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Marty Walsh, Gina Raimondo, Merrick Garland (from L to R). Photos: Paul Morigi, Paul Marotta, and Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden's final burst of Cabinet picks could have important roles to play in the new administration's climate change and energy agenda.

Driving the news: Biden plans to nominate Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo for Commerce, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh for Labor, and Judge Merrick Garland for attorney general.

Why it matters: Biden's team is planning a whole-of-government push that extends well beyond the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Interior and Energy departments, which are the agencies most closely involved with energy and climate policy.

The Commerce Department's activities include trade missions that aim to link U.S. firms with markets abroad.

  • Biden's transition team yesterday said Raimondo would position the U.S. as an "exporter of 21st-century products and leader in the clean energy economy."
  • Advice for how to bolster Commerce's role is already pouring in. For instance, the group Evergreen Action last night called for Commerce to take a more muscular role in boosting domestic manufacturing of materials needed for low-carbon energy projects.

Commerce also works with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on trade policy.

  • Biden's platform says future trade agreements should be conditioned on parties meeting their pledges under the Paris climate deal.
  • Biden also wants "carbon adjustment fees or quotas on carbon-intensive goods from countries that are failing to meet their climate and environmental obligations." This is a longstanding idea to prevent domestic emissions restrictions from handing a competitive advantage to other countries.

Yes, but: The details are pretty hazy right now, and it's not clear how much running room Biden has without buy-in from Congress. His transition team did not provide immediate comment on that topic last night.

The Justice Department plays a vital role with EPA in bringing environmental enforcement cases via its Environment and Natural Resources Division.

  • Biden is also vowing to create a new "Environmental and Climate Justice Division" at DOJ that would "complement" ENRD.
  • It would focus on environmental justice — that is, addressing the higher pollution burdens that poor people and communities of color often face.
  • Also, the agenda would include, per Biden's campaign platform, "strategically" supporting "ongoing plaintiff-driven climate litigation against polluters."

The Labor Department overlaps with energy via job training programs, data collection and more.

  • Yesterday, in announcing the Walsh pick, the transition team said he "knows that we can create good-paying union jobs by investing in clean energy."
  • Evergreen, the group launched by former campaign aides to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), yesterday floated several ideas for Labor.
  • Their suggestions range from initiatives to "ease former fossil fuel workers into the clean economy" to having the agencies better track data on the socio-economic effects of climate change.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 28, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Microsoft backs direct air capture player Climeworks

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Microsoft this morning disclosed investments in more climate-related companies as part of efforts to make good on its year-old pledge to become "carbon negative" by 2030.

Driving the news: One company the tech behemoth is staking is Climeworks, a firm looking to scale up deployment of direct air capture technology that removes CO2 already in the atmosphere.

Updated Mar 24, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden Cabinet tracker: Which nominees have been confirmed

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Jan. 16 in Wilmington, Delaware. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

All of President Biden's Cabinet nominees have now been confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The big picture: Biden now has known, trusted people around him, many from the Obama administration, to help implement his policies and turn away from the tumultuous Trump years.

6 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.