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US appoints biodiversity envoy to tackle species issues abroad

The United States appointed a new advocate for issues relating to animal and plant species conservation. 

Monica Medina will serve as a special envoy for biodiversity and water resources, working on global matters related to these issues, the State Department said Wednesday. 

Medina is currently the State Department’s assistant secretary for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs. She’ll remain in this role while also taking the envoy post.

According to a state department spokesperson, this is a new role and the first time that the department has rolled the issues of both biodiversity and water into one envoy position. 

The envoy is expected to allow the State Department to play a greater role in the White House’s plan to bolster access to safe water and sanitation services around the world. She’ll also provide leadership before the United Nations Conference on Water next year, the department said.

The department’s press release specifically pointed to issues including climate change, and crimes such as illegal logging, mining and wildlife trafficking, as some of the biggest biodiversity issues. 

In 2019, the United Nations found that as many as 1 million animal and plant species are at risk of going extinct. 

The appointment comes as the Biden administration seeks to return to the U.S. to a global leadership position on climate change and environmental issues, following Trump administration efforts to withdraw from these challenges.

Updated 3:19 p.m.

Tags biodiversity Climate change endangered species state department United Nations

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