Energy & Environment

White House adviser: Climate summit will ‘show the world that we’re back’

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White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy on Friday expressed optimism about the progress she said will be made at next week’s White House climate summit, saying it will be an opportunity to “show the world that we’re back” on climate issues.

“The idea was that we would not just rejoin the Paris agreement—we needed out of the gate to say ‘OK, we’re back, the United States is back in,’ but you have to be humble in how you do it,” McCarthy said Friday as part of the Information Technology Industry’s “Technology’s Role in Solving the Climate Crisis” event.

“I think it’s going to be a great two days, I think we’re going to show the world that we’re back,” she added.

McCarthy emphasized that the Biden administration’s approach would involve “looking across government, not letting these issues … be minimized by looking at it one bureaucratic agency over another,” and said the administration will “look at what we can do thru a climate lens but also through an equity lens.”

“Climate change for too long has been seen as some big and amorphous issue scientists talk about,” she added.

The former Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency head said the administration views climate efforts as a tool for job creation and economic renewal in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, rather than something for which economic sacrifices must be made.

“One of the cornerstones of [Biden’s infrastructure plan] is a recognition that our ability to address climate change should be borne on sound economic policy, because it can be,” she added. “Coming out of the pandemic you don’t just jump to an ‘oh, woe is me, climate change is happening.’ ”

McCarthy also addressed the administration’s focus on environmental justice and promotion of equity on environmental issues, mentioning the creation of the White House Environmental Justice Council, “whose job is to watch and to track” the administration’s progress on the issue.

“If you don’t measure it, if you don’t evaluate it consistently, it’s meaningless,” she said. “We should be looking at moving forward as a government to address this issue. We’re also starting a new office within the Department of Justice … an Office of Climate Justice, because we know that enforcement is not happening within some of these communities.”

“If we really want to embrace the challenge of equity and justice … we have to be open to others’ scrutiny,” she added.

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