Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is said to be one of three people on President-elect Joe Biden’s short list for the newly created post of domestic climate adviser. According to Scott Waldman and Jean Chemnick at ClimateWire, the other two are former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Ali Zaidi, the deputy secretary for energy and environment of New York. Former White House chief of staff John Podesta is also on the list. Gina McCarthy, the former administrator of the Environmental Protection Administration, is said to have been considered, but sources said she isn’t interested because she became president of the Natural Resources Defense Council in January.
Based on speculation of insiders who spoke to the reporters on background, Zaidi is said to be the favorite at the moment. But much remains in flux, and someone not even on the short list might still be chosen. The domestic climate adviser might either work with a Cabinet member or directly with former Secretary of State John Kerry, whom Biden has picked for the new post of climate change envoy or climate czar.
Meanwhile, it appears that the proposal of a national climate council seems to have been deep-sixed.
“Creating a climate council just means a little bit more bureaucracy because we do have that already,” a source close to the transition said. “Within the White House structure, you have a lot of different councils responsible for overlapping questions and issues, and that in itself can already be a problem, and climate really spans literally every issue.”
Since the incoming administration is focusing on bringing climate into a number of topics, from the economy to national security, having a “National Climate Council” could result in redundancy, two sources said. The council could also inadvertently interfere with the work of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy as well as the Council on Environmental Quality, they said.
Ali Zaidi is now teaching and doing research at Stanford’s Precourt Institute for Energy. He has focused on the economic impacts of climate change and and public and private sector responses to their financial risks from that change. Zaidi co-founded Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy, which provides sustainability-focused startups with pro bono legal services. He has also served as vice chair of the Center for Carbon Removal, trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council, director of America’s Promise Alliance and of The Generations Initiative, and co-chair of the Aspen Institute EEP’s Strategy Group on Future of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. He served as associate director for Natural Resources, Energy, and Science at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under Obama. Before OMB, he served as the deputy director of Energy Policy for the White House Domestic Policy Council; and as senior director for Cabinet Affairs at the White House.
Jay Inslee has served as governor of Washington since 2013 and ran in the Democratic presidential primaries until opting out in August 2019. He ran for a third term as governor this year and won reelection. He previously served in the Washington House of Representatives and for 16 years in the U.S House until he sought the governorship. During his gubernatorial terms of office and during his presidential campaign, Inslee focused heavily on climate and other environmental issues. That included two unsuccessful attempts to get Washington voters to pass a carbon tax. For the 2020 legislative session, he put forth bills in his supplemental budget proposals to limit statewide greenhouse gas emissions, establish clean fuel standards, increase the availability of zero-emission vehicles, establish an emissions standard for rideshare fleets, install electric vehicle charging stations at state facilities, and extend a tax incentive for community solar projects that benefit low-income customers. Inslee has also been named a possible choice for secretary of Energy, secretary of the Interior and administrator of the EPA.
Jennifer Granholm served as Michigan attorney general for four years and governor for eight, ending her second term in 2011. She also served as Hillary Clinton’s energy adviser. As governor she announced plans to reduce greenhouse gases by 45%, signed an agreement with 12 Michigan American Indian tribes to curtail these emissions, and established the Michigan Climate Action Council, which produced a 125-page Climate Action Plan. A decade ago, she sought to spur a transition of automakers in Michigan to work toward replacing the internal combustion engine with electric vehicles, a prospect she labeled “revolutionary and daunting.” She pushed state utilities to buy into renewable energy standards and implemented a plan to reward those that made gains in energy efficiency. In 2007, she signed a law requiring that 10% of the state energy come from renewable sources. That seems tame now compared with states calling for 100%, but at the time getting that much was a struggle. Said Granholm in a 2014 interview with the now-defunct Bioenergy Connection magazine, “It should have been higher, but that’s what we were able to get. Then we adopted a huge suite of tax credits and tax incentives for various types of industries, from biomass to wind and solar.”
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