Joe Biden's Options To Combat Climate Change NPR's Scott Simon speaks with former Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Gina McCarthy, about what she thinks President-elect Joe Biden can do to address climate change once he's sworn in.

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Joe Biden's Options To Combat Climate Change

Joe Biden's Options To Combat Climate Change

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NPR's Scott Simon speaks with former Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Gina McCarthy, about what she thinks President-elect Joe Biden can do to address climate change once he's sworn in.


President-elect Biden says contending with the pandemic will be his priority when he takes office in January. But another global crisis is before the world - climate change. And experts say time is running out. Gina McCarthy served as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Obama and joins us now. Thanks so much for being with us.

GINA MCCARTHY: Thank you, Scott. It's great to be here.

SIMON: Assuming there's going to be divided power in Washington, what critical climate policies do you believe President Biden should use executive authority to get through?

MCCARTHY: First of all, I think he's already made it clear that he's going to reenter the Paris accord right away. And, of course, then you have opportunities to establish standards, like standards for power plant emissions. He's looking for clean energy in this country by 2035. So that needs to get moving. And we can, you know, basically, at my beloved EPA, make sure that people are in place that care more about the public than they do themselves and that can once again do their job to protect the American people.

SIMON: Progressive groups have called for a transition and administration that doesn't include any people with connections to the fossil fuel industry. Does that strike you as wise? Or does it risk losing some talented people who know how to make politics and government run?

MCCARTHY: You know, I think that it's very understandable that people are worried that they do everything possible not to allow the kind of appointments that President Trump put into place, which was all fossil fuel people. And it's gotten us nowhere fast. It even missed the boat on jobs because clean energy was moving forward at over three times the pace of the overall economy in terms of job growth.

SIMON: But if at one point, let's say, they represented a fossil fuel industry company or figure. As far as you're concerned, that would be enough to take them out of consideration?

MCCARTHY: No. I don't think I need to hold a hard and fast line like that, Scott. I think there are many lawyers that would be solid in those positions. But I clearly trust the judgment of Joe Biden and his administration to have the best people in place that are working at the best interests of the country.

SIMON: President Biden says, of course, that he'll rejoin the Paris agreement on Day 1 in office. But the U.S. didn't meet the promises it had already made. How would it do it now?

MCCARTHY: I feel very strongly that even though there has been a lack of effort on the issue of climate change at the federal level, that we have, you know, 29 states that have clean energy standards. We have 300 plus cities that have taken the pledge to meet the climate accord. Clean energy still remains the growth opportunity for us. Given the size of the greenhouse gas emissions that we emit, we certainly have an obligation to jump back in with both feet, with a little bit of deference to all our allies who have been holding the fort.

SIMON: Candidates who deny or discount climate change won millions of votes in this last election. How does a President Biden propose to get through an ambitious program with that kind of Congress?

MCCARTHY: You know, I think what I would suggest is that people want jobs. People want fairness. People want to be healthy. And I think the more we can show the value of clean energy, even in your pocketbooks, then people will be much less afraid to recognize that climate change is happening. And they'll start demanding that folks on the Hill start acting like they do, which is to face reality and to make the kind of change we need. They don't have to be coded as climate change initiatives. They can be initiatives that grow jobs and grow the economy.

SIMON: Gina McCarthy, former administrator of the EPA and now CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council, thank you so much for being with us.

MCCARTHY: Thanks, Scott. I appreciate it.

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