Updated: March 4, 2021
U.S. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Thursday announced key nominations and appointments of his climate team, which is expected to advance his agenda “leading the world to confront the climate crisis — creating good-paying union jobs, building resilient communities, and making historic investments in environmental justice.”
Those appointed and nominated include Congresswoman Deb Haaland, Secretary of the Interior; Governor Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of Energy; Michael Regan, EPA Administrator; Brenda Mallory, Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality; Administrator Gina McCarthy, National Climate Advisor; and Ali Zaidi, Deputy National Climate Advisor.
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“The undeniable, accelerating, punishing reality of climate change is exacting an incalculable toll on lives and livelihoods in every community across the country,” the Biden team said in a statement.
It added: “This team knows that science demands we address climate change immediately and that our response must be grounded in science. The team will turn the climate crisis into an unprecedented opportunity to create millions of good paying union jobs in communities across the country; powering our economy with clean energy and positioning the United States as an exporter of 21st century products; and making our economy stronger and more resilient. They will work closely with communities who bear the outsized burden of environmental injustice, including Tribal Nations and communities of color, and young Americans who will live with the long-term consequences of climate change.”
According to Biden, “This brilliant, tested, trailblazing team will be ready on day one to confront the existential threat of climate change with a unified national response rooted in science and equity. They share my belief that we have no time to waste to confront the climate crisis, protect our air and drinking water, and deliver justice to communities that have long shouldered the burdens of environmental harms. Together, on behalf of all Americans, they will meet this moment with the urgency it demands — and seize the opportunity to build back better with good-paying union jobs, climate-resilient infrastructure, and a clean energy future that benefits every single community.”
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said, “From the wildfires across California and the west to the storms battering our coasts, our climate crisis is a grave and growing threat to the American people and the planet we all share. On the campaign, President-elect Biden and I proposed one of the most ambitious climate plans in history. The team we are announcing today will help make that plan a reality. They are seasoned public servants and climate experts who reflect the very best of our country. They have the knowledge and experience to confront this global challenge head-on with our allies and partners around the world. And they are the team the American people need and deserve to help protect our communities — and our planet — for generations.”
Who they are:
Congresswoman Deb Haaland is nominated to serve as Secretary of the Interior. Haaland is a barrier-breaking public servant who has spent her career fighting for families, including in Tribal Nations, rural communities, and communities of color. Currently serving as Vice Chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Haaland will be ready on day one to protect our environment and fight for a clean energy future. If confirmed, she will make history as the first-ever Native American Cabinet secretary.
Governor Jennifer Granholm is nominated to serve as Secretary of Energy. A two-term Governor of Michigan whose work during and after her tenure has centered on creating clean energy jobs in America, Granholm’s leadership was instrumental in rescuing the U.S. auto industry, saving one million jobs, and preparing Detroit for a clean energy future.
Michael Regan is nominated to serve as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. The current Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, Regan has served in the EPA under both Democratic and Republican presidents and has a distinguished track record of bringing people together across the public, private, and non-profit sectors to advance environmental justice and seek solutions to environmental and climate challenges.
Brenda Mallory, an accomplished public servant and environmental lawyer, is nominated to serve as Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality. A former General Counsel to the CEQ and current Director of Regulatory Policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center, Mallory brings deep and versatile expertise working directly with communities and partners across the public and private sectors to solve climate challenges and advance environmental protection and environmental justice. If confirmed, she would be the first African American to hold the position since its creation more than half a century ago.
Administrator Gina McCarthy will serve as the first-ever National Climate Advisor, heading up the newly formed White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, where she will drive an “all of government” approach to combating climate change. A leading voice on climate and environmental issues for more than 30 years, McCarthy was a driving force behind the Obama-Biden Administration’s groundbreaking Clean Power Plan during her tenure as Administrator of the EPA.
Ali Zaidi, a leading climate expert and longtime advisor to the president-elect, will serve as Deputy National Climate Advisor. Zaidi helped draft and implement the Obama-Biden Administration’s Climate Action Plan and negotiate the Paris Climate Agreement. Zaidi immigrated from Pakistan and grew up in the Rust Belt outside Erie, Pennsylvania.
Congresswoman Deb Haaland, Secretary of the Interior
Congresswoman Deb Haaland currently serves as the Representative for the First District of New Mexico in the House of Representatives — one of the first two Native American women elected to the United States Congress. As a single mom and someone who has lived paycheck to paycheck Haaland knows the struggles many families face. A longtime organizer, Haaland has spent her career advocating for the needs of her community. In Congress, she holds leadership positions including the 116th Congress Freshman Class Representative to the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, House Democratic Region VI Whip, and Deputy Whip for the Congressional Progressive Caucus. She is also the Vice Chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources and Vice Chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus.
Prior to her election to the U.S. House, Haaland was an entrepreneur and advocated for environmentally sustainable business practices. Additionally, Haaland served as Chairwoman of the New Mexico Democratic Party — the first Native American elected to lead a state party. Haaland, whose mother served in the Navy and whose father was a Marine, also serves as an Honorary Commander of Kirtland Air Force Base. She earned a B.A. from the University of New Mexico and a J.D. from the University of New Mexico School of Law.
