WILMINGTON, Delaware – Just as the United States has needed a unified national response to COVID-19, it needs another to tackle climate change, President-elect Joe Biden declared Saturday when introducing the top members of his environmental team.
“We literally have no time to lose,” Biden told the media during the presentation of his nominees.
The approach marks a change from the presidency of Donald Trump, characterized by efforts to increase oil and gas production while reducing government actions to safeguard the environment. The next Biden team will try to undo or block many of the current administration’s initiatives. Emphasis will also be placed on serving the working class and minority communities, both low-income groups, who have been the hardest hit by pollution from fossil fuels and climate change.RELATED
In his remarks, Biden highlighted the diversity of his new team, which he described as “brilliant, qualified, proven and barrier-busting.”
“There are more non-white people in our cabinet than in any other before, more women than ever,” said the former vice president, who has pledged to assemble a group of leaders for the various departments that reflect the diversity of the United States.
The nominees Biden presented on Saturday have compelling personal stories that they themselves said will guide their endeavors if they are ratified in the Senate.
Representative Deb Haaland of New Mexico will be the first Native American to head the Department of the Interior, which for generations has influenced the nation’s tribes. Haaland said his life has not been easy. A sign of having known homelessness and depended on food stamps at some stage in his life.
“This moment is profound when we consider the fact that a former Home Secretary once proclaimed that his goal was’ to civilize us or to exterminate us,” Haaland said. “I am living proof of the failure of that horrendous ideology.”
Haaland referred to Alexander HH Stuard, who made that statement in 1851.
Jennifer Granholm, who was Governor for two terms in Michigan, was nominated as Secretary of Energy. Granholm recounted that she came to the United States at the age of four brought from Canada by a family “looking for an opportunity.” He said his dad found a job as a teller at a bank and retired as head of the bank.
For his part, Michael Regan will be the first African-American to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, for its acronym in English). Regan, North Carolina’s environmental chief since 2017, has gained notoriety for undertaking industrial toxics cleanup programs and helping low-income and minority communities significantly impacted by pollution.
Biden appointed Brenda Mallory to the Environmental Quality Council.
Two other members of the environmental team introduced Saturday do not need Senate ratification. They are Gina McCarty, next National Climate Advisor, and Ali Zaidi, who will be his deputy. McCarty served as EPA administrator from 2013 to 2019, during President Barack Obama’s second term in office.