Sept 3 – U.S. President Joe Biden reshuffled his climate change team on Friday, announcing that longtime political operative and climate advocate John Podesta will join the White House and Ali Zaidi will take over from Gina McCarthy as domestic climate adviser.
Podesta, a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and an adviser to President Barack Obama, will take on the role of implementing the energy and climate parts of the recently passed inflation-reduction law.
Zaidi, who served as deputy to McCarthy, the former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, was promoted to Biden’s top national climate adviser. McCarthy will step down on September 16.
“Under the leadership of Gina McCarthy and Ali Zaidi, my administration has taken the most aggressive action ever, from historic legislation to bold executive action, to confront the climate crisis head-on,” Biden said in a statement.
Biden said Podesta’s climate and government background, “mean we can hit the ground running to take advantage of the tremendous clean energy opportunity that lies ahead.”
Democrat Biden campaigned to make climate change a top political priority. The issue is particularly important to young voters in his politically left-leaning base.
McCarthy, 68, has led the charge in carrying out Biden’s promise across the federal government.
Her departure comes just weeks after Congress approved a $430 billion package of policies to combat climate change that Biden signed in August after months of uncertainty and roller-coaster negotiations. Securing the legislation was a key victory for the president ahead of November’s congressional elections.
Zaidi said that while the law stands, much work needs to be done to meet Biden’s goal of reducing US greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52% from 2005 levels by 2030.
“We’re not going to get there on autopilot, it’s going to take real sweat and pushing,” he told, adding that the law created certainty for business. “This is the first time we have certainty about … the investment climate for clean energy technologies, manufacturing, and employment over the next decade.”
Zaidi worked for years in the Obama administration, and later served as Assistant Secretary of Energy and Environment and Chair of New York State’s Climate Policy and Finance. Along with McCarthy, he was a key player in formulating and promoting Biden’s climate goals.
Under McCarthy’s leadership as Obama’s EPA administrator, the agency devised the Clean Power Plan aimed at reducing emissions from power plants, which the courts later struck down.
She briefly served as head of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s environmental group before being tapped for the Biden White House.
McCarthy was the US counterpart to former Secretary of State John Kerry, whom Biden appointed as his special international envoy on climate change.
The New York Times first reported that McCarthy’s last day would be September 16. He first reported in April that he planned to step down.