Stern plans to step down as the State Department’s special envoy for climate change on April 1. An administration official said the White House will appoint Jonathan Pershing, a top Energy Department official and former State Department climate negotiator, as State’s new climate envoy.While Stern is still sorting out his post-government plans, he said his goal is to begin teaching at a university in the fall.Soft-spoken and professorial, Stern has been a steady presence at the State Department for most of the Obama administration and through the tenures of both Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. He cut his teeth during the Bill Clinton administration, where he was a senior negotiator during the 1997 Kyoto climate summit.Stern worked behind the scenes with other top administration officials to lay the ground work for the Paris agreement by cultivating stronger relationships with major emitters, even at one point taking China’s lead climate negotiator to a Chicago Cubs game. When the December talks finally arrived, he played a central role in reassuring jittery international negotiators and ensuring that the talks didn’t implode.”For more than seven years, the president has relied on Todd Stern’s expertise and advocacy to help build a durable global coalition to combat climate change,” said Brian Deese, a senior White House adviser. “From a sustained effort to craft a historic climate agreement with China to overseeing one of the most complex international negotiations in history leading up to the Paris agreement, Todd’s contributions to protect our planet, our health and our national security from the risks posed by climate change will benefit people across the world for decades to come.”Despite last year’s momentum, Stern said he never felt like the deal was a sure-thing. “We certainly didn’t go to Paris feeling that the thing was in the bag. We didn’t think the thing was in the bag even when we were in the middle of Paris,” he said, explaining that when it finally became clear that the deal was close, “I suddenly started thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is actually happening,’ and I kind of got chills at that moment.” Despite the wide gulf between the two party’s front-runners, Stern said he was confident the deal he helped negotiate would survive the next administration.”I don’t think any president is going to pull us out of Paris,” he said in an interview, warning that the deal has won such wide-ranging buy-in that reneging on the agreement would have dire diplomatic consequences. “We would shoot ourselves in the foot if anybody were to try to pull ourselves out of Paris.”Although his role at the State Department prevents him from weighing in on the election, Stern had some kind words for his former boss.”Secretary Clinton took me on her very first trip as secretary of State,” which included stops in China, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea, he said. “She wanted to signal to those countries that climate change was a big deal for us.”The December climate deal the first time commits nearly 200 developed and developing countries to begin taking steps to curb their emissions.”This feels like the right time for me to go,” Stern said, adding that he wanted to stay at the department long enough to help secure the agreement. He called the Paris deal a “career highlight.” Stern stressed that success in Paris was a team effort, pointing to Obama and Kerry’s high-level diplomacy and the commitment of White House and State Department staff. “This is not any kind of a one man show, to put it mildly,” he said.Even during the many near-collapses of the negotiations over the years, Stern said he never despaired. “You have to have a particular kind of constitution to do a job like this,” he said. “It was not in my nature to walk around with your head down in a deep despair.”Stern will depart before an April 22 United Nations ceremony in New York City where dozens of countries, including the United States, will sign the Paris climate deal, bringing the agreement closer to entering into force. But Stern said he is confident that the U.S. is on track to implementing the deal and he stressed that Pershing’s transition will be seamless.Pershing, Stern’s former deputy, will help oversee implementation of the deal, and he’ll play a key role in day-to-day climate diplomacy ahead of bilateral visits and in multilateral forums such as the G-20. The post does not require Senate confirmation.”Jonathan will have no learning curve at all. He knows this stuff backwards and forwards,” Stern said. “He’s known all over the world. He knows the issues.” Also On POLITICO 5 ways Brexit would transform European energy By Sara Stefanini Todd Stern, a leading architect of the Obama administration’s international climate change strategy, will leave the State Department in the coming weeks, he told POLITICO.Stern led the U.S. negotiating team that helped clinch a landmark global warming deal last year in Paris, an achievement that capped his nearly two-decade-long career in climate diplomacy. In the run-up to the negotiations, Stern worked to keep fast-developing nations at the negotiating table — at one point taking a lead Chinese diplomat to a baseball game — in order to secure an agreement that for the first time committed every nation on earth to limiting its carbon footprint.Much of the work implementing the Paris agreement will fall to President Barack Obama’s successor, who will likely be either former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has promised to build on Obama’s climate policies, or business mogul Donald Trump, who has dismissed concern about the issue.