‘We’re in crisis’: Joe Biden introduces his environmental advisers

President-elect says ‘we need a unified national response to climate change’

US president-elect Joe Biden speaks on Saturday as he announced key cabinet nominees and members of his climate team. Photograph: AFP

US president-elect Joe Biden speaks on Saturday as he announced key cabinet nominees and members of his climate team. Photograph: AFP

 

President-elect Joe Biden introduced key members of his climate change team Saturday, declaring that his administration will connect the effort to reduce planet-warming emissions with restoring the economy and creating jobs.

Mr Biden, speaking at an event in Wilmington, Delaware, said the climate team will be “ready on Day One, which is essential because we literally have no time to waste.”

A top lieutenant will be Gina McCarthy, former president Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency administrator who Mr Biden has tapped to head a new White House Office of Climate Policy.

The group includes progressives like Republican Deb Haaland of New Mexico, Mr Biden’s choice to lead the Department of the Interior and a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal, and establishment figures like Jennifer Granholm, the former governor of Michigan, who Mr Biden selected to be energy secretary.

Michael Regan, North Carolina’s top environmental regulator, was named to lead the EPA, and Brenda Mallory, a longtime environmental attorney, will chair the Council on Environmental Quality.

Ms McCarthy’s deputy will be Ali Zaidi, who currently serves as the deputy secretary for energy and environment for New York state.

And last month Mr Biden named former secretary of state John Kerry as an international presidential envoy on climate change.

“Folks, we’re in a crisis,” Mr Biden said Saturday. “Just like we need to be a unified nation to respond to Covid-19, we need a unified national response to climate change.”

Kamala Harris, the vice president-elect and California senator, said the state had endured the worst wildfire season on record this year. Calling wildfires “just one symptom of our growing climate crisis” along with historic flooding in the Midwest and a record hurricane season, she said.

“Our climate crisis is not a partisan issue and it is not a hoax. It is an existential threat to all of us.”

Citing the costs and loss of life from wildfires that raged across the west this year, Mr Biden vowed to restore the regulations that president Donald Trump rolled back and said, “We will set new ambitious standards that our workers are ready to meet today.”

When Mr Biden takes office in January he will inherit a government still struggling to contain the coronavirus pandemic and a shattered US economy that has suffered millions of job losses.

He also faces a monumental rebuilding effort after four years in which the Trump administration reversed more than 100 environmental regulations, mocked climate science and championed the production of the fossil fuels chiefly responsible for warming the planet.

On Saturday, Mr Biden said he intends to make tackling climate change a cornerstone of his coronavirus recovery action, calling for 500,000 new electric vehicle charging stations, the construction of 1.5 million new energy-efficient homes and public housing units, and the creation of a “civilian climate corps” to carry out climate and conservation projects.

He said he will prioritise environmental justice and restore the regulations that president Donald Trump rolled back.

And he delivered a direct appeal to federal scientists and other career staff members saying his administration will “honour the integrity of the office” in which they work.

Climate policy is expected to play a critical role in the Biden administration, the president-elect said.

He also highlighted the role of Granholm, the former Michigan governor who is credited with getting the state’s first renewable energy portfolio standard through a divided legislature, and working with the car industry to develop electric vehicles.

While curbing carbon emissions is expected to create friction with leaders of fossil fuel-dependent states, members of the team sought to cast fighting climate change as an effort that will create jobs.

Over the next decade countries and companies intend to invest trillions of dollars in electric vehicles, grid technology, wind turbines and other clean energy components. - New York Times