- President-elect Joe Biden formally introduced his climate team during a press briefing Saturday.
- The team is stacked with pro-climate heavyweights and a number of firsts, including Michael Regan, who would be the first Black man to lead the Environmental Protection Agency if confirmed.
- Biden has said he intends to make climate change a top priority, though his agenda will face steep challenges in a divided government.
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President-elect Joe Biden introduced what he called a “barrier-busting” climate and energy team Saturday, vowing to create millions of union jobs and reposition the US as a leader in the global fight against climate change.
“We have no time to waste,” Biden said during a press briefing in Wilmington, Delaware. “Just like we need to be a unified nation to respond to COVID-19, we need a unified national response to climate change.”
Leading that response will be a team of pro-climate heavyweights who include a number of firsts.
Meet Biden’s climate A-team
Among Biden’s top picks is Gina McCarthy, who helmed the Environmental Protection Agency under former President Barack Obama. She’ll head a new White House office focused on climate policy.
There, she’ll be able to reach across cabinets to advance a unified domestic strategy.
“Defeating this threat is the fight of our lifetimes,” McCarthy, who’s currently the CEO of the Natural Resources Dense Council, an environmental nonprofit, said during the briefing. “But the opportunities to act on climate change right now fill me with incredible optimism.”
She’ll work in parallel with former Secretary of State John Kerry, whom Biden tapped to be his international climate czar. Ali Zaidi, who currently serves as the deputy secretary for energy and environment for New York State, will be McCarthy’s deputy.
Biden also introduced former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm as his pick for Energy Secretary, and environmental regulator Michael Regan of North Carolina, whom he nominated to run the EPA — the office most central to his climate-change agenda.
If confirmed, Regan would be the first Black man to lead the EPA.
There are other firsts, too.
During the briefing, Biden introduced Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico, whom he nominated to lead the Interior Department. If confirmed by the Senate, she’ll be the first Native American to lead the department — and the first to lead any cabinet-level agency — which oversees about 500 million acres of public lands. Haaland was a cosponsor of the Green New Deal.
Biden also named longtime environmental attorney Brenda Mallory as the chair of the Council on Environmental Quality. If confirmed she’d be the first Black person to assume the role.
A monumental challenge ahead
“So many climate and health calamities are colliding all at once,” Biden said during the briefing.
Americans aren’t just facing a pandemic, he said, but symptoms of climate change like superstorms, forest fires, and floods. His solution is to slash emissions to net-zero by 2050 — through the rollout of electric cars, adding more renewable energy to the grid, and improving the efficiency of buildings — while creating high-paying jobs.
To be clear, that is an ambitious task, and one that will prove even more challenging should the government remain divided. Experts say the administration will likely focus their efforts initially on reversing many of Trump’s rollbacks, largely through executive orders.
“The current administration reversed the Obama-Biden fuel-efficiency standards and picked big oil companies over American workers,” Biden said. “Our administration will not only bring those standards back. We’ll set new ambitious standards. “