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Climate Change: People & Positions
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Climate Change

The Biden Power Players

UPDATED August 19, 2021
  • Brian Deese

    Director, National Economic Council, Executive Office of the President

    Relevance to the Biden Agenda:

    As director of the National Economic Council (NEC), Deese is responsible for coordinating and implementing President Biden’s economic policy objectives. His appointment to the role signals the administration’s commitment to using economic policy initiatives to drive its climate objectives as well as revive the economy in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic as he was involved in the negotiations of the 2015 Paris Agreement and the bailout of the automotive industry under the Obama administration. In partnership with Secretary of Treasury Janet Yellen, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry, and White House climate advisor Gina McCarthy, Deese is helping to shape the country’s economic policies. At the virtual climate summit in April 2021, the trio led conversations highlighting the urgent need to scale up climate finance, increase public finance for mitigation and adaption in developing countries (particularly in Africa), coordinate efforts to shift trillions of dollars in private investment to finance transition to net zero by 2050, and assess the impact of climate change on the U.S. financial system.


    Deese previously held positions as a Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress and a Senior Advisor to former President Obama. Deese was the Obama administration’s top climate official from 2015 to 2017, during which he worked alongside John Kerry on the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. At the time, Deese stated that while the Paris Climate Agreement was the best opportunity to avoid a global temperature rise of two degrees Celsius, it was still insufficient to address the scale and extend of the coming climate crisis. Following his work at the White House, Deese joined BlackRock as its head of sustainable investing. At BlackRock, Deese was tasked with shifting the firm’s investment philosophy to make sustainability one of its central goals—an effort that received mixed reviews, as activist groups have raised concerns over BlackRock’s continued investment in fossil fuels during his tenure.

    Points of Interest and Notable Connections:

    For Deese, given that investing is primarily driven by risk mitigation, sustainable investments can only be accomplished with the support of the federal government and access to data to enable the private sector to prioritize sustainability and reduce companies operational risks. As such, Deese has asserted that the administration will look to partner with the private sector more closely, particularly to advance its climate, COVID-19, economic competitiveness, and technology agenda. Following Deese’s nomination to the NEC, environmental advocacy groups voiced their concerns regarding his ties to BlackRock as the firm holds financial stakes in energy companies that contribute to climate change. At the same time, others argue that Deese’s ties to the company give the White House an opportunity to be better informed about the private sector’s contributions to fighting climate change and will support the administration’s efforts to design a “more efficient and more surgical climate policy,” especially as President Biden looks to implement an international finance plan to help underwrite the transition to a decarbonized global economy. Deese has also called for the U.S. and the world to look “far beyond” the Paris Agreement, echoing Kerry’s calls for more ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Similarly, Deese has pointed to a more inclusive economic strategy that prioritizes climate change and supports marginalized communities and which he argues has “held back the U.S. economy’s potential,” especially considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy.  

    Key Support Staff | Click names to connect at (login required)
    • Elizabeth Hone

      Senior Advisor for Broadband and Technology Policy, National Economic Council, Executive Office of the President

    • Mary Neumayr

      Chair, White House Council on Environmental Quality, Executive Office of the President

    • Daleep Singh

      Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics, National Security Council, Executive Office of the President

  • Jennifer Granholm

    Secretary of Energy, U.S. Department of Energy

    Relevance to the Biden Agenda:

    Granholm is leading the Department of Energy’s (DOE) initiatives on climate change, looking to improving energy-efficacy standards in areas from electricity to automobiles. In an interview with the Associated Press, Granholm stated that the DOE will make available $40 billion worth of loans and loan guarantees for clean-energy projects, including solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal, advanced vehicles, and nuclear energy that the former administration chose not to utilize. Previous beneficiaries of the loan program include Tesla, which received a $465 million loan in 2010 and repaid it in 2013. The funding builds on the department’s $110 million commitment for projects that will keep or create jobs in energy communities. The investments by DOE are part of the administration’s broader clean-energy plan, through which President Biden has promised to direct 40 percent of clean-energy investment benefits to disadvantaged communities. At the virtual climate summit in April 2021, Granholm noted the clean energy transition market as an enormous opportunity, stating that it will hit at least $23 trillion by 2030. Separately, in the wake of the Colonial Pipeline hack, Granholm will also work to secure the nation’s energy infrastructure against cyberattacks.


