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Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Joe Biden's first remarks as president-elect Saturday claimed a mandate to act on climate. But making good will require tough lawyers, creativity, luck and persuasion.

The big picture: His new transition website puts climate among the four top priorities alongside COVID-19, the economy and racial justice.

  • But with Democrats facing long odds of winning the Senate, Biden won't get a sweeping climate bill unless the GOP posture changes radically and surprisingly.

Why it matters: That leaves Biden with a plan that's very aggressive — big goals include 100% carbon-free power by 2035 — but heavily reliant on executive powers.

Driving the news: Experts and advocates are quickly weighing in on what Biden should do with those powers and perhaps small openings to work with Congress.

Jason Bordoff, head of a Columbia University energy think tank, offers a primer in Foreign Policy magazine on the many things presidents can do without Congress, which of course includes regulations but also...

  • Expanding renewables leasing on public lands; using procurement (including the energy-thirsty military) to drive clean tech adoption; appointing Federal Energy Regulatory Commission members who will set market rules that favor low-carbon sources, and more.

Quick take: Here's where the creativity, luck, persuasion and lawyers come in.

  • His plans will require a creative government-wide approach, which means not just the usual actors like EPA, but also agencies like, say, HUD (more on that below).
  • Biden's going to face ferocious legal battles as he looks to use existing powers under the Clean Air Act and other laws to craft far-reaching rules and restrictions around vehicle emissions, public lands drilling and more.
  • On the persuasion front, the need for new economic recovery measures will provide some opportunities for working with Congress on clean energy and climate-friendly infrastructure support.
  • Also on the persuasion front, Bordoff (an Obama-era White House aide) says Biden can use the executive's foreign policy domain for things like promoting collaboration on clean energy trade and creating a multilateral agreement on methane emissions.

This Washington Post story gets to how Biden's plan will rely on looking government-wide for policy ideas...

  • "Biden’s advisers have said that they plan to elevate climate change as a priority in departments that have not always treated it as one, including the Transportation, State and Treasury departments."
  • "It will influence key appointments, affecting everything from overseas banking and military bases to domestic roads and farms."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

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

GM plans to end sales of gasoline powered cars by 2035

GM CEO Mary Barra at the GM Orion Assembly Plant plant for electric and self-driving vehicles in Michigan. Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

General Motors is setting a worldwide target to end sales of gasoline and diesel powered cars, pickups and SUVs by 2035, the automaker said Thursday.

Why it matters: GM's plan marks one of the auto industry's most aggressive steps to transform their portfolio to electric models that currently represent a tiny fraction of overall sales.

Mike Allen, author of AM
3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden adviser Cedric Richmond sees first-term progress on reparations

Illustration: "Axios on HBO"

White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond told "Axios on HBO" that it's "doable" for President Biden to make first-term progress on breaking down barriers for people of color, while Congress studies reparations for slavery.

Why it matters: Biden said on the campaign trail that he supports creation of a commission to study and develop proposals for reparations — direct payments for African-Americans.

Cyber CEO: Next war will hit regular Americans online

Any future real-world conflict between the United States and an adversary like China or Russia will have direct impacts on regular Americans because of the risk of cyber attack, Kevin Mandia, CEO of cybersecurity company FireEye, tells "Axios on HBO."

What they're saying: "The next conflict where the gloves come off in cyber, the American citizen will be dragged into it, whether they want to be or not. Period."