Nov 30, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Joe Biden's expanding climate orbit

Illustration of Joseph Biden standing on a globe

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images     

News emerged Sunday night that President-elect Joe Biden plans to tap Brian Deese to direct the National Economic Council inside the White House.

Catch up fast: He was a senior climate aide late in the Obama era, helping to craft the Paris climate deal, and held senior roles at White House Office of Management and Budget and the NEC.

  • During the Trump years, Deese has been head of sustainable investing at asset management behemoth BlackRock (more on that in a moment).

Why it matters: The NEC could play an influential role steering climate policy in the Biden era, especially as the nascent administration plans a broad approach that goes well beyond agencies like EPA and Interior.

  • "Brian will be the most focused on climate change of any top economic official ever. He sees it as an integral part of an overall economic strategy," Jason Furman, who led the Council of Economic Advisers under former President Obama, tells me.
  • "He is very effective at whatever he sets his mind to, so will help the administration creatively execute using all of its levers even if it cannot get legislation passed," he says.

Where it stands: Deese's BlackRock gig makes him a controversial figure on the left. Some groups argue that work with BlackRock, which has big fossil fuel holdings, should be disqualifying despite the company's increased focus on climate.

  • Criticism of BlackRock goes beyond climate change, but that's certainly part of it.
  • Last week, for instance, activists with groups including the Sunrise Movement's New York chapter staged a demonstration outside BlackRock offices there.

Yes, but: A bunch of climate advocates, ranging from people with establishment green groups to those allied with the left flank of the movement, have been speaking up on Deese's behalf.

  • A few days ago the prominent progressive activist Bill McKibben penned a widely circulated Twitter thread defending Deese's commitment.
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