    Granholm served as Michigan’s governor from 2003 to 2011. In response to the 2008 financial crisis, she used provisions of President Obama’s 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to improve Michigan’s energy infrastructure and diversify its economy by attracting jobs in clean energy. Granholm is an advocate for creating national renewable energy standards in addition to providing federal loans for investment in green technology and electric vehicle infrastructure. From 2011 to 2016, she served as an advisor to the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Clean Energy Program, which successfully pushed for the adoption of U.S. energy policies focused on advancing the adoption of electric vehicles and expanding clean energy infrastructure nationwide.

    Points of Interest and Notable Connections:

    In addition to promoting clean energy technologies through loans, Granholm has pointed to leveraging the DOE’s research and development laboratories to support the private sector as it looks to bring new technology into the global market. The agency’s research arms have had success in the past, with the Obama administration’s SunShot Initiative helping to drive the price of solar power down by 70 percent from 2010 to 2016. In December 2020, Congress authorized $35 billion over the next decade for the agency to research new green technology, specifically around energy storage, advanced nuclear power, and removal of carbon dioxide from the air. Granholm faces challenges, however, in balancing her climate change-focused priorities with the rest of the administration’s agenda. In April 2021, the DOE announced a 100-day initiative with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to review and bolster cybersecurity defenses against threat actors targeting U.S. power systems. The review will notably consider how the DOE will secure its energy systems’ supply chains. In addition to cybersecurity, Granholm must address nuclear weapons security via the National Nuclear Security Administration, whose budget currently makes up more than half of the agency’s overall 2021 budget. With concerns rising regarding nuclear proliferation, the sub-agency within the DOE will be tasked with modernizing the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile and infrastructure as well as cleaning up toxic waste. Commenters note that Granholm’s plans for the initiative remain largely unclear but that she will be positioned to reshape U.S. nuclear weapons policy.

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    • Christopher Davis

      Senior Advisor, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy

    • Richard Glick

      Chairman, U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, U.S. Department of Energy

    • David Turk

      Deputy Secretary of Energy, U.S. Department of Energy

  • John Kerry

    U.S. Special Envoy for Climate, U.S. Department of State

    Relevance to the Biden Agenda:

    In partnership with White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy, Kerry is leading the Biden administration’s international efforts to convince world leaders that the U.S. is prepared to resume its leadership role on the global stage and on climate issues. As a “roving diplomat” who is distinct from the secretary of state, instead specifically focused on climate issues, and a sitting member of the National Security Council (NSC), Kerry’s position elevates the issue of climate change unseen in previous administrations. At the climate summit in April 2021, Kerry led discussions on raising global climate ambitions, noting China’s description of climate change as a “crisis” for the first-time, and the country’s pledge to uphold the Paris Agreement signals U.S.-China cooperation on the issue. However, whether China will commit to emissions reductions to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius is to be determined. In a meeting with Saudi Arabian officials in June 2021, Kerry also pledged to financially aid poorer nations in their efforts to fight climate change in addition to the annual $5.7 billion contribution announced by President Biden in April. In July 2021, Kerry traveled to Moscow to discuss climate solutions with Russian counterparts, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, who on July 2, 2021, signed Russia’s first legislation targeting carbon emissions. Kerry will also head the U.S. delegation to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, starting on October 31, 2021.


    As Secretary of State during former President Obama’s second term, Kerry spearheaded the multilateral approach to addressing the climate crisis, which culminated in 197 countries signing the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. After his term at the State Department, Kerry joined the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace as its first Visiting Distinguished Statesman. Kerry continued to focus his work on the climate crisis, advocating for increasing U.S. global climate leadership and domestic investment in green energy. He has continually emphasized the urgency of the crisis and has proposed a joint approach to solving it by bringing together the world’s three largest greenhouse gas emitters: the U.S., the EU, and China.

