Biden's National Climate Task Force Has First Official Meeting, Forms Climate Innovation Working Group

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 12 Feb 2021 00:42:00 GMT

The White House National Climate Task Force, formed by a recent executive order, held its first meeting today. The first tweet from National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy’s official account displayed the participants.

Additionally, the White House announced the formation of the Climate Innovation Working Group as part of the Climate Task Force. The working group, co-chaired by the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, Office of Science of Technology and Policy, and Office of Management and Budget, will focus on climate technology research, development, and deployment.

According to the White House, the working group’s priorities will be:
  • zero net carbon buildings at zero net cost, including carbon-neutral construction materials;
  • energy storage at one-tenth the cost of today’s alternatives;
  • advanced energy system management tools to plan for and operate a grid powered by zero carbon power plants;
  • very low-cost zero carbon on-road vehicles and transit systems;
  • new, sustainable fuels for aircraft and ships, as well as improvements in broader aircraft and ship efficiency and transportation management;
  • affordable refrigeration, air conditioning, and heat pumps made without refrigerants that warm the planet;
  • carbon-free heat and industrial processes that capture emissions for making steel, concrete, chemicals, and other important industrial products;
  • carbon-free hydrogen at a lower cost than hydrogen made from polluting alternatives;
  • innovative soil management, plant biologies, and agricultural techniques to remove carbon dioxide from the air and store it in the ground;
  • direct air capture systems and retrofits to existing industrial and power plant exhausts to capture carbon dioxide and use it to make alternative products or permanently sequester it deep underground.

As part of that initiative, the Department of Energy announced that $100 million of Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) funds will be directed to the new ARPA-Climate initiative in support of basic research for advanced climate technology.

White House participants in today’s National Climate Task Force meeting:
  • Vice President Kamala Harris
  • John Kerry, United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate
  • Gina McCarthy, White House National Climate Advisor
  • Ali Zaidi, deputy White House National Climate Advisor
  • Bruce Reed, White House Deputy Chief of Staff
  • David Hayes, special assistant to the president for climate policy
  • Sonia Aggarwal, Senior Advisor to the President for Climate Policy and Innovation
  • Susan Rice, Director of the United States Domestic Policy Council
  • Nicole Budzinski, Chief of Staff at Office of Management and Budget
  • Brian Deese, Director of the National Economic Council
  • Kei Koizumi, Chief of Staff and Acting Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy; during Obama administration was Assistant Director for Federal Research and Development and Senior Advisor to the Director for the National Science and Technology Council at OSTP
  • Cecilia Martinez, senior director for environmental justice, Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)
  • Mark Chambers, senior director for building emissions, CEQ; formerly director of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s sustainability office
  • Maggie Thomas, Chief of Staff, Office of Domestic Climate Policy
  • Jahi Wise, senior adviser for climate policy and finance in the Office of Domestic Climate Policy https://coalitionforgreencapital.com/cgcs-jahi-wise-heads-to-white-house-domestic-climate-policy-office/
Departmental participants:
  • Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Transportation
  • Janet Yellen, Secretary of Treasury
  • Kathleen Hicks, Deputy Secretary of Defense
  • Tarak Shah, Chief of Staff, Department of Energy
  • Katelyn Walker Mooney, Policy Advisor, Department of Labor, previously the associate general counsel for House labor committee Chairman Bobby Scott
  • Jenn Jones, Chief of Staff, Housing and Urban Development
  • Robert Bonnie, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy and Senior Advisor, Climate, Department of Agriculture
Unknown roles:
  • Raj Nayak; was on Biden Department of Labor transition team, and deputy Labor chief of staff during the Obama administration
  • Roque Sanchez; was on Biden DOE transition team, and a former White House climate advisor during the Obama administration
Officially, the members of the Climate Task Force are:
  • National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy
  • Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen
  • Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin
  • Attorney General (Merrick Garland, nominated)
  • Secretary of the Interior (Deb Haaland, nominated)
  • Secretary of Agriculture (Tom Vilsack, nominated)
  • Secretary of Commerce (Gina Raimondo, nominated)
  • Secretary of Education (Miguel Cardona, nominated)
  • Secretary of Labor (Marty Walsh, nominated)
  • Secretary of Health and Human Services (Xavier Becerra, nominated)
  • Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (Marcia Fudge, nominated)
  • Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg
  • Secretary of Energy (Jennifer Granholm, nominated)
  • Secretary of Homeland Security (Alejandro Mayorkas, nominated)
  • Administrator of General Services (no nomination yet)
  • Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality (Brenda Mallory, nominated)
  • Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (Michael Regan, nominated)
  • Director of the Office of Management and Budget (Neera Tanden, nominated)
  • Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (Eric Lander, nominated)
  • Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy Susan Rice
  • Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Jake Sullivan
  • Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall
  • Assistant to the President for Economic Policy Brian Deese

Sanders, Blumenauer, and Ocasio-Cortez Introduce National Climate Emergency Act of 2021

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 04 Feb 2021 15:43:00 GMT

Legislation introduced today by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) calls on the President of the United States to declare a national climate emergency and begin taking action in line with the goals of the Green New Deal resolution introduced in 2019.

