This morning, Senator Kerry announced that he will divest his holdings in companies connected to the Keystone XL pipeline and a number of other fossil fuel holdings within 90 days of being confirmed as Secretary of State.

Senator Kerry has been one of our countries most vocal champions on the need to address the climate crisis. As Secretary of State, he would not only oversee the final decision over whether to grant the Keystone XL pipeline a construction permit, but also guide the US approach to international climate change negotiations.

In his announcement this morning, Kerry made it clear that continuing to hold stocks in fossil fuel companies would represent a clear conflict of interest with his new position. “I am committed to the highest standards of ethical conduct for government officials,” he wrote. “I will not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter that has a direct and predictable effect on my financial interests.”


Kerry’s decision underlines a large point that is beginning to gain traction with the public and our politicians: if you’re serious about addressing climate change, it’s time to divest from fossil fuels. The logic flows from a simple truth: if it’s wrong to wreck the planet, than it’s also wrong to profit from that wreckage.

As Secretary of State, Senator Kerry’s first big test on climate change will be the decision to help President Obama in denying the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. For Senator Kerry, approving the project would stand in direct contradiction to all the work he has done to push for climate action, from his advocacy in the Senate to the books he and his wife have written about protecting the environment. For President Obama, an approval would make a mockery of the words he spoke at his recent inauguration, “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”

Here’s an idea: to kick off his tenure as Secretary of State, Kerry could visit his old alma mater, Yale University, and make a landmark speech on climate change that lays out his opposition to Keystone XL, explains the ways that the United States will stop blocking progress at the UN Climate Talks, and urges Yale to divest from fossil fuels. Now that, would be the way to secure his legacy as a true environmental leader.