    Points of Interest and Notable Connections:

    As the Biden administration takes steps domestically to address the country’s own emissions, Kerry’s aim is to persuade other major economies, namely China and India, to move more aggressively to cut their carbon emissions. Since taking office, Kerry has met with various individuals and organizations, including foreign secretaries, business and industry leaders, the European Union climate chief, NATO, and other U.S. partners and allies, to press nations to elevate the issue of climate change in their foreign and domestic agendas. Kerry’s primary concern is the lack of urgency by the international community to treat climate change as an existential and critical national security threat. In particular, he has pointed to larger countries’ inadequate actions as having a disproportion impact on smaller nations that notably contributed little to climate change but are already experiencing its impacts. To effectively address global warming, Kerry has called on world leaders to support the private sector that develops cutting-edge green technology, stating that research and development will be key to lowering global emissions. Kerry views climate change as an opportunity to access “the world’s largest market in history” in green technology, which analysts estimate will generate $57.8 billion in revenue by 2030 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20 percent between 2020 and 2030. In collaboration with UN climate envoy Mark Carney and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Kerry announced plans to launch the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), which seeks to promote efforts by the financial sector to move the global economy to net zero emissions. As of April 2021, more than 160 corporations, including Morgan Stanley, HSBC, Citigroup, and Barclays, have signed on.

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    • Susan Biniaz

      Deputy Climate Envoy, Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, U.S. Department of State

    • Allison Crimmins

      Director for the National Climate Assessment, U.S. Global Change Research Program, Executive Office of the President

    • Jose Fernandez

      Undersecretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment (Nominee), U.S. Department of State

    • Michael Kuperberg

      Executive Director, U.S. Global Change Research Program, Executive Office of the President

    • Michael Regan

      Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency

  • David Marchick

    Chief Operating Officer, U.S. International Development Finance Corporation

    Relevance to the Biden Agenda:

    With a global portfolio of $33 billion, the DFC is the development financial institution within the federal government that partners with the private sector to finance solutions to address critical challenges facing the developing world. As chief operating officer, David Marchick is managing the DFC’s policies and business operations, coordinating the agency’s strategy across key issue areas, including climate change, global health, gender equity, information technology, and communication (ITC). Following the virtual climate summit in April 2021, Marchick announced the DFC’s intention to expand its current regional portfolio to accelerate investments in Africa, and Southeast Asia while maintaining its strong exposure in Latin America. In particular, he pointed to the agency’s energy portfolio, stating that half of its energy investments have been in fossil fuels, and in the coming years, the DFC will expand its clean energy investments, which currently is at 16 percent. To address the “existential threat of climate change,” the DFC announced plans to hire its first chief sustainability officer, create a $50 million Climate Action Facility for Technical Assistance, update the agency’s development strategy with climate as a core element, and on-board its inaugural climate-focused investment funds, among other actions.


    From 1993 to 1999, Marchick served in the Clinton administration in the State and Commerce Departments focusing on international trade issues. As the State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Trade Policy, Marchick promoted U.S. competitiveness globally and argued against using unilateral sanctions and other trade restrictions as foreign policy tools. He instead favored using the World Trade Organization’s dispute settlement system to pressure nations into compliance with international trade rules. From 2007 to 2018, Marchick served as the Head of Global External Affairs for The Carlyle Group, where he directed their environmental sustainability initiatives and helped to integrate the use of ESG factors into its investment process.

    Points of Interest and Notable Connections:

    While at The Carlyle Group, Marchick pointed to the growing tension between national security and attracting foreign investment in the U.S., warning that any actions domestically that restrict foreign direct investment may spur countries to block U.S. investment abroad. During a hearing before the House Committee on Financial Services, he pointed to the lost potential of $8 billion in China-related investments in 2017, stating that restrictions to investments will hinder U.S. competitiveness in the global economy. At the same time, with Great Power competition increasingly defining the international arena, Marchick has recognized the necessity for U.S. investments in critical infrastructure and renewable energy in countries such as Serbia and the Balkans to combat growing Chinese and Russian influence in developing countries. Under the former Trump administration, the DFC replaced the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) in 2018 to better compete with China for influence in developing nations via its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In this role, Marchick will face challenges with balancing the DFC’s various investments as the developing world grapples with several ongoing crises. In addition to climate change, the DFC is playing a critical role in the global COVID-19 response, working with the Quad (Australia, India, Japan, and the U.S.) to increase vaccine production in Southeast Asia. Marchick has expressed interest in replicating the initiative launched by the Quad in Africa, hoping that investments in medical and production facilities will drive vaccine manufacturing and delivery in region.

