AGI Profiles: Jennifer Lee Morgan
Halle Foundation/AGI Intern
Luisa Latella is a research intern at AGI for the fall of 2023. She assists resident fellows with their research projects, manages databases, and helps organize and document events. Ms. Latella is an exchange student at American University as part of her bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a minor in Law at Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Munich. In her studies, she focuses particularly on international relations and the impact of power shifts in the international system on transatlantic relationships. At LMU, she works as a student assistant at the Chair of Global Governance and Public Policy researching international organizations and transatlantic relations.
State Secretary for Climate and Special Envoy for International Climate Action
Including climate policy as an area of responsibility of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Federal Minister Annalena Baerbock appointed former Greenpeace Managing Director Jennifer Lee Morgan as the first State Secretary for Climate and Special Envoy for International Climate Action.
Morgan was born in the United States in Ridgewood, New Jersey. Inspired by Fighting for Hope by Petra Kelly, founding member of the German Green Party, she developed a deep interest in environmental awareness. After her bachelor’s degree in political science and Germanic studies at Indiana University in Bloomington, Morgan spent a year in Germany as a Bosch Fellow. “I was drafting Angela Merkel’s speeches—she was environment minister at the time. I learned so much from that experience,” she says about her time abroad. Morgan specialized in international affairs for her master’s degree at American University—where her role model Petra Kelly also studied—in Washington, DC. She has held various leadership positions focusing on climate policy, including at the Natural Resources Defense Council, the U.S. Climate Action Network, and WWF International. Morgan is fluent in German and has lived in Berlin since 2003. Most recently, she was managing director of Greenpeace International before joining Germany’s Green-run foreign ministry. In addition to this, she was also a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and is a regular participant in the United Nations climate change conferences. In order to become State Secretary, Morgan received German citizenship within two months—a process that can normally take up to several years.
Between activism and diplomacy
“I am glad that international climate policy in Germany is getting a face today,” said Annalena Baerbock after appointing Jennifer Morgan in March 2022 as the first State Secretary for Climate Policy in German history. Unlike other State Secretaries, U.S.-born Morgan has no classic German political career; still, she has worked with the German government before. Morgan served as senior advisor to the German Chancellor´s chief advisor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber in 2007 during the G8 Summit. She also consulted for the federal government in 2016, as she was part of the German Council for Sustainable Development. Due to this connection and her international reputation as an environmental policy expert, the foreign minister considers Morgan “a dream appointment and an important signal for international climate protection.” But not everyone is as enthusiastic about the foreign minister’s choice. Especially the conservative opposition fears that Morgan will not be able to meet the expectations of her new diplomatic role because of her previous activist-oriented employment at Greenpeace. Thorsten Frei, first parliamentary manager of the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union group in the Bundestag, called Morgan’s appointment “hypocritical” and fears that Morgan is going to lobby for her former employer. Facing these accusations, Morgan describes herself as an “activist diplomat,” eager to combine her experience in climate policy with the resources and possibilities of her new position. And it cannot be denied that her unique background can be an enrichment for Germany. Morgan has been involved in climate diplomacy since its early beginnings in the 1990s. She was part of all previous UN climate conferences and contributed to the planning and success of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. She is known in the international environmental scene as a competent expert, analyst, and networker and has years of negotiating experience.
Tasks and goals as State Secretary
As State Secretary, Morgan’s duties include assisting the minister with important tasks within the ministry. She is the connection between the minister and the employees of the department and assists Annalena Baerbock in representing Germany in matters of climate policy. Together with other responsible departments, she leads Germany’s International Climate Initiative, which primarily supports emerging countries in climate projects and has a budget of nearly six billion euros. Morgan has set the goal for developing a more far-reaching policy for international climate protection together with other states, companies, and international actors. “We can only achieve the 1.5-degree goal with international cooperation,” Morgan told the German federal government in an interview following her appointment. She is working on international alliances, which emphasize moving towards renewable energies.
She was able to demonstrate her negotiation skills for the first time last October, representing Germany at the UN Climate Change Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. Together with Maisa Roja, Chile’s environmental minister, she was asked to prepare a plan on how to include compensation for economic losses due to climate catastrophes on the formal agenda of COP27. The resulting Loss and Damage Fund is now considered one of the main successes of COP27 and will provide financial assistance to nations most vulnerable and impacted by the effects of climate change. Morgan received widespread praise—also from the opposition—for her performance at the conference. She quickly settled into her new role and, against all concerns, did excellent diplomatic work for the German government. Given the ever-increasing importance of international climate policy, Jennifer Morgan’s work will have a strong impact on Germany’s approach to combating the climate crisis and international co-operation in environmental policy.