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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

Updated Dec 2, 2020 - Politics & Policy

The top Republicans who have acknowledged Biden as president-elect

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Some elected Republicans are breaking ranks with President Trump to acknowledge that President-elect Biden won the 2020 presidential election.

Why it matters: The relative sparsity of acknowledgements highlights Trump's lasting power in the GOP, as his campaign moves to file multiple lawsuits alleging voter fraud in key swing states — despite the fact that there have been no credible allegations of any widespread fraud anywhere in the U.S.

Biden's economic team will write a new crisis playbook

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Joe Biden's economic team faces a daunting task helping the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs or otherwise been financially ravaged by the coronavirus. But most of them have first-hand crisis experience, dating back to when Barack Obama inherited a crumbling economy when he took office in 2009.

Why it matters: Most of President-elect Biden's economic nominees served in the Obama administration, and wish that they could have gone bigger to help America recover from the 2008 financial crisis. But it's not going to be easy for them to push through massive fiscal spending in 2021.

Legacy civil rights groups: Biden's transition needs to include us

President-elect Joe Biden at the NAACP 110th National Convention last year. Photo: Bill Pugliano via Getty

Prominent civil rights leaders are concerned that President-elect Joe Biden is deciding his administration without their input, NBC News reported Tuesday.

Why it matters: As Biden looks to deliver his promise of forming a diverse administration, he will have to contend with different factions of the liberal movement that might pull him in different directions.