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2021-02-26 John Kerry, Gina McCarthy and Biden’s Climate Team

From Climate One | Part of the Climate One series | 58:58

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Host: Greg Dalton

Guests:
Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington
Gina McCarthy, President & CEO, NRDC Action Fund
John Kerry, Former U.S. Senator and former Secretary of State
Sonia Aggarwal, Vice President of Energy, Energy Innovation
Brian Deese, Managing Director, Global Head of Sustainable Investing, BlackRock

Joe Biden did not start out as the “climate candidate” – that was a title first claimed by Washington Governor Jay Inslee, one of  more than two dozen Democratic candidates jockeying for position in the early days of the 2020 presidential campaign.  When Inslee spoke on the Climate One stage in May of 2020, climate was top of mind for him.

“Everybody’s got a to do list right on your refrigerator,” Inslee said. “This cannot be just on the next president's to do list, because if it's not job one, it won't get done.”

Inslee, who dropped out of the race a few months later, can arguably be credited with helping to push the climate crisis into the campaign conversation, onto the debate stage and higher on the agenda for candidate Joe Biden.

Fast forward nine months, and President Joe Biden is looking at everything through a climate lens – from jobs and infrastructure to international diplomacy, public health and social justice.

“He really is a person who was engaged somewhat in climate, but I don't think it was as yet sort of ingrained into him,” said former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Well, it is now!”

When McCarthy spoke on Climate One last September, Biden had yet to be elected to the presidency. She has since been named to the post of White House National Climate Advisor – and she’s ready to get to work.

 

“I don't just want greenhouse gases, I want fossil fuels gone,” McCarthy states vehemently. “I don't want to help fossil fuel industry to extend their life.  I want them to recognize that this is bringing down communities most importantly, environmental justice communities.”

 

McCarthy is just one of the climate leaders that President Biden has tapped for prominent roles in his administration. Another is former Secretary of State John Kerry, whom Biden has chosen for the newly created position of U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. Now that the United States is back in the Paris Agreement, Kerry’s job is to convince other countries that we’re serious about cutting global carbon emissions -- and prod them to do more.

 

Kerry joined Greg Dalton for a conversation in April of 2020. At the time, he was already deeply invested in the climate fight, having declared a World War Zero on carbon pollution.

 

“It’s really putting the nation on a war footing to avoid the next pandemic which will be exacerbated by the climate crisis, and the way to get ahead of it is to prepare and make the decisions now,” says Kerry. “The long-term energy future of America is not going to be written in fossil fuels”

 

In their Climate One discussion, Kerry pointed out the need for major investments in innovation and research, a task that will be spearheaded by Sonia Aggarwal, Biden’s newly appointed Senior Advisor for Climate Policy and Innovation. Aggarwal spoke at Climate One in 2019 about the state of global climate solutions. At the time, she was Vice President of Energy at the consulting firm Energy Innovation.

 

“It’s been pretty amazing to see how the market has taken off to really bring down the cost of clean energy,” Aggarwal said then. “And what impact that’s making in a lot of different places around the world.

 

“I’m optimistic about the future,” she added. “One of the things that makes me the most optimistic is that we have clean energy technologies that can be deployed at speed and scale, and are being deployed at speed and scale.”

 

Jay Inslee was recorded in front of a live audience at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on May 2, 2019
Gina McCarthy was recorded via video on September 22, 2020
John Kerry was recorded via video on April 21, 2020
Sonia Aggarwal was recorded in front of a live audience at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on January 17, 2019
Brian Deese was recorded via video on April 16, 2020.

 

RELATED LINKS:

 

‘Climate Czar’ positions point to Biden’s dual approach to the global crisis (Audubon)

 

The Biden Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice

Every cabinet job is about climate change now (Washington Post)

 

Biden adds six policy experts to his climate team (E&E news)

 

Biden appoints Brian Deese to lead National Economic Council (CNBC)