According to a memo viewed by Reuters, President Biden on Jan. 27 will issue more executive orders that will include an “omnibus” climate change order launching a “series of regulatory actions to combat climate change domestically and elevate climate change as a national security priority.” The others include a directive that all federal agencies must rely on science when drafting rules, reestablishment of the Presidential Council of Advisers on Science, and the announcement of a U.S.-hosted climate leaders’ summit on Earth Day, April 22.
Thomas Frank at ClimateWire reports that President Biden’s climate team is one of “unprecedented size and diversity.” Many on the team have written influential policy papers and and helmed green companies. Like many of Biden’s picks, there are some familiar faces from the Obama administration, but a lot of new ones as well. Their jobs now will entail coming up with administrative strategies to transform sectors such as transportation and the generation of electricity, which currently pump out prodigious amounts of greenhouse gases that the new administration is pledged to greatly reduce.“The breadth and depth of their experience, the fact that it’s a diverse group of people in all ways—we couldn’t be more excited,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, the League of Conservation Voters’ senior vice president for government affairs. “This is an all-star climate team the likes of which we’ve never seen.”
The staffers are:
- National climate adviser Gina McCarthy, formerly Obama’s EPA chief.
- Special climate envoy John Kerry, secretary of state under Obama and a senator for 29 years
- Senior adviser for climate policy and innovation Sonia Aggarwal, formerly a vice president of Energy Innovation: Policy and Technology LLC, a San Francisco consulting group.
- Office of Domestic Climate Policy chief of staff Maggie Thomas, who was the political director of Evergreen Action, a San Francisco-based advocacy group, formerly a senior adviser of Gov. Jay Inslee’s presidential campaign, and senior advocacy manager for NextGen America, billionaire Tom Steyer’s environmental advocacy group.
- Senior director for climate and energy Melanie Nakagawa, who was director of climate strategy at Princeville Capital, a global equity fund investing in tech firms focused on climate change.
- Senior adviser for climate policy and finance Jahi Wise, who was policy director at the Coalition for Green Capital, which creates “green banks” that fund clean energy projects.
- Deputy national climate adviser Ali Zaidi until recently was deputy secretary to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for energy and the environment.
- Special assistant for climate and science agency personnel Jeff Marootian, formerly a director of Washington state’s transportation department and the Obama administration Department of Transportation’s chief sustainability officer. He was also director of LGBTQ and ethnic outreach for the Democratic National Committee.
- Special assistant to the president for climate policy David Hayes, was previously deputy interior secretary under the Obama and Clinton administrations. Afterward, he was executive director for New York University’s State Energy & Environmental Impact Center. There, his job included helping state attorneys general fight the Trump regime environmental rollbacks.
Kate Kelly is the Biden administration’s new deputy chief of staff for policy, spoke Thursday at a virtual panel of the Outdoor Industry Association Thursday. Previously the director of the public lands campaign of the Center of American Progress and senior adviser to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell in the Obama administration, Kelly said in a pre-recorded message to the association, “We can’t follow the same playbook that we have been following. If we simply go back to what the Obama administration had been doing, good things will happen, there will be great things. But it will not be at the pace and at the scale that we need to do conservation in order to, again, address these twin crises [climate change and biodiversity loss] that others have spoken about.”
Climate change is making it harder for Sweden’s 250,000 reindeer to find lichen in winter and their hunt for food sometimes means risky crossing of busy roads, resulting in inevitable collisions. With the help of the indigenous Sami, who are specially authorized to herd reindeer, Swedish transportation officials came up with a solution: renoducts (a combination of ren, the Swedish word for reindeer, and viaduct), according to The Local Sweden. Usually, reindeer search for lichen just beneath the snow. But because of the warming climate, it sometimes rains and then freezes, putting a layer of ice between the animals and their favorite edible. Wildlife bridges have proved effective at protecting animals from becoming roadkill, with the first built in France in the 1950s. Changing climate has had an impact on the Sami, too, who now must spend more time to herd the animals. Sami couple Margret Fjellstrom and Daniel Viklund told a reporter that it took them twice as long to move their reindeer from their summer to winter pastures last year than it would have under regular weather conditions. “It can rain in January, it can snow in May, there’s no logic to it any more,” Fjellstrom told AFP.
Though solar power used to be something only the most affluent people could afford, prices of rooftop panel hardware and installation costs have fallen sharply in the past 20 years. Consequently, these days, going solar is something middle-class households can afford, and hundreds of thousands across the United States are doing so. But less well-off households, those whose incomes are below their area’s median, still don’t have the means to adopt this clean, ever-cheaper energy. Obstacles for such low- and moderate-income households include limited, low rates of home ownership, and language barriers. Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scrutinized the impact various policies and business models have on the likelihood of people at all income levels adopting solar. In a study published in November, they analyzed five solar policies and business models. The ones that attracted lower-income households to solar were, unsurprisingly, those that offered financial incentives to low- and moderate-income households, leased solar panels to homeowners, and lent money for buying panels, the loans being repaid via property tax bills. The researchers found that 20 states offer 38 programs design to help lower-income residents go solar. California, the largest, has budgeted more than $1 billion for such programs. A few utilities and solar developers, like Posigen and GRID Alternatives, are also developing business models that leverage state and federal incentives to provide free or very low-cost solar to eligible households.
• Inside Clean Energy: Here Are 3 States to Watch in 2021. Even with Biden in charge, much of the action on clean energy will remain at the state level.
• Nifty Fifty Activities. Fifty environmental activities kids can do at home.
• MIT Study: Transmission Is Key to a Low-Cost, Decarbonized US Grid. Modeling shows a nationwide transmission network could tap existing solar, wind, and battery tech to reach zero-carbon power.
• The Highs and Lows for Solar in 2020. Wrapping up the biggest stories of a chaotic year.