The National Climate Emergency Act mandates a presidential declaration of a national emergency under the National Emergencies Act of 1976, and directs the president to mobilize the nation for climate and economic justice, rebuilding the national labor movement to protect the habitability of our planet.

To ensure accountability to Congress and the American people, the National Climate Emergency Act requires that the president deliver a report within one year of the bill’s enactment (and then every year thereafter until the emergency sunsets) that details the specific actions taken by the executive branch to combat the climate emergency and restore the climate for future generations.

As detailed in the legislation, this should include, but is not limited to, investments in large scale mitigation and resiliency projects, upgrades to public infrastructure, modernization of millions of buildings to cut pollution, investments in public health, protections for public lands, regenerative agriculture investments that support local and regional food systems, and more.

“It might be a good idea for President Biden to call a climate emergency,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow last week. “Trump used this emergency for a stupid wall, which wasn’t an emergency. But if there ever was an emergency, climate is one.”

The legislation introduced today is supported by dozens of climate justice organizations including 350.org, Center for Biological Diversity, The Climate Mobilization, Food & Water Watch, Labor Network for Sustainability, Progressive Democrats of America, Public Citizen, Sunrise Movement, Justice Democrats, Greenpeace, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Align NY, Friends of Earth, and Climate Justice Alliance.

“We are at a life changing, civilization altering moment in our history, as we face a climate crisis that demands a thunderous voice and a full mobilization of every sector to match its scale and its urgency – all while serving as a great opportunity to build a more just and prosperous country,” said Varshini Prakash, Executive Director of the Sunrise Movement. “This bill is a good sign that our leaders are finally understanding what young people and climate activists have been shouting from the rooftops for years – that the fires that burned our homes to rubble, the floods that took our family and friends with them, are a climate emergency, and bold action must be done now to save our humanity and our future.”

“We’re already in a five-alarm emergency for communities on the frontlines of fossil fuel pollution and the climate crisis,” said John Noël, senior climate campaigner of Greenpeace USA. “Our government has squandered precious time in the fight for a liveable planet, and now we need legislation like the Climate Emergency Act to kick things into gear. Congress must mobilize in full force to declare a climate emergency then immediately act to end fossil fuel subsidies and reinstate the crude oil export ban. We have the unprecedented opportunity this year to advance climate, racial, and economic justice, and to create millions of union jobs in the process. This historic legislation is just step one.”

“Obstruction, corporate greed, and denial has left us with just 10 years to rapidly transition off fossil fuels and toward a 100% clean and renewable energy economy,” said Alexandra Rojas, Executive Director, Justice Democrats. “There’s no time to waste in declaring this a national emergency and taking swift action to create millions of good-paying union jobs in the process.”

Full text of the legislation:

Biden Names Joe Bryan as Climate Advisor for Department of Defense

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 03 Feb 2021 18:42:00 GMT

The Department of Defense has named Joseph Bryan its Senior Advisor on Climate, joining several other agencies with this new position.

Joe Bryan, formally appointed as a Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy during the Obama administration starting in 2014, coming from the U.S. Senate where he was a military issues staffer. He started his career in energy and mining policy, with jobs in South Africa and Namibia, after earning a masters in energy and environmental policy from the University of Delaware.

After leaving the Obama administration, Bryan joined the Atlantic Council as a senior fellow and founded Muswell Orange, LLC, a one-man clean-energy consultancy. In recent years he wrote numerous pieces and offered testimony on climate change, clean energy, and the military.

In one piece he wrote: “Mitigating the worst impacts of climate change ultimately depends on significant reductions in global carbon emissions. The United States should rejoin the international community and recommit to aggressive cuts in CO2.”

He has also emphasized the strategic issue of the minerals supply chain for batteries and other renewable-energy technology.

Additionally, climate hawk Andy Oare was named the director of digital media for the Department of Defense. During the Obama administration, he was part of the digital media and outreach team for the Department of Energy.

Bryan’s biographical details:

Joseph M. Bryan was appointed as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy in November 2014. Mr. Bryan served as the Secretariat focal point on all matters pertaining to the Department of Navy’s energy initiatives.

Mr. Bryan joined the Department of the Navy from the United States Senate where he served in several professional staff roles. Most recently, Mr. Bryan was the Investigations Team Lead for the Committee on Armed Services. During his tenure, the committee completed investigations into cyber intrusions affecting U.S. Transportation Command contractors, U.S. costs and allied contributions to support the U.S. military presence overseas, the presence of counterfeit electronic parts in the military supply chain, the use of private security contractors in Afghanistan, and the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody.

From 2005 to January 2007, Mr. Bryan served on the Select Committee on Intelligence, where he advised Senator Carl Levin on legal, policy, and programmatic issues affecting the U.S. Intelligence Community. He also represented Senator Levin in legislative negotiations and investigations into pre-Iraq war intelligence.

From 2001 to April 2005, he was responsible for legislative issues related to Senate Judiciary and Governmental Affairs Committees, including judicial nominations, criminal justice, legal reform, and federal employees.

Earlier in his career, Mr. Bryan worked at the University of Cape Town’s Energy and Development Research Center, Cape Town, South Africa. In this position, he coordinated research and briefings for Chairman of the South African Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Minerals and Energy on the development and regulation of domestic energy industries. He also advised Namibian Ministry of Minerals and Energy on the development of a white paper to guide development of national energy policy.

