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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.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 20, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Biden's plan to upend Trump's environmental legacy

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden will on Wednesday order a government-wide review of over 100 Trump-era policies and direct agencies to prepare a suite of emissions and energy efficiency rules.

Why it matters: New information from transition officials offers the full scope of Biden's imminent, inauguration-day burst of environmental and energy policy moves.

Jan 20, 2021 - Science

Biden will temporarily halt oil and gas leasing in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

A polar bear at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Photo: Steven Kazlowski/Barcroft Medi via Getty Images

President-elect Biden on day one will begin his attempts to close off the prospect of oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with an executive order that places a temporary moratorium on all oil and natural gas leasing activities.

Driving the news: ANWR is an ecologically rich part of Alaska, whose oil resources are unknown but could be vast. Republicans and oil companies have tried to drill there for decades.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
23 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Voters favor Biden's climate policies, but few view issue as top priority

Data: Morning Consult; Chart: Axios Visuals

Several new polls help to show where the public's at on energy and climate as Biden takes office.

Why it matters: People tend to favor emissions-cutting and low-carbon energy initiatives, but it's hardly top of mind.