US President-elect Joe Biden continues to build out his “dream” team of climate and energy advisors and administrators, with former Environmental Protection Agency head Gina McCarthy to be given a key climate advisory role, and former presidential nominee rival Pete Buttigieg nominated to the post of Transportation Secretary.
McCarthy and Buttigieg join former Secretary of State John Kerry, who Biden has nominated as Presidential Envoy for Climate. The “climate czar” role would make McCarthy responsible for coordinating and deploying Biden’s domestic climate policies.
McCarthy is seen as a bright hope for green and climate groups, given her strong track record under President Barack Obama as the architect for some of the United States’ most far-reaching and progressive climate regulations seeking to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
Since leaving office, McCarthy has continued her fight, and was earlier this year appointed as chief executive of the United States’ Natural Resources Defense Council and has since led a series of challenges to the Trump Administration’s attempts to roll back Obama-era environmental regulations. The Natural Resources Defense Council has sued the Trump Administration over 100 times since he took office.
However, the roll of senior White House adviser on climate policy would not require senate confirmation, which could prove a boon for McCarthy and the Biden Presidency in quickly moving to reinstate environmental regulations that have been rolled back by Trump’s administration.
Further, McCarthy’s role will give her the opportunity to use a variety of levers of power to deploy stricter climate regulations. While the EPA and the Departments of Interior and Energy will obviously continue to play a significant role, other departments including Treasury, Transportation, and Agriculture will also be utilised to implement policy.
Gina McCarthy would serve as the domestic counterpart to Kerry’s role as Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, which is intended to reassure and cajole international allies and manage the United States’ role in global climate action.
Importantly, the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate will sit on the National Security Council (NSC), the first time the NSC will include an official dedicated to climate change, further reinforcing the Biden Administration’s commitment to addressing climate change as not only a global and domestic policy issue, but an urgent national security issue as well.
“Honored to be a part of this talented team,” said John Kerry in a Tweet responding to his nomination. “Let’s roll up our sleeves. Onwards!” In a separate Tweet, Kerry explained that “It’ll be an honor to work with our allies and partners, alongside rising young leaders in the climate movement, to tackle the climate crisis with the seriousness and urgency it deserves.”
Also responding to Kerry’s nomination, former US Vice President and one of the planet’s most influential climate campaigners, Al Gore, described Kerry’s nomination as a “superb choice” and went on to say that “Kerry’s experience and passion are exactly what we need to restore American leadership abroad and repair the alliances that are crucial to solving the climate crisis.”
Buttigieg, mayor of the comparatively small Indiana city of South Bend, vaulted to national and global recognition during his improbable but revitalising run at becoming the Democratic presidential nominee. In announcing Buttigieg as nominee for Transportation Secretary, Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris highlighted the role that tackling the climate crisis will play in Buttigieg’s role.
“Mayor Pete Buttigieg is a patriot and a problem-solver who speaks to the best of who we are as a nation,” said President-elect Joe Biden.
I am nominating him for Secretary of Transportation because this position stands at the nexus of so many of the interlocking challenges and opportunities ahead of us.
“One of the most important parts of building America back better is ushering in a safe, modern, and sustainable transportation system that helps us grow our economy, tackle our climate crisis, and connect all Americans to jobs and opportunity,” added Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
Unlike McCarthy and Kerry, Buttigieg will be faced with a Senate confirmation hearing, and much of the success or failure of Biden’s cabinet nominations will rest on the upcoming Georgia Senate Runoffs, the results of which will decide whether the Republicans hold onto the balance of power in the Senate or whether the Democrats can retake control for the first time since 2014.
If the Democrats can win in Georgia, it would also be the first time since 2010 that they have held majorities in both the Senate and the House, opening the way for significant Democratic policy movement.