Mr. Bryan earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1991 from Fordham University and a Master of Arts in Urban Affairs and Public Policy, with a focus on energy and environmental policy from the University of Delaware.

Biden Administration Names Climate Advisors at NASA, SEC, USDA, GSA

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 03 Feb 2021 14:21:00 GMT


Administration names Gavin Schmidt, Robert Bonnie, Sonal Larsen, Satyam Khanna climate advisors (clockwise from top left)
President Joe Biden is continuing to build out an administration-wide climate infrastructure with new appointments. This interagency “climate cabinet,” anchored by National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy and Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry in the White House, looks to extend to every department. Here are the recent announcement for four diverse agencies:



National Aeronautic and Space Administration: Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, will serve in the newly created position of senior climate advisor. Schmidt has been GISS director since 2014. His main research interest is the use of climate modeling to understand past, present, and future climate change, and he has authored or co-authored more than 150 research papers in peer-reviewed literature. He is a fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was the inaugural winner of the AGU Climate Communication Prize in 2011. He also was awarded NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal in 2017. He has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Oxford University and a doctorate in applied mathematics from University College London.

Securities and Exchange Commission: Satyam Khanna will serve as Senior Policy Advisor for Climate and Environmental and Social Governance. Khanna was most recently a resident fellow at NYU School of Law’s Institute for Corporate Governance and Finance and served on the Biden-Harris Presidential Transition’s Federal Reserve, Banking, and Securities Regulators Agency Review Team. He was previously a member of the SEC’s Investor Advisory Committee, where he served on the Investor-As-Owner Subcommittee, and was a senior advisor to the Principles for Responsible Investment. Prior to that, he served as Counsel to SEC Commissioner Robert J. Jackson Jr. Earlier in his career, Khanna was a member of the staff of the Financial Stability Oversight Council at the U.S. Treasury Department and was a litigation associate at the law firm McDermott Will & Emery. He is a graduate of Columbia Law School and Washington University in St. Louis. He was also a blogger at ThinkProgress for the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

U.S. Department of Agriculture: Robert Bonnie was named Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy and Senior Advisor, Climate, in the Office of the Secretary: Most recently Bonnie served as an executive in residence at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University. Previously, he served as Director of the Farm and Forests Carbon Solutions Initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center, where worked to develop new initiatives to combat the climate crisis through agricultural innovation. During the Obama Administration, he served as Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment and as a Senior Advisor to Secretary Vilsack for climate and the environment. He worked at the Environmental Defense Fund for 14 years. Bonnie holds a master’s degree in forestry and environmental management from Duke University, and a bachelor’s from Harvard College.

General Services Administration: Sonal Kemkar Larsen, formerly a national advisor for the mayoral level City Energy Project partnership in Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker’s sustainability office. She was a former official at both the White House Council of Environmental Quality and at the Department of Energy. Previously she was a sustainability consultant at the United Nations Environment Program in Bangkok. She will play a role as senior advisor on Climate.

Climate Envoy John Kerry: "We Have a Huge Methane Problem, Folks"

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 29 Jan 2021 16:09:00 GMT

Speaking at the Davos World Economic Forum, US Climate Envoy John Kerry offered a strong critique of natural gas: “Gas is primarily methane, and we have a huge methane problem, folks.”

Kerry was responding to Shell CEO Ben van Breundel’s argument that the US government should reduce demand for fossil fuels and not take action to reduce production by companies like Shell.

UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed offered an even more blunt criticism of van Breundel’s argument that we can drill our way out of global warming: “You can’t be talking about new [fossil-fuel exploration and production], when the science tells you have to reduce that production 6 percent per annum and you’re increasing by 2 percent.”

Climate Envoy John Kerry Remarks at U.N. Climate Adaptation Summit

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 26 Jan 2021 22:01:00 GMT

Remarks by U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry at the opening of the Climate Adaptation Summit 2021.

Transcript:
It’s a privilege to be able to be with you. And let me start by thanking Prime Minister Rutte and the government of the Netherlands for hosting this important and timely meeting.

I’m really delighted to be here. I also want to thank, if I may, Secretary General Guterres for his tireless leadership on climate change. And of course my friend Ban Ki-Moon, who was central as we negotiated the Paris agreement and brought it into force. And he’s been a partner not just on climate but on many other things and challenges.

Three years ago, scientists gave us a pretty stark warning. They said we have 12 years within which to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. Now we have nine years left. And I regret that my country has been absent for three of those years.

In the United States, we spent 265 billion dollars in one year for three storms, just cleaning up after those storms. Last year, one storm, 55 billion dollars.

We’ve reached the point where it is an absolute fact that it’s cheaper to invest in preventing damage, or minimizing it at least, than cleaning up. Now, without question, I think, everybody understands this, the best adaptation is to treat the crisis as the emergency that it is and do more to hold the earth’s temperature increase to the Paris-stated 1.5 degrees. I think scientists are more and more landing on the 1.5 as a critical figure.

A 3.7 to 4.5 increase centigrade, which is exactly the path that we are on now, invites for the most vulnerable and poorest people on earth fundamentally unlivable conditions. So our urgent reduction of emissions is compelled by public conscience and by common sense. President Biden has made fighting climate change a top priority of his administration. We have a president now, thank God, who leads, tells the truth, and is seized by this issue.

