BERLIN — Germany on Wednesday announced the appointment of a new international climate envoy — an American, Jennifer Morgan, who is the current executive director of Greenpeace International.
Ms. Morgan, who said she has lived in Germany since 2003 and has applied to become a German citizen, will begin her new job as the special envoy for climate policy, working in the foreign ministry.She will become a junior minister after she is granted German citizenship.
Ms. Morgan will report directly to the foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, the former co-leader of the Green Party, who announced Ms. Morgan’s appointment.
Under the new government that took power in December, international climate policy will be housed in the foreign ministry and not the environmental ministry, as it was before. Domestic climate policy will be spearheaded by a new economic and climate ministry.
Ms. Morgan’s hiring was a statement that Germany’s climate politics also belong on the global stage, Ms. Baerbock said.
“We cannot tackle the problem of the climate crisis on a national level alone,” said Ms. Baerbock at a news conference in Berlin during which she presented Ms. Morgan.
“As helmswoman, Jennifer Morgan will guide our foreign climate policy, expand partnerships with other nations around the world, and lead dialogue with civil society worldwide,” Ms. Baerbock said.
Ms. Baerbock made the announcement after the cabinet had agreed on Ms. Morgan’s new position on Wednesday morning. She is considered the last major hire of the new government, which is made up of Social Democrats, Greens and the Free Democratic Party. Ms. Baerbock ran as candidate for chancellor for the Green Party, but was nominated as foreign minister after her party placed a disappointing third in September’s election.
Ms. Morgan is a bold choice for several reasons. Federal ministries do not usually hire foreigners into their top ranks. Ms. Morgan’s activist background with Greenpeace, which is known for its media savvy and activism, makes her a highly unusual, though not unheard-of, pick in a bureaucracy where many top officials spent years working their way through the ranks. Olaf Scholz, the current chancellor, hired an investment banker as a state secretary when he ran the finance ministry under Angela Merkel.
Still, the move riled some opposition politicians.
“It is remarkable that especially a Green federal minister skips so easily over the boundaries between statehood and lobbyism,” said Jürgen Hardt, a foreign affairs critic in Ms. Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats, who are now the largest party in opposition.
Ms. Baerbock had promised to make climate politics an international issue for Germany.
“In future we also won’t just have a single climate ambassador,” said Ms. Baerbock, referring to Ms. Morgan. “Instead we are going to make all of our 226 German diplomatic missions abroad into climate embassies in all of the countries of the world.”
During the news conference Ms. Baerbock explained the unusual decision to hire a foreign national into government by highlighting Ms. Morgan’s connections to Germany.
Ms. Morgan, who was born in New Jersey, said in fluent German, “After six great years at Greenpeace, I think this is a unique chance to work with the foreign minister on a topic that has driven me for 30 years.”
Thorsten Frei, a conservative member of Parliament, compared the hiring of Ms. Morgan to the economic ministry hiring a coal lobbyist.
“A Greenpeace activist who obviously has little connection to Germany is simply out of place in the Foreign Office,” he told Bild, Germany’s most read tabloid.
Asked whether there was a problem with hiring a lobbyist, Ms. Baerbock said the process had been transparent. Ms. Morgan said that anyone could read her résumé to judge for themselves if she was qualified.
“I’ve learned to find places, where I think I can make the biggest difference,” Ms. Morgan said. “And at this historical moment, I think that’s the foreign ministry.”