Energy & Environment

McCarthy hails ‘whole-of-government approach’ to climate

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White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy expressed optimism Thursday about the utility of a “whole-of-government approach” to tackling climate change.

“The whole of government approach is not to pigeonhole the challenge of climate, but to recognize that it… needs to be integrated into everything that we do,” McCarthy said Thursday at The Hill’s Sustainability Imperative event.

McCarthy said that despite the daunting challenges posed by climate issues, a much broader consensus about the fact of climate change would change the calculus.

“We have crossed the barrier of denial of climate change, that’s so far out of the realm” compared to years past, she told The Hill’s Steve Clemons. “It’s an entirely different conversation than we’ve ever had before.”

Clemons went on to discuss the approach former President Obama took to handle the 2008 economic crisis and how climate in 2021 required a similar “FDR moment.”

“The moment in time for climate is a little bit different” responded McCarthy, who served as Environmental Protection Agency administrator during the Obama administration. “What [Biden] won’t accommodate is a plan that’s smaller than this moment counts for … you’re right, this is an FDR moment.”

McCarthy went on to discuss how the administration’s environmental agenda would go beyond just climate change and into broader biodiversity concerns. She specifically invoked the administration’s “30 by 30” plan to preserve 30 percent of public U.S. lands and waters by 2030.

“It is about looking at the opportunities we have to actually look at our natural resources and recognize that … we can do a lot better at identifying ways of protecting our biodiversity,” she said. “There is an opportunity to really look at how we make nature work for itself and in that way work for us.”

Clemons also asked McCarthy about remarks then-Secretary of State John Kerry made during the Obama administration about the Paris Climate Accords not being sufficient on their own. The U.S. has since rejoined the agreement, which the former Trump administration exited, and will announce its new emissions target at an Earth Day summit of world leaders next week.

“The Paris accord made a lot of breakthroughs in terms of recognizing every country needs to move these issues forward but it also was an opportunity for us to continue to make progress,” McCarthy said. “We’re starting from a  place where we need to be humble and reenter … I fully expect the summit will be a success in reengaging but also… in sparking a level of energy we need to get everyone together.”

The Hill’s event was sponsored by the American Investment Council, the American Petroleum Institute, the Consumer Brands Association, Philip Morris International, Electric Last Mile Solutions, Securing America’s Future Energy and XL Fleet.

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