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    • Andrew Herscowitz

      Chief Development Officer, U.S. International Development Finance Corporation

    • Alice McNutt Miller

      Chief Risk Officer, U.S. International Development Finance Corporation

  • Gina McCarthy

    White House National Climate Advisor, Executive Office of the President

    Relevance to the Biden Agenda:

    In partnership with U.S. Special Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, McCarthy will work with federal agencies to identify reduction and mitigation opportunities and ensure that climate, equity, and job growth are key considerations across government policies. Unlike previous administrations, McCarthy is playing a central role in the White House with goals to broaden the country’s climate change efforts by including agencies that traditionally have not been part of environmental policy discussions, such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development, to make public housing more energy-efficient; the Department of Agriculture, to promote sustainable agricultural practices; and the Department of Education, to make school buses and public-school buildings greener. In May 2021, President Biden charged McCarthy and Brian Deese with assessing the risk that climate change poses to the financial system.


    McCarthy served as EPA administrator from 2013 to 2017. Previously, she had served as president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation in 2009, and commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. For over 30 years, McCarthy has led local, state, and federal actions related to cutting air pollution, protecting water resources, strengthening chemical safety, and reducing greenhouse gases to prevent negative health impacts. As one of the main architects of Obama’s 2015 Clean Power Plan and a contributor to the Paris Agreement, McCarthy urged scientists and employees to continue working on environmental issues at federal agencies after Trump was elected in 2016.

    Points of Interests and Notable Connections:

    McCarthy views public health as connected to climate change where changes in the environment have a profound impact on how people function—from heat stress impacting cardiovascular disease to flame retardants used in products affecting children’s breathing in schools. Throughout the Trump administration, her primary concern was the loss of talent in federal agencies, particularly the EPA, and budget cuts that have limited agencies’ capacities to do their jobs and pursue scientific studies that can be used to inform policymaking. For McCarthy, challenges to science and the previous administration’s moves to undermine domestic efforts mean that resources and time must be spent to remove these policies and convince courts and the public that Trump-era efforts were not in the public interest. At the first meeting of the National Climate Task Force, McCarthy pointed to enhancing U.S. credibility on climate a core priority. She is focusing on investments and budgets, working closely with Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to integrate climate into the financial sector. Yellen and Kerry have notably shared their support for a carbon tax or carbon pricing, which McCarthy stated she is open to considering.  Secretary of Transportation Peter Buttigieg, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, Deese, and McCarthy, are working to reduce emissions from the transportation sector, specifically the automotive industry, via targeted investments and new clean energy standards.

    Key Support Staff | Click names to connect at (login required)
    • Sonia Aggarwal

      Senior Advisor, Climate Policy and Innovation, Executive Office of the President

    • Maggie Thomas

      Chief of Staff, Office of Domestic Climate Policy, Executive Office of the President

    • Jahi Wise

      Senior Advisor, Climate Policy and Finance, Executive Office of the President

    • Ali Zaidi

      Deputy National Climate Advisor, Office of Domestic Climate Policy, Executive Office of the President

Other Key Players

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  • Lloyd Austin

    Secretary of Defense, U.S. Department of Defense

    Austin was head of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) from 2013 to 2016. As commander, he led a U.S. military campaign against ISIS in 2014, along with approximately 60 coalition partners. Austin left the military in 2016 and joined the boards of several private companies, including Nucor, the nation’s largest steel producer, which has a dubious climate record. At the White House’s 2021 climate summit, Austin called the climate crisis “profoundly destabilizing” and committed the Department of Defense to addressing its own contributions to the problem. Read more about Austin’s role in the Biden Administration here.

  • Xavier Becerra

    Secretary of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

    For over 20 years, Becerra served as a Democratic member of Congress from California. In the House of Representatives, he was a consistent supporter of the expansion of renewable energies and opposed efforts to cut climate research. As the attorney general of California, Becerra regularly sued the Trump administration over its rollback of climate protections. Becerra created the nation’s first environmental justice bureau under the direction of a state attorney general, and has highlighted climate change’s detrimental health impacts. Read more about Becerra’s role in the Biden Administration here.

  • Antony Blinken

    Secretary of State, U.S. Department of State

    Blinken has engaged with China to encourage U.S.-China collaboration on combating climate change. At the White House’s 2021 climate summit, he pledged to lend U.S. support to all countries seeking to address the climate crisis. Read more about Blinken’s role in the Biden administration here.

