Rex Tillerson wants to eliminate the role of US climate envoy | Credit: William Munoz
State Department plans to cut or move at least 30 special envoy roles as part of departmental re-organistaion
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has outlined plans to eliminate or outsource at least 30 special envoy roles at the US State Department, including the role of US special envoy for climate change.
The plans, which will cut around half of the current envoy posts in the Department, were set out in a letter to the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee which was first reported by CNN yesterday.
“I believe that the Department will be able to better execute its mission by integrating certain envoys and special representative offices within the regional and functional bureaus and eliminating those that have accomplished or outlived their original purpose,” Tillerson said in the letter, addressed to Committee chair and US Republican Senator Bob Corker.
Of the 66 envoy positions currently at the State Department, 30 will be kept, 21 will be integrated into bureaus, five will be folded into existing positions and nine eliminated altogether. The US special envoy for climate change is one of those slated to be eliminated entirely.
It forms part of the Secretary of State’s reorganisation of the State Department, which is facing a 30 per cent budget cut under the Trump administration. However, the removal of the special envoy for climate change will be viewed by many as the latest sign the current White House is withdrawing from its international leadership in this area, undoing years of work by the Obama administration to build international trust on climate.
In particular, Obama’s UN climate envoys played a key role in building bridges between the US and developing countries in UN climate talks. Todd Stern, who served as climate envoy for seven years until March 2016, was instrumental in the brokering of the historic Paris Accord, while his successor Jonathan Pershing helped co-ordinate the US diplomatic response to the election result at last year’s UN talks in Marrakesh.
But in June US President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Accord. Although America will continue to send a US delegation to UN climate talks, it will take a back seat in diplomatic negotiations as it awaits its official withdrawal from the treaty in 2020.