Energy & Environment

Biden climate adviser Gina McCarthy leaving White House, John Podesta joining staff

White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy will depart from her role later this month and the White House will add former Clinton aide John Podesta to its climate team. 

McCarthy will leave her post on September 16. 

The White House announced deputy climate adviser Ali Zaidi will take over for McCarthy as National Climate Advisor while Podesta will oversee the implementation of the climate and clean energy provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act, the major climate legislation Biden recently signed. 

President Biden, in a statement, praised McCarthy, Zaidi and Podesta. 

“Under Gina McCarthy and Ali Zaidi’s leadership, my administration has taken the most aggressive action ever, from historic legislation to bold executive actions, to confront the climate crisis head-on,” he said.  

“We are fortunate that John Podesta will lead our continued innovation and implementation. His deep roots in climate and clean energy policy and his experience at senior levels of government mean we can truly hit the ground running to take advantage of the massive clean energy opportunity in front of us,” he said. 

Podesta was chief of staff to then-President Bill Clinton, and later chaired Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. During the 2016 campaign, the website Wikileaks posted emails that had been hacked from his account.  

Podesta, whose title will be senior advisor to the president for clean energy innovation and implementation is currently chair of the board of directors for the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. 

McCarthy’s appointment was announced prior to Biden’s inauguration, and she has been with the Biden administration since the start. She has helped guide the administration’s climate policy, including pushing for climate legislation.

Her exit comes after President Biden signed a bill that invests nearly $370 billion in climate and energy spending across the finish line. That bill is expected to boost the deployment of clean energy and help bring the country closer to its climate targets.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also confirmed McCarthy’s departure, telling reporters at an afternoon briefing: “She is stepping down. Gina is indeed leaving us.”

Jean-Pierre described McCarthy as a “leader” in the administration’s efforts to invest in combatting climate change and said the White House is “very sad to lose her.” 

Zaidi, who will take over for McCarthy is currently her second-in-command. Previously, he served in the Obama administration, working in both the Energy Department and the White House.

McCarthy previously led the Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama administration. In that role, she signed the first-ever standards to reduce planet-warming emissions from power plants, though this Clean Power Plan never took effect.

Throughout her tenure at the Biden White House, Republicans have been critical of her role. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has called her an “unaccountable czar.”

Rumors of a departure had swirled earlier in the year, with a few news outlets reporting in April on what they described as an exit in the coming months. At that time, McCarthy pushed back, saying that she hadn’t resigned. 

Prior to joining the Biden administration, McCarthy was the president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group.

–Updated 2:11 p.m. Morgan Chalfant contributed.

Tags Ali Zaidi Biden Biden administration Bill Clinton Gina McCarthy Gina McCarthy John Podesta Karine Jean-Pierre White House White House climate adviser
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