And President Biden knows that we have to mobilize in unprecedented ways to meet a challenge that is fast accelerating. And he knows we have limited time to get it under control. For that reason, the United States immediately rejoined the Paris agreement. And we intend to do everything we possibly can to ensure that COP26 results in ambitious climate action, in which all major-emitter countries raise ambitions significantly, and in which we help protect those who are the most vulnerable.

We have already launched our work to prepare a new U.S. nationally determined contribution that meets the urgency of the challenge. And we aim to announce our NDC as soon as practicable.

The administration also intends to make significant investments in climate action, both domestically and as part of our efforts to build back better from COVID. And internationally, we intend to make good on our climate finance pledge.

In the long term driving towards net zero emissions no later than 2050, and keeping a 1.5 degree limit within reach remain the best policies for climate resilience and adaptation. There is simply no adapting to a three or four degree world except for the very richest and most privileged. At the same time, we have to also build resilience to protect communities from the impacts of climate change that already built in to the emissions that are in the atmosphere.

Now some of these impacts are inevitable, because of the warming that’s already taken place. But if we don’t act boldly and immediately by building resilience to climate change, we are likely going to see dramatic reversals in economic development for everybody. Poor and climate-vulnerable communities everywhere will obviously pay the highest price.

So the United States will work on three fronts to promote ambition and resilience and adaptation: leverage U.S. innovation and climate data and information to promote a better understanding and management of climate risk, especially in developed countries; we will significantly increase the flow of finance, including concessional finance, to adaptation and resilience initiatives; we will work with bilateral and multilateral institutions to improve quality of resilience programming; and we will work with the private sector, in the United States and elsewhere in developing countries, to promote greater collaboration between businesses and the communities on which they depend.

And it is our firm conviction throughout all of our administration every agency is now part of our climate team. And only together are we going to be able to build the resilience to climate change that is critical to save lives and meet our moral obligation for future generations, and to those currently living in very difficult circumstances. So we’re proud to be back. We come back, I want you to know, with humility, for the absence of the last four years, and we’ll do everything in our power to make up for it.

Biden Administration Staffs Up With Climate Hawks: Department of Energy

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 21 Jan 2021 21:55:00 GMT

The Department of Energy has announced numerous senior hires, the vast majority of whom are climate hawks. As with the transition team, the picks range from lifelong environmental justice activists to corporate technologists. Most but not all have previous administration experience.

Former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm is the nomineee to be Secretary of Energy. David G. Huizenga will serve as Acting Secretary of Energy, and Richard Glick is becoming chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Energy