  • Peter Buttigieg

    Secretary of Transportation, Department of Transportation

    Known nationally as “Mayor Pete,” Buttigieg was the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, from 2012 to 2020. As mayor, Buttigieg established an Office of Sustainability and offered South Bend’s commitment to the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Prior to his mayorship, Buttigieg was a consultant at the McKinsey & Company, where he advised environmental organizations and government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE). At the White House’s 2021 virtual climate summit, Buttigieg pledged cooperation with the EPA to address the climate crisis, including by requiring automakers to prioritize electric vehicles.

  • James DeHart

    U.S. Coordinator, Office of the U.S. Coordinator for the Arctic Region, U.S. Department of State

    DeHart’s role is at the intersection of the climate crisis and Great Power competition, as China, Russia, and the U.S. look to secure natural resources and trade routes in the increasingly accessible Arctic region. Previously, DeHart served in diplomatic positions at the U.S. embassies in Afghanistan and Norway, as the director of the Office of Afghanistan Affairs in the Department of State from 2010 to 2013 and as the director for Central Asia at the National Security Council.

  • Enoh Ebong

    Director (Acting), U.S. Trade and Development Agency

    The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) is a major facilitator for billions of dollars in climate technology exports and services. In conjunction with the White House’s 2021 climate summit, the USTDA announced its Global Partnership for Climate-Smart Infrastructure, which aims to increase the U.S.’s role combating climate change in developing countries.

  • Marcia Fudge

    Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

    From 2008 to 2021, Fudge was a Democratic representative from Ohio. While serving in Congress, she was chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and sat on the House Agriculture Committee, among others. She supported the progressive Green New Deal but remarked that the plan is not specific enough to combat the climate crisis.

  • Debra Haaland

    Secretary of the Interior, Department of the Interior

    Before her nomination to serve as secretary of the interior, Haaland was a Democratic representative from New Mexico, having joined Congress in 2019. While in Congress, she was a progressive legislator, supporting policies such as the Green New Deal. Before running for federal office, Haaland was chair of the New Mexico Democratic Party and ran for lieutenant governor of that state. Haaland is the first Native American cabinet secretary in U.S. history, and she advocates for the preservation of Native lands.

  • Avril Haines

    Director, Office of the National Director of Intelligence

    Haines has identified climate change as a critical threat to national security and has promised to integrate it into all aspects of the intelligence community’s (IC) analyses. She has emphasized concerns raised in the IC’s worldwide threat assessment and Global Trends Report warning that poor and vulnerable populations will be most acutely impacted by the adverse impacts of environmental degradation by 2030.

  • Dev Jagadesan

    Chief Executive Officer (Acting), U.S. International Development Finance Corporation

    Jagadesan heads the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation’s (DFC) efforts to combat climate change. In coordination with President Biden’s climate summit, the DFC announced that it will invest 33 percent of its portfolio into climate projects by 2023 and that its portfolio will achieve net-zero emissions by 2040.

  • Eric Lander

    Presidential Science Advisor, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President

    Lander, a mathematician and geneticist by training, has called climate change “an incredibly serious threat” and has advocated for a reduction in methane gas emissions as key to fighting it. In order to combat the effects of climate disruption, he has called for improvements in technology to enable economy-wide decarbonization.

  • Cecilia Martinez

    Senior Director for Enviornmental Justice, Council on Environmental Quality, Executive Office of the President

    In 2011, Martinez co-founded the Center for Earth, Energy, and Democracy, an organization committed to environmental justice. With partners at the Center for American Progress and the Natural Resources Defense Council, Martinez formed the Equitable and Just Climate Platform. The initiative aims to address the needs of those most affected by climate change.

  • Jerome Powell

    Chair, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Federal Reserve System

    Powell’s term as chair of the Federal Reserve precedes the Biden administration, having succeeded Janet Yellen in 2018. As chair of the Fed, Powell oversaw two Fed committees assessing the risks of climate change, including its potentially devastating effects on the international finance system. Powell has said that the Fed is incorporating climate change within its “stability framework.” Read more about Powell’s role in the Biden administration here.

  • Samantha Power

    Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development

    Power is an advocate for rejoining the Paris Agreement on climate change and has framed the intersection of climate and national security as the “defining issue of our time.” Since 2012, USAID has worked to incorporate climate resiliency into all of its programs. Read more about Power’s role in the Biden administration here.

