboard Air Force One, 2015. Credit: Pete Souza/

Greek American John Podesta has been appointed by the Biden administration as the new US special climate envoy after John Kerry steps down this spring.

Podesta is a longtime Democratic strategist, campaign manager for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid, and the current White House senior adviser on clean energy and Inflation Reduction Act implementation.

He plans to stay within the White House in his new role as chief climate diplomat rather than moving to the State Department and will keep both his current portfolio as a senior adviser to the president on climate change and engage in international climate diplomacy on behalf of the Biden administration, CNN reports.

John Kerry commended Podesta in a statement as a “longtime climate ally” who “knows the issue.”

“He will bring important expertise to the work ahead, particularly in respect to the down-to-earth challenges of implementing COP28,” Kerry said. “We’ve made historic progress these last three years and I know that in his new role as President Biden’s senior advisor for international climate policy, John will continue to grow the momentum from Glasgow, Sharm el-Sheikh, and Dubai.”

Podesta first came to the Biden White House in September 2022, when he was tasked with implementing the climate measures in the Inflation Reduction Act. Podesta also previously served as a top climate adviser to former President Barack Obama, where he was involved both in domestic and international climate policy.

He also served as White House Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton from 1998 to 2001. Before that, he served in the Clinton administration as White House Staff Secretary from 1993 to 1995 and White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations from 1997 to 1998.

Podesta spent most of his early years in Chicago, where he was born. He grew up in the neighborhood of Jefferson Park on the city’s Northwest Side.

John Podesta’s Greek mother and Italian father

Podesta was born in 1949 in Chicago. His mother, Mary Kokoris, was Greek-American and his father, John David Podesta, Sr., was Italian-American.

He graduated from Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, where he had volunteered for the presidential candidacy of Eugene McCarthy, and received his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 1976.

In an earlier article in The New York Times, Podesta had said that he loves to cook Greek dishes he learned from his mother.

In July 2016 on the occasion of the visit of the then Archbishop Demetrios at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, he wrote on Twitter: “My Greek mother will be really happy that Archbishop Demetrios will attend the Democratic National Convention tonight.”

Podesta is very influential on the Biden team. As The American Prospect commented, “the “Podesta seal of approval” is intended to “confer progressive bona fides on nominees.”

Related: All the President’s Greeks: Joe Biden’s Greek-American Circle

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