Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s tenure has been beleaguered by waves of resignations from senior officials, while political appointment positions remain empty. Now, after emerging from a $1.1 million study to overhaul the department’s organization, Tillerson has decided to cut a number of special envoy positions — traditionally held by experts in the field who can help execute U.S. foreign policy — saying they are redundant or outdated.
The climate change envoy position is among those that will be cut.
“Today, nearly 70 such positions exist within the State Department, even after many of the underlying policy challenges these positions were created to address have been resolved,” Tillerson wrote in a letter to Congress announcing the change.
According to the State Department’s website, the climate change envoy “is responsible for developing, implementing, and overseeing U.S. international policy on climate change.” Todd Stern, who served in the role for nearly eight years during the Obama administration, was the country’s chief negotiator for the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement, which the website says “is the most ambitious climate accord ever negotiated.”
The Trump administration, though, has signaled a rapid and dramatic retreat from climate action. President Donald Trump has denied the link between human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, and most of his Cabinet likewise dismisses climate science. Tillerson himself is the former CEO of ExxonMobil, which is currently under investigation for its role is attempting to discredit climate science in the public sphere, even while privately acknowledging the risk of continued carbon emissions from sources that include Exxon’s own products.
Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris agreement earlier this summer, over Tillerson’s rumored, but apparently discreet, objections. Even if Tillerson thought the country should stay in the…