  • Shalanda H. Baker, Deputy Director for Energy Justice. Shalanda H. Baker was mostly recently a professor of law, public policy, and urban affairs at Northeastern University. She was the co-founder and co-director of the Initiative for Energy Justice, which provides technical law and policy support to communities on the front lines of climate change. Baker served as an Air Force officer prior to her honorable discharge pursuant to the then existing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and became a vocal advocate for repeal of the policy. She earned a B.S. in Political Science from the U.S. Air Force Academy, a J.D. from Northeastern University, and L.L.M. from the University of Wisconsin.
  • Robert Cowin, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Engagement. Robert Cowin was most recently director of government affairs for the Climate & Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Prior to that, Cowin worked for the National Environmental Trust, where he helped organize national campaigns focused on climate change, clean energy, and clean air. He holds a master’s degree in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and a B.A. from Boston College.
  • Tanya Das, Chief of Staff, Office of Science. Tanya Das was most recently a Professional Staff Member on the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, where she worked on legislation on a range of issues in clean energy and manufacturing policy. She was an AAAS Congressional fellow in the Office of Senator Chris Coons. She earned her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and her B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
  • Christopher Davis, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Energy. Christopher Davis served all eight years of the Obama Administration — first in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs and then in several senior roles at the Department of Energy. Prior to that, he worked for the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform and the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce. More recently, Davis worked with Co-Equal, a non-profit organization providing expertise and knowledge to Congress on oversight and legislation.
  • Ali Douraghy, Chief of Staff, Office of the Under Secretary for Science & Energy. Ali Douraghy was most recently Chief Strategy Officer for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Earth & Environmental Sciences Area. He led the New Voices program at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, which brings diverse leader perspectives into science policy. He received his Ph.D. in biomedical physics from the UCLA School of Medicine.
  • Todd Kim, Deputy General Counsel for Litigation and Enforcement. Todd Kim most recently was a partner at Reed Smith LLP, and before that was the first Solicitor General for the District of Columbia, serving in that capacity more than 11 years. Kim was an appellate attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division, and a clerk on the D.C. Circuit. Kim graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he was an executive editor of the Harvard Law Review, and received his undergraduate degree magna cum laude in biology from Harvard College.
  • Jennifer Jean Kropke, Director of Energy Jobs. Jennifer Jean Kropke served as the first Director of Workforce and Environmental Engagement for IBEW Local Union 11 and the National Electrical Contractors’ Association-Los Angeles’ Labor Management Cooperation Committee. She focused on creating clean energy, port electrification, and zero emission transportation opportunities for union members. She is a graduate of the UCLA School of Law.
  • Andrew Light, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Affairs. Andrew Light has worked on international climate and energy policy in and outside of government for the last 15 years. From 2013 to 2016, he served as Senior Adviser and India Counselor to the U.S. Special Envoy on Climate Change, as well as a climate adviser in the Secretary of State’s Office of Policy Planning. Light was an international climate and energy policy volunteer for the Biden campaign and was one of the chief architects of Governor Jay Inslee’s plan for global climate mobilization. He is an environmental philosopher and is married to Washington Post reporter Juliet Eilperin. He completed his undergraduate work at Mercer University and doctoral work at the University of California, Riverside with a three-year post-doctoral fellowship in environmental risk assessment at the University of Alberta.
  • David A. Mayorga, Director of Public Affairs. David A. Mayorga most recently served as Director of Communications for the Attorney General for the District of Columbia Karl A. Racine. Previously he was Senior Spokesperson for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and led communications for DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office, with the SunShot Initiative. He earned a B.A. from the University of Florida and began his professional career at the U.S. House Committee on Science.
  • Shara Mohtadi, Chief of Staff, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. Shara Mohtadi has focused her career advising policymakers and international organizations on mitigating climate change and advancing clean energy policies. She most recently led the America’s Pledge initiative and managed grants focused on the coal to clean energy transition in Asia and Australia at Bloomberg Philanthropies. Previously, Shara served as a senior advisor on climate and energy policy for New York State government. During the Obama Administration, Mohtadi served as an advisor for the energy and environment portfolio at the White House, in the Office of Management and Budget. She received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Columbia University.
  • Tarak Shah, Chief of Staff. Tarak Shah is an energy policy expert who has spent the last decade working on combating climate change. At the Biden-Harris Transition, Shah was the Personnel lead for the Climate and Science team. From 2014-2017, he served as Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary for Science and Energy at DOE. Shah has also worked on political campaigns, including President Obama’s Senate and presidential campaigns. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois and his M.B.A from Cornell University.
  • Kelly Speakes-Backman, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. Kelly Speakes-Backman most recently served as the first CEO of the Energy Storage Association, the national trade organization for the energy storage industry. Speakes-Backman has spent more than 20 years working in energy and environmental issues in the public, NGO and private sectors. In 2019, she was honored by The Cleanie Awards as Woman of the Year.
  • Narayan Subramanian, Legal Advisor, Office of General Counsel. Narayan Subramanian was a Visiting Research Fellow at the Center for Law, Energy, & the Environment at Berkeley Law leading a project tracking regulatory rollbacks, and served as a Fellow at the Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy at Johns Hopkins University and Data for Progress. He was lead coordinator of the Elizabeth Warren presidential campaign’s climate and energy policy advisory group. Subramanian holds a J.D. from Columbia Law School, an M.P.A. from the School of Public & International Affairs at Princeton University, and a B.S. in Earth & Environmental Engineering from Columbia University.
  • Shuchi Talati, Chief of Staff, Office of Fossil Energy. Dr. Shuchi Talati was most recently a Senior Policy Advisor at Carbon180 where she focused on policies to build sustainable and equitable technological carbon removal at scale. She also served as a policy volunteer on the Biden-Harris campaign. She was a UCS Fellow on solar geoengineering research governance and public engagement with the Climate & Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Dr. Talati earned a B.S. from Northwestern University, an M.A. from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University. Her doctoral research focused on the climate-energy-water nexus looking specifically at the impacts of domestic climate regulations and carbon capture and storage technology.
  • Jennifer Wilcox, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy. Jennifer Wilcox is a direct carbon air capture expert. She was most recently the Presidential Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering and Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, and a Senior Fellow at the World Resources Institute. Wilcox’s work examines the nexus of energy and the environment, developing strategies to minimize negative climate impacts associated with society’s dependence on fossil fuels. Wilcox holds a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering and M.A. in Chemistry from the University of Arizona and B.A. in Mathematics from Wellesley College.
  • Avi Zevin, Deputy General Counsel for Energy Policy. Avi Zevin is an attorney with experience advancing policies that enable the provision of carbon-free, reliable, and cost-effective electricity. Until joining the administration, he was energy policy counsel for Google. He was a senior attorney and Affiliated Scholar at the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law and an attorney at Van Ness Feldman LLP. He was a policy advisor for the corporate-funded Third Way think tank from 2008 to 2009. Zevin holds a J.D., magna cum laude, from New York University School of Law, an M.P.A. from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and a B.A., with high honors, from the University of California, Berkeley.

