When President Joe Biden formally announced his administration’s climate team late last month, you could almost hear the collective sigh of relief from people not just in our country but around the globe. Biden’s nominees will be charged with implementing his “ambitious plan to address the existential threat of our time: climate change.” And they will do so with an eye toward restoring our sputtering economy and creating new jobs at the same time.
The announcement marks a significant shift from the Trump administration, where lobbyists and fossil fuel industry insiders took over key posts at the EPA and elsewhere. These anti-science climate deniers rolled back, gutted, and eliminated many longstanding environmental and public health protections throughout the last four years. With time running out to avert climate catastrophe, these so-called leaders set us even further back.
In a much-anticipated about-face, Biden’s picks for top positions in the EPA, the Council on Environmental Quality, the Department of Interior, and the Department of Energy have all been lauded as immensely qualified to lead the country’s environmental policy through this pivotal period in our history. Even more encouraging, Biden also created two new positions to oversee the U.S. response to the climate crisis both at home and abroad: the National Climate Advisor as well as a Special Climate Envoy.
Biden Nominees Restore Faith in Science and Facts
When approved, Biden’s nominees for these key climate positions will include the first people of color to hold these roles in U.S. history. And they will return adherence to science and expertise to the forefront of the list of qualifications for each of these key positions.
- New Mexico Representative Deb Haaland has been nominated to lead the Department of Interior, which would make her the first Native American in the role. She will oversee the country’s public lands, waters, and wildlife and manage the government’s relationship with indigenous tribes.
- Michael Regan, Biden’s nominee to lead the EPA, is currently the top environmental regulator in North Carolina. If confirmed, Regan would be the first Black man to lead the EPA, where he would oversee clean air and water protections, as well as lead national efforts to address climate risks.
- Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo has been nominated to lead the Department of Commerce, where she will have a wide range of responsibilities including overseeing the country’s ocean policies through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
- Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm has been tapped to head the Department of Energy. There she will oversee the nation’s transition away from polluting fossil fuels towards a clean energy future with greater investments in wind and solar power.
- Brenda Mallory will serve as Biden’s Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality. An environmental lawyer who formerly served as the general counsel at EPA during the Obama administration, Mallory has promised to bring a greater – and long overdue – focus on environmental justice to her role, which coordinates environmental policies throughout the government.
- Gina McCarthy, a Boston native who led the EPA under the Obama administration, will serve as the newly created National Climate Advisor. This senior White House role will oversee domestic climate policy. McCarthy was also the first person honored as an environmental champion by CLF at our 50th anniversary celebration.
- Finally, John Kerry has been named Climate Envoy. The former Massachusetts Senator and Secretary of State will act as the face of U.S. climate efforts abroad. He will lead the country as we rejoin, and hopefully strengthen, the Paris Climate Agreement, which he helped to write in 2016.
The Next Four Years Are Critical – in Washington and Here at Home
After a Trump administration marked by climate denial and scorn for science, the coming years will determine whether we finally confront the climate crisis and correct decades of environmental racism or waste our last chance.
While the nominees need to be confirmed by the Senate, their collective depth of knowledge and commitment to key environmental issues is reason for optimism that a brighter future lays ahead. They will all need to get to work on day one to undo four years of rollbacks and address climate risks, longstanding environmental injustices, and preparing our communities for the future.
We’re excited to see such a diverse and qualified slate of nominees for the country’s top environmental posts. But we also know that their actions will speak louder than any qualifications on paper. We will be holding these new leaders accountable for reversing the environmental damage imposed by the Trump administration and charting a path forward based on science and equity.
We also know that no matter who’s running things in Washington, local leadership remains as critical as ever. Long before the Trump administration, Washington was falling short when it came to protecting our climate and our communities. We can’t expect this new crop of leaders, no matter how good they are, to make progress overnight, especially with a divided Congress.
That’s why we will – why we must – continue to fight against the climate crisis here at home in New England and ensure that solutions benefit all of New England, especially our underserved communities.