President-elect Joe Biden is expected to name Gina McCarthy, the former Obama administration Environmental Protection Agency head, as the White House climate czar, a new high-level role tasked with spearheading the government’s domestic response to the climate crisis, according to a source familiar with the decision.
McCarthy, who has fiercely opposed President Donald Trump’s efforts to roll back climate rules in her role as president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, will lead a new White House office dedicated to US climate policy. The news was first reported by the Washington Post.
McCarthy is Biden’s second big climate hire, joining John Kerry, a former Secretary of State and presidential candidate, who will be leading the nation’s international talks in the new position of special presidential envoy on climate.
Biden ran on the most ambitious climate platform of any presidential candidate, and since getting elected he has named tackling climate change as among his top priorities. Creating new high-level climate roles is among the demands from the Sunrise Movement, young climate activists pressing the federal government to take urgent action on climate change.
Biden also started filling other key roles in his administration with people that boast climate credentials, many of whom formerly worked in the Obama administration. Brian Deese, the next director of the National Economic Council, played a key role in negotiating the Paris climate agreement during the Obama administration. And Janet Yellen, Biden’s pick to be Treasury secretary, has long warned of the steep economic impacts of worsening climate change.
The new administration’s embrace of climate champions is a stark contrast to the Trump administration, which withdrew the US from the Paris climate agreement, hired climate science deniers, undermined federal scientists, and rolled back climate policies to allow cars, trucks, and power plants to pollute more.
Now the planet is on track to warm 3.2 degrees Celsius (or 5.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, far off track from the goal of the Paris climate agreement to limit warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), resulting in catastrophic warming that would largely wipe out coral reefs, extend wildfire seasons, further intensify storms, and lock in a damaging rise in sea levels.
Under McCarthy’s watch, the EPA expanded its oversight of climate polluters, from requiring power plants to cut their emissions under the Clean Power Plan to passing a trio of rules aimed at curbing oil- and gas-related air pollution. The Trump administration then systematically tried, and in many cases succeeded, to undo those rules.
Biden has already pledged to start the process of returning to the Paris agreement on his first day in the White House. Kerry, who helped secure the agreement in the first place under Obama, will oversee that process and serve as the US point person in those discussions.
Kerry will also be responsible for all other international engagement and negotiations on climate, including the Group of Seven (G7) and Group of 20 (G20) meetings and the Arctic Council, and will sit on the National Security Council to advise the president on national security and foreign policy.