Additional hires without significant reputation as climate policy experts or advocates include:

  • Vanessa Z. Chan, Director, Office of Technology Transitions (Chief Commercialization Officer). Vanessa Z. Chan comes to the Biden-Harris Administration from the University of Pennsylvania where she was the Brassington Professor of Practice and the Undergraduate Chair of the Materials Science and Engineering Department. She has spent the past 20 years helping large companies commercialize their technologies and revamping the academic curriculum of engineering students to make a greater social impact. Dr. Chan is a former longtime McKinsey & Company partner. She is a Venture Board Director for Vanguard and United Technology Corporation and a board member at multiple start-ups. Dr. Chan was the first woman and the first East Asian elected partner in McKinsey’s North American Chemicals practice. She is married to Mark van der Helm, the head of Energy, Waste and Facilities Maintenance at Walmart. Chan earned her Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a B.S. in Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Caroline Grey, White House Liaison. Caroline Grey worked for Biden for President as Expansion States Director, managing distributed engagement in 33 states. Previously, she worked on the presidential campaign of Senator Elizabeth Warren. Grey started her career as an organizer for then-Senator Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and worked on the 2012 Obama re-election campaign. She co-founded Civis Analytics, a data science firm.
  • Ali Nouri, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs. Ali Nouri is a molecular biologist and most recently was the President of the Federation of American Scientists, which addresses global health and security risks. In the past year, he has been working aggressively to fight COVID-19 misinformation. Prior to that, he served as a U.S. Senate staffer for a decade for Sens. Jim Webb and Al Franken and served as an advisor in the office of then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Nouri obtained a B.A. in biology from Reed College and received his Ph.D. from Princeton University.

Green New Appalachia: The Smart Way To Sell Climate Action To Joe Manchin

Posted by Billy Fleming Fri, 08 Jan 2021 04:40:00 GMT

This post is an expanded version of a Twitter thread.

With the pair of Democratic U.S. Senate victories in Georgia, the Democratic Party will have control of the White House and both chambers of Congress come January 20th. West Virginia’s Democratic senator, Joe Manchin, will become the chair of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and will hold tremendous power over any climate legislation.

While I’m sure that part of bribing Manchin to go along with a series of climate bills as bold as President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign platform will require funds for coal-industry boondoggles like direct air capture and carbon-capture sequestration, as well as for advanced nuclear technology, we ought to be a bit more creative than that.

Here are a few other ideas to consider:
  • New funds for building pumped hydroelectric storage facilities in Appalachia. These use abandoned coal mines to create a low-tech battery for renewable energy storage, pumping water into the uphill mines when production is high and releasing it through turbines when it wanes.
  • Ending the federal grant program that incentivizes converting abandoned strip mines into federal prisons. Those funds should go toward building up the clean energy and electrovoltaic manufacturing facilities in Appalachia on sites that have already been cleared or flattened sites that are adjacent to transportation infrastructure.
  • Decommissioning the network of prisons in Appalachia, converting their onsite and resilient electricity generation infrastructure into community-based electric co-ops. Every prison there has the ability to island itself off from the grid and power itself. Give that power to the people of Appalachia.
  • Investing in the now-closed north-south railway that could connect Appalachia to Atlanta in the South, Pittsburgh to the North, Columbus and St. Louis to the West, and the entire northeast corridor to the East. A massive corridor already exists and just needs track upgrades for it to be active.
  • Offering Appalachia up as the first pilot site for a new Climate Conservation Corps that puts people to work capping orphaned wells, remediating brownfield and other toxic sites, and reforesting the hiking, hunting, and other recreational landscapes of the region.

The best part of it all is that “bribing” Joe Manchin to go along with a more progressive climate agenda is really just a way of driving investment to some of the people and places that need it most—in this case, Central Appalachia.

Billy Fleming is the Wilks Family Director of the Ian L. McHarg Center in the Weitzman School of Design. and a senior fellow with Data for Progress.

Biden Transition Packed With Climate Hawks

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 16 Dec 2020 15:06:00 GMT

Even though the loser of the presidential election, Donald Trump, continues his quest for autogolpe, President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team is hard at work preparing his new administration. Among the hundreds of staff and volunteers comprising the agency review teams are dozens of climate hawks. These are people with significant experience in climate policy and politics. Some have careers rooted in environmental justice, while others are technologists.

Cabinet departments are listed in order of creation, an approximate reflection of their power and significance within the federal government. This post will be continually updated.

State (nominee: Tony Blinken)

Treasury (nominee: Janet Yellen)