Governor Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of Energy
Jennifer Granholm served as Michigan’s 47th governor for two terms, and was the first woman to lead the state in its history. During her tenure, she oversaw the statewide response to the Great Recession, working closely with the Obama-Biden Administration to rescue the U.S. auto industry — a feat widely credited with saving one million American jobs. Granholm’s chief focus as governor was on retooling and electrifying the auto industry to prepare it for durable global leadership and in-state job growth; her efforts to diversify the Michigan economy by sparking a new clean energy sector have served as a state and national model for future economic and job growth.
Prior to her tenure as Governor, Granholm was elected to serve as the Attorney General of Michigan, and was the first woman to hold this position. She is the founder of the American Jobs Project, a multi-state, multi-university initiative promoting technological advancements and clean energy policies to spur U.S. job creation, and has helped drive clean energy policy nationwide as an advisor to the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Clean Energy Program and as a professor at the University of California’s Goldman School of Public Policy. Granholm is affiliated with the California Institute for Energy and Environment and the Berkeley Center for Information Technology Research in the Interests of Society (CITRIS), where she is a Senior Research Fellow. An immigrant from Canada who has been a U.S. citizen for more than 40 years, Granholm received her bachelor of arts degree from University of California, Berkeley, and her J.D. from Harvard Law School.
Michael Regan, EPA Administrator
Michael Regan currently serves as Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. Bringing a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of the environment, economy, and public health, Secretary Regan conceptualized and operationalized North Carolina’s Executive Order 80 — a landmark effort to address climate change’s impact and transition the state’s energy economy. Regan led the negotiations that resulted in the cleanup of the Cape Fear River, which had been contaminated with dangerous per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS), negotiated and oversaw the largest coal ash cleanup in the United States, and created North Carolina’s first Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Board to address societal disparities exacerbated by environmental issues during his tenure as Secretary.
Secretary Regan’s subject matter expertise in the realm of environmental, energy, economic, and equity issues is apparent in his lifelong record of public service. He previously served at the EPA under both Democratic and Republican presidents — leading initiatives at the agency to improve energy efficiency and air quality and mitigate pollution — and was an Associate Vice President of the Environmental Defense Fund focused on climate issues. He also founded M. Regan & Associates to help organizations navigate challenges at the intersection of energy, the economy, and the environment. Regan earned his bachelor’s degree from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and his master’s degree from The George Washington University.
Brenda Mallory, Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality
Brenda Mallory currently serves as Director of Regulatory Policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center. An experienced public servant and longtime champion of environmental stewardship, she has been an environmental leader at the intersection of law and policy in the public, private, and non-profit sectors for over 30 years.
Prior to her current role, Mallory served as Executive Director and Senior Counsel at the Conservation Litigation Project, where she led efforts to protect public lands and promote scholarship around emerging natural resources issues. Mallory has served in both Democratic and Republican administrations, including as General Counsel on the White House Council on Environmental Quality and as the Principal Deputy General Counsel at the Environmental Protection Agency during the Obama-Biden Administration. She also served as Chair of the Natural Resources Practice Group during her time at the environmental law firm Beveridge & Diamond. With roots in Connecticut, Mallory is a graduate of Yale College and Columbia University School of Law.
Gina McCarthy, National Climate Advisor
Gina McCarthy served as the 13th Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and is currently the President and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council. One of the nation’s most trusted and accomplished voices on climate issues, she has been at the forefront of environmental and public health progress in a variety of leading roles for over three decades.
In her time leading the EPA, McCarthy oversaw successful efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, mitigate air pollution, conserve critical water sources, and safeguard vulnerable communities from chemical hazards. She spearheaded the Obama-Biden Administration’s Clean Power Plan, which set America’s first-ever national standards for lowering carbon emissions from power plants, and helped pave the way for the Paris Climate Agreement. Prior to her current role with the NRDC, McCarthy was a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and currently serves as chair of the board of directors of the Harvard Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment.
Throughout her career, McCarthy has advised five administrations of both Democratic and Republican Massachusetts governors on environmental matters, and she served as Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection prior to being appointed by President Obama to head up the EPA’s Air Office. As EPA administrator, she pursued innovative global collaborations with the United Nations and the World Health Organization, and on global efforts to address pollution. Born and raised in Boston, McCarthy graduated from the University of Massachusetts Boston and earned a master of science at Tufts University.
Ali Zaidi, Deputy National Climate Advisor
Ali Zaidi currently serves the state of New York as Deputy Secretary to the Governor for Energy and Environment and Chairman of Climate Policy and Finance, and leads the state’s efforts on climate change — driving investment into infrastructure and innovation, empowering workers and communities, and boosting economic and environmental resilience. An adjunct professor at Stanford University — where he has taught graduate courses on technology policy and studied the fiscal and financial impacts of climate change — Zaidi co-founded Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy, a Stanford-coordinated initiative that equips sustainability-focused startups with pro bono legal services.
A longtime advisor to President-elect Biden on climate matters, Zaidi brings the cross-sector and multi-disciplinary experience needed to deliver a whole-of-government response to the climate crisis. During the Obama-Biden Administration, Zaidi served as Associate Director for Natural Resources, Energy, and Science for the Office of Management and Budget and as Deputy Director of Energy Policy for the Domestic Policy Council — helping to design and implement a wide range of domestic and international policies. Zaidi has advised non-profits, including as a Trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council, and counseled the private sector, as an attorney who helped launch a sustainable investment practice.
Zaidi immigrated from Pakistan and grew up outside Erie, Pennsylvania. He received an A.B. from Harvard University and J.D. from Georgetown University.