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Threats to water and biodiversity are linked. A new U.S. envoy role tackles them both

Monica Medina, assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs is pictured on Sept. 20 in New York City. She will take on additional responsibilities as an envoy on biodiversity and water resources.

The U.S. has a new diplomat tasked with combating threats to plants, animals and water worldwide. It's the first time the State Department is linking the issues of biodiversity and water in one role.

"The loss of nature and rising water insecurity are global health threats that must be confronted together," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a tweet.

Monica Medina will take on that role as the Biden administration's special envoy for biodiversity and water resources.

The twin crises are intertwined and influence efforts to address other issues, including climate change, food security and economic growth, the State Department said, necessitating Medina's "all-of-government" approach to the new position.

World leaders warn that climate change — which is worsening droughts and heat waves — is limiting water access for people across the globe. Meanwhile, rising temperatures and other factors are causing animals and plants to disappear.

"Environmental stressors, including the climate crisis, illegal logging, mining, land conversion, and wildlife trafficking have deep and detrimental impacts on the biodiversity of our planet and the availability of clean and safe water for human use," a State Department spokesperson told NPR in a statement.

Medina, who is the assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs, will take on the special envoy position in addition to her current job.

"I'm deeply honored," Media said in a tweet. "I can't wait to take our #US diplomacy to the next level to conserve our incredible planet and its rich but at risk biodiversity — and to help all the communities across the world that depend on nature."

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