  • Andy Green, a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer from 2014 to 2015 and a longtime counsel for U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), worked on pricing climate risk while at the SEC. As a Center for American Progress fellow, he has been an outspoken advocate for ending the financing of carbon polluters.
  • Marisa Lago, former Assistant Secretary for International Markets and Development, has experience with international climate finance as well as urban climate adaptation planning. Lago is presently the director of city planning for New York City, having held similar roles in the 1990s for Boston and New York City. Before joining the Obama administration, Lago was Global Head of Compliance for Citigroup after a similar role at the S.E.C. running the Office of International Affairs.
  • Damon Silvers, long-time counsel and policy director for the AFL-CIO, has served on the board of Ceres for many years, advocating for labor’s interests in a green economy. He received his B.A., M.B.A., and J.D. from Harvard University and supported worker and divestment campaigns while a student there.
Defense (nominee: Gen. Lloyd Austin) Justice
  • Prominent environmental law scholar Richard Lazarus, a Harvard Law professor. His most recent book, The Law of Five, reviews the landmark Massachusetts v. EPA Supreme Court case which affirmed that greenhouse emissions are pollution. He served as the executive director of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Future of Offshore Drilling. In 1992, he was part of Clinton’s transition team for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. In a recent interview, he stated, “There’s no greater problem that overwhelms us these days in environmental law than climate change.”
Interior (nominee: Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.))
  • Maggie Thomas is the political director at Evergreen Action, a climate advocacy group run by veterans of Jay Inslee’s presidential campaign. Thomas was climate policy advisor for the Elizabeth Warren campaign after Inslee’s campaign ended, where she was deputy climate director. She joined Inslee’s campaign from Tom Steyer’s NextGen America organization. She holds a B.S. in biology and environmental management from Trinity College and a masters in environmental management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
  • Kate Kelly served in the Obama administration as senior adviser to and communications director for Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. She is the director of public lands at the Center for American Progress. Previously, she was communications director for Sen. Arlen Spector (R-Penn.) She has written on how the United States can equitably abandon fossil-fuel extraction and embrace renewable energy development on public lands.
  • Elizabeth Johnson Klein, an environmental attorney and former Deputy Assistant Secretary at Interior for Policy, Management & Budget during the Obama administration and served as assistant to the Secretary of the Interior in the Clinton administration. Klein is now the Deputy Director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at NYU School of Law. For years she worked with Obama and Clinton Interior official David Hayes, the center’s director. She received her B.A. in economics from George Washington University and her JD from American University, where she was president of the Environmental Law Society. She has written on environmental justice and the dire need for climate leadership.
  • Robert (Bob) Anderson is a legal scholar whose career has been focused on protecting Native American water rights and environmental protection. In 2016, he reviewed the Dakota Access Pipeline conflict, noting that “the colonial process is on full display.” (He also wryly noted, “One might think that a multi-state project to carry a toxic substance would require an extensive federal appraisal, safety, and permitting process. Not so here.”)
Agriculture (nominee: Tom Vilsack)
  • Team lead Robert Bonnie, former U.S.D.A. Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment and Senior Advisor to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for environment and climate change, is the co-author of the Climate 21 Project’s U.S.D.A. chapter, which lays out a comprehensive climate agenda for the agency. Now a scholar at Duke University’s environmental policy institute, Bonnie was formerly the vice president for land conservation for the Environmental Defense Fund. He has a master’s in environmental management from Duke and a B.A. from Harvard.
  • Meryl Harrell, now the executive director at Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards, worked for Bonnie at the U.S.D.A. and was his co-author on the Climate 21 Project chapter. She has a B.A. in geoscience and environmental studies from Princeton and a J.D. from Yale Law School.
  • Jonathan Coppess, former chief counsel for the Senate Agriculture Committee and administrator of the U.S.D.A. Farm Service Agency, has worked on biofuels programs including the Renewable Fuels Standard and biomass crops as well as several land, water, and soil conservation programs for farmers.
  • Andrea Delgado is a co-founder of Green Latinos, a national Latino environmental justice organization. Currently the chief lobbyist for the United Farm Workers Foundation, she was previously legislative director of the Healthy Communities program at Earthjustice.
  • John Padalino is the former administrator for USDA’s Rural Utilities Service, having also served as Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary for Rural Development to Acting Principal Deputy General Counsel in the department. He works on rural water and electric cooperatives and is now general counsel to Bandera Electric Cooperative, a rural Texas electricity provider that has been working on smart grids and solar deployment for its members.
  • Jeffrey Prieto is a long-time Department of Justice environmental lawyer who helped set up its environmental justice division. He rose to general counsel at USDA during the Obama administration. He is presently general counsel for the Los Angeles Community College District.
Commerce
  • Karen Hyun, Ph.D. is the former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of the Interior and was Interior Secretary John Bryson’s senior policy adviser on energy and environment issues. She is now Vice President for Coastal Conservation at the National Audubon Society. She has a Ph.D. in Marine Affairs at the University of Rhode Island M.S. and B.S. in Earth Systems from Stanford University.
  • Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., former NOAA administrator. Both an oceanographer and astronaut, she is the only human to have both walked in space and visited the Challenger Deep. She served as NOAA’s chief scientist during the Clinton administration. She received her bachelor’s in earth sciences from U.C. Santa Cruz and her Ph.D. in geology from Dalhousie University. She has written on the urgency of the climate crisis and fought attempts by climate denier Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) to hobble her agency.
  • Political scientist Todd Tucker, director of governance studies at the Roosevelt Institute, author of The Green New Deal: A Ten-Year Window to Reshape International Economic Law. Tucker has a bachelor’s degree from George Washington University and a PhD from the University of Cambridge. He was the long time research director at Public Citizen.
  • Kris Sarri, President and CEO, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. She was a climate and oceans Senate staffer with Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) from 2006 to 2010, and worked in the Obama administration as chief climate and oceans staff in the Commerce Department, and rose to senior positions at the Office of Management and Budget and Interior. An Ann Arbor native, she received her MS and MPH from the University of Michigan and BA from Washington University in St Louis.
  • Dr. Sandra Whitehouse, oceanographer and marine policy expert who has studied the impacts of climate change on our oceans. She is a senior policy advisor for the Nature Conservancy and the wife of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). Dr. Whitehouse holds a B.S. from Yale University and a Ph.D. in biological oceanography from the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island. As her husband has done on the Senate floor, Dr. Whitehouse has raised the alarm about the crisis of climate pollution. “We are just beginning to understand the far-reaching impacts temperature change is having on ecosystems and wildlife. We are seeing the entire collapse of deep-sea ecosystems, and we don’t know what those ramifications are.”

