President Biden and the State Department have appointed Monica Medina as the country's first special envoy for biodiversity and water resources. Medina currently serves as the department's assistant secretary for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs and is the wife of White House chief of staff Ron Klain.
Creating the position is in line with the Biden administration's goal of protecting habitats in the U.S. and abroad, The Washington Post writes. Medina's appointment comes just before an international biodiversity conference that will take place in Montreal in December. The UN Convention on Biological Diversity, also known as COP-15, is a gathering aimed at creating international frameworks for conservation.
Some critics, like Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-N.M.), view this appointment as a misplacement of priorities. This is especially highlighted by other State Department positions that remain vacant, like an ambassador to Italy, reports the Daily Mail. The position is still vacant just as Italy has ushered in far-right leader Giorgia Meloni as prime minister.
Climate change largely contributes to biodiversity loss. Warmer temperatures can increase disease as well as cause flooding that destroys ecosystems, the Post explains. Medina told the Post that biodiversity loss is "a crisis that we face that's interwoven with the climate crisis, but also independent and important on its own."