Dec 16, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Biden to pick former EPA head Gina McCarthy as climate czar

Photo of Gina McCarthy speaking behind a podium with an American flag to her back
Gina McCarthy. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty

President-elect Joe Biden will tap Gina McCarthy, who led the Environmental Protection Agency under former President Obama, as White House climate czar, according to a person familiar with the news and multiple reports.

Driving the news: McCarthy will manage domestic climate policy alongside her deputy, Ali Zaidi, New York's current deputy secretary for energy and environment, as first reported by the Washington Post.

Our thought bubble: McCarthy brings a wealth of familiar experience at the federal level given that she pursued Obama's regulatory plan on climate change as his second-term administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

  • Zaidi, meanwhile, also served in the Obama administration, but has since implemented New York state's aggressive climate plan as a top adviser to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The intrigue: Though popular with Democrats, McCarthy will be controversial among Republicans given her role as president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has sued the Trump administration more than 100 times for attempts to delay energy efficiency.

Between the lines: These picks, paired with several others, show just how much Biden is leaning on Obama alumni to implement his agenda, on climate change and other issues.

The big picture: Both McCarthy and Zaidi have extensive experience in climate policy.

  • McCarthy worked as a state regulator in Massachusetts before she joined the EPA in 2009.
  • She helped broker the Paris climate accord in 2015 and another global agreement in 2016 to phase out the use of hydrofluorocarbons. She also spearheaded the Clean Power Plan, which set national standards for reducing carbon emissions from power plants.
  • Zaidi’s work for Cuomo focused on cutting New York’s carbon output and bringing communities of color into conversations about the effects of climate change. He advised Biden on his climate agenda leading into the 2020 election.
  • He was the associate director for natural resources, energy and science at the Office of Management and Budget under Obama.
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