  • Gina Raimondo

    Secretary of Commerce, U.S. Department of Commerce

    As governor of Rhode Island, Raimondo oversaw the nation’s first offshore wind farm in 2016 with the aim of making Rhode Island the host of wind energy in the U.S. Testifying before the Senate in May 2021, Raimondo stated that the Department of Commerce, which oversees the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will focus on investing in climate technology and resilience as well as preparing for more severe natural disasters as a result of climate change. Read more about Raimondo’s role in the Biden administration here.

  • Susan Rice

    Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, Executive Office of the President

    As Obama’s national security advisor, Rice identified climate change as a threat to U.S. national security and global stability through its ability to exacerbate drought, severe storms, armed conflict, and forced migration. In her current position, Rice has indicated that the Biden administration’s planned investments in research and development can simultaneously serve as a way to stimulate the economy and combat climate change.

  • Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall

    Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, Executive Office of the President

    In the Obama administration, Sherwood-Randall served as the deputy secretary of energy. In that capacity, she prioritized cybersecurity and protecting vulnerable energy infrastructure. She advocated for low-carbon power to build on the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. After leaving the Department of Energy, Sherwood-Randall joined the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she lectured on energy, nuclear diplomacy, and climate.

  • Jake Sullivan

    White House National Security Advisor, National Security Council, Executive Office of the President

    Sullivan will work alongside other top administration officials to develop the U.S. strategy for addressing security concerns related to increases in climate-driven migration. He will also work domestically to develop a strategy for resettling people displaced by adverse climate events, including droughts, fires, and rising seas. Read more about Sullivan’s role in the Biden administration here.

  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield

    U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, U.S. Mission to the United Nations, U.S. Department of State

    From 2013 to 2017, Thomas-Greenfield served in the Department of State as the assistant secretary of state for African affairs. In that position, she was responsible for the implementation of U.S. policy in sub-Saharan Africa. As she grappled with the challenges facing sub-Saharan Africa, Thomas-Greenfield stated that one of her three main concerns was climate change. She insisted that global cooperation is needed to address the climate emergency, rather than offloading the problem onto poor African nations, who are small contributors to the problem but pay a large share of the costs. At the White House’s 2021 climate summit, Thomas-Greenfield noted that climate change will cause mass migration, instability, and violence and that the Biden administration will make addressing climate change central to its foreign policy. Read more about Thomas-Greenfield’s role in the Biden administration here.

  • Thomas Vilsack

    Secretary of Agriculture, Department of Agriculture

    From 2009 to 2017, Vilsack served as President Obama’s secretary of agriculture. In that capacity, Vilsack defended the agriculture sector against claims that it disproportionately exacerbates the climate crisis. After leaving office, Vilsack became the president and Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Dairy Export Council. As secretary of agriculture, Vilsack told the Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will invest $1 billion in devising agriculturally friendly climate solutions.

  • Martin Walsh

    Secretary of Labor, Department of Labor

    Most recently, Walsh served as mayor of Boston from 2014 to 2021. During that time, Walsh headed the Climate Mayors, a group of mayors working to preserve the U.S. commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement after the Trump administration’s withdrawal. Walsh will be instrumental in developing a comprehensive plan to create jobs and stimulate clean energy industries by revitalizing the federal government’s sustainability efforts. In May 2021, President Biden tasked Walsh with protecting pensions and retirement savings against the risk of climate change.

  • Janet Yellen

    Secretary of the Treasury, U.S. Department of the Treasury

    Yellen served as chair of the Federal Reserve from 2014 to 2018. After leaving the Fed, Yellen joined the Climate Leadership Council, where she advocated for carbon tax policy. She has lobbied for sensible climate action since the Clinton administration, when, as chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, Yellen promoted the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. At the White House’s 2021 climate summit, Yellen remarked that the Treasury Department will facilitate investments in long-term solutions to the climate crisis. Read more about Yellen’s role in the Biden administration here.

Read the Full Policy Priority Briefing ➞

The Biden Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice

Key challenges:

  • Questions Remain on U.S. Commitment Beyond Biden.
  • Balancing U.S.-China Cooperation and Competition.
  • Reviving Confidence in Science and Staffing Experts in Climate-Related Agencies.
  • Legal Obstacles to Biden’s Climate Agenda.
  • A Key Domestic Concern: Recovering Lost Jobs and Supporting Local Economies.