Biden’s Climate Team


by Marion Willingham

President Joe Biden made it clear throughout his campaign and after entering office that tackling the global climate crisis was a key focus for his government. In an executive order from January 27th [1] he outlined a new approach to the climate crisis. This established multiple new specific climate-related roles in the Executive Office of the President, as well as integrating officials from other departments into the drive to curb environmental degradation. 

In November 2020, Biden announced the establishment of the new position ‘Special Presidential Envoy for Climate’, the leader of the United States’ international effort to fight the climate crisis. They also sit on the National Security Council, the first time an official dedicated to climate issues has sat on the NSC. This marks the administration’s recognition of the climate crisis as a matter of national security. The inaugural Special Presidential Envoy for Climate is former Secretary of State John Kerry, who, under the Obama administration, signed the Paris Climate Accord on behalf of the US in 2015. 

In addition to an international envoy, Biden has also established the ‘White House office of Domestic Climate Policy’, a branch of the Executive Office of the President tasked with policy-making, monitoring and advising on domestic climate-policy matters. This office will be led by the holder of another new position: the National Climate Advisor. Biden’s National Climate Advisor is Gina McCarthy, who, after a long career as an environmental advisor, served as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under Obama. In this position, she signed Obama’s ‘Clean Power Plan’, the first attempt to impose national limits on carbon emissions from power plants, which was later blocked by the Supreme Court. 

Other notable figures in the climate team include Michael Regan, the new Environmental Protection Agency Administrator. The EPA is responsible for protecting the air and water of the US. Regan is a top environmental regulator, previously serving as secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality, and as air quality specialist for the EPA. The leader of the Council for Environmental Quality, the council charged with assessing the environmental impact of proposed policy, is environmental attorney Brenda Mallory. Mallory helped lead the Climate 21 Project, a policy memo from 150 past and present government officials, advising the Biden administration on tackling the climate crisis. Alongside these key figures, Biden’s team contains more climate-related roles than any previous administration, distributed among various councils and offices. 

Biden’s climate-related positions, and how they fit into his team. From climateadvisors.org [2]. 

Biden’s executive order also placed emphasis on ‘taking a government-wide approach to the climate crisis’, establishing a ‘National Climate Task Force’ chaired by National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy. This task force includes officials from a wide range of departments including Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm. Yellen has previously worked with the Climate Leadership Council, a bipartisan group pushing for the US to introduce a carbon tax and, at her confirmation hearing, mentioned the financial threat posed by the climate crisis. Haaland is responsible for the country’s public land and natural resources. She has stated that, unlike that of the previous administration, Biden’s interior department will focus on climate change and sustained communication with indigenous tribes. Granholm is no stranger to climate initiatives, having passed a renewable portfolio standard in Michigan in 2008 requiring 25% of the state’s energy to come from renewables by 2025. She will play a large role in reaching Biden’s goal of a 100% clean electrical grid by 2035.

Biden’s climate team is larger than ever before, and the administration includes a large number of officials with a history or interest in environmental policy. This team will work towards Biden’s numerous climate goals, and will maintain the US’ renewed commitment to the Paris Climate Accord, rejoined by President Biden on his first day of office. 

Marion Willingham is an undergraduate linguist at Gonville & Caius college, Cambridge. She’s interested in individual and governmental contributions to meeting the 2050 net zero target, or even the Tortoise ‘moonshot’ of net zero by 2030.  

Reference List

[1] White House, (2021)., URL: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/01/27/executive-order-on-tackling-the-climate-crisis-at-home-and-abroad/ (accessed 25 April 2021)

[2]  Climate Advisers, (2021), URL: https://climateadvisers.org/blogs/the-structure-of-president-bidens-climate-team/ (accessed 25 April 2021)

Categories North America/Uncategorized

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