Labor

  • Josh Orton, senior policy advisor to climate champion Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). As Orton said when Sanders unveiled his climate plan during his presidential campaign, “This threat is beyond ideology — it’s a question of life and death.”

Health and Human Services none

Housing and Urban Development none

Transportation

  • Patty Monahan, lead commissioner on transportation for the California Energy Commission. Monahan has worked on clean transportation policy and advocacy for the Energy Foundation, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She received a B.S. in environmental studies from U.C. Berkeley and an M.S. from the Energy Analysis and Policy program of the University of Wisconsin. Monahan: “Climate Change was and remains the single biggest problem facing our world and energy is a major piece of the puzzle.”
  • Dr. Austin Brown, executive director of the UC Davis Policy Institute for Energy, the Environment, and the Economy. Brown was the Assistant Director for Clean Energy and Transportation in the Obama White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. He has also worked in the Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. He holds a B.S. in physics from Harvey Mudd College and a Ph.D. in biophysics from Stanford University. He is working towards a zero-carbon transportation sector.

Biden Names John Kerry As Special Climate Envoy, With Seat on National Security Council

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 23 Nov 2020 21:08:00 GMT

President-elect Joe Biden has named former senator and Secretary of State John Kerry as his special envoy for climate, sitting on the National Security Council. Throughout his long career of public service, Kerry has been an ardent environmentalist who seeks to find common ground through diplomacy. His approach has found greater success on the international stage than with American conservatives, despite repeated attempts.

As a Massachusetts senator, Kerry worked desperately to salvage climate legislation when it was abandoned by the Obama White House following the Tea Party uprising of 2009. Lacking a unified Democratic caucus, Kerry tried without success to find Republican votes for climate legislation by working with former running mate Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

As Obama’s second Secretary of State, John Kerry’s diplomatic leadership was key to the successful Paris agreement, which marked a dramatic turnaround from the 2009 debacle of the Copenhagen climate talks. His support for killing the Canada-to-US Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline – in response to powerful pressure from climate activists – was also a change in direction from Kerry’s predecessor Hillary Clinton, who fast-tracked the permit process for the project. Like Clinton, however, Secretary of State Kerry was bullish on fracking as a means of energy diplomacy, despite its threat to the climate.

Kerry’s diplomatic approach has borne less fruit at home. Republicans such as Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump mocked Secretary Kerry for calling global warming “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction,” presaging the burn-it-all-down Trump presidency.

During the Trump years, Kerry founded a new organization called World War Zero, still attempting to find Republicans to get on board with climate action. Although Kerry’s organization supposedly intends to build a broad coalition of climate activists, World War Zero’s Republican participants include climate-science skeptic John Kasich, who mocks youth climate activists and vilifies the Green New Deal.

In his role Kerry will face several challenges unresolved by previous administrations. To date, immigration, trade, peace, and climate policy have been treated as wholly distinct milieus by government and advocates alike. Remarkably, even energy and climate diplomacy have largely operated on parallel tracks, with clashing agendas.

A critical test will be whether Kerry has say over international trade agreements which have always trumped climate negotiations. The so-called free-trade agenda has rendered international climate deals moot.

Similarly, it remains to be seen if Kerry will be an effective spokesman for the global South as it is ravaged by fossil-fueled storms and floods and drought, destabilizing governments and fueling the global migration crisis.

The military euphemism is that climate pollution is a “threat multiplier” – in other words, global conflict is now defined by the devastation to human civilization that results from the industrial destabilization of a habitable climate.

In response to this rising destabilization, right-wing movements around the globe have seized on the politics of militarized nativism and environmental exploitation, described approvingly by white-nationalist ecologist Garrett Hardin as “lifeboat ethics” in 1974.

One hopes that Kerry’s position on the National Security Council could mean the US military may shift away from its longtime role as the armed protection for the global oil industry. Kerry is highly interested in the military’s role during the Anthropocene. With his World War Zero campaign, Kerry has brought together a long list of military brass and former Defense Department officials.

Unfortunately, the primary narrative for climate policy within military circles is one of responding to the rising threats of climate destruction, with little to no engagement in ending climate pollution.

Of course, Kerry can’t guide international climate policy on his own. The makeup of Biden’s team will determine what is possible.

Rahm Emanuel, the neoliberal who was instrumental in killing White House support for climate legislation as Obama’s chief of staff, is being considered for U.S. Trade Representative. His selection would be a devastating setback.

Biden campaign advisor Heather Zichal, who has become notorious for joining the fracked-gas industry after leaving the Obama White House, came to prominence as the top Kerry climate policy staffer on his presidential campaign and in his Senate office. Zichal has been mentioned as a possible high-level staffer in the Biden White House despite broad opposition from climate activists.

Biden’s pick for Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, began his career studying fossil-fuel geopolitics. He wrote his dissertation in the 1980s on the Siberian pipeline crisis, in which the Reagan administration imposed far-reaching sanctions on oil-sector technology sharing in an attempt to block the pipeline’s construction. Blinken criticized the sanctions effort. His career since has been interventionist and pro-fossil-fuel development.

Surmounting the challenges of being Biden’s international climate czar will be a life-defining test for the 76-year-old statesman.

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