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Incoming cabinet officials support carbon pricing

Janet Yellen

Incoming cabinet officials support carbon pricing

By Elise Koepke

As President-elect Joe Biden gears up to take office in January, he’s promised to take swift action on the climate crisis and push a bold climate agenda. In recent weeks, he has announced several of his initial nominations for positions within his cabinet. Here at CCL, we’re excited to see that a few of his picks strongly support putting a price on carbon.

A special climate envoy with an eye on a carbon tax

In November, Biden selected John Kerry, former Secretary of State and Massachusetts senator, as his special presidential envoy for climate issues. Kerry, who has a well-established track record with climate policy, will be the first-ever official on the National Security Council dedicated to climate change. This new cabinet-level position will allow Kerry to elevate climate issues to the forefront of the new administration’s agenda.

John Kerry has a history of pushing cooperation on climate issues across party and international lines. In 2009, he attempted to pass an ambitious bipartisan climate bill with members of the Senate from all sides of the aisle. As Secretary of State, he negotiated a cooperative climate agreement with China in 2014 and brokered U.S. involvement with the Paris Agreement. In 2019, he spearheaded World War Zero, a bipartisan coalition of more than 60 politicians and celebrities collaborating to combat the climate crisis.

He also recently published an op-ed naming carbon pricing as a critical solution for tackling climate change. “With carbon pricing, those causing emissions pay for the cost of damage. Without carbon pricing, we all pay the cost,” he writes. The New York Times reports that his colleagues have described him as a leader with a “real understanding of the science of climate change, a grasp of the economic costs and benefits of moving to clean energy, and a close working relationship with dozens of leaders in the field.”

A treasury secretary who recognizes the value of carbon pricing

For treasury secretary, Biden picked former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen. If confirmed by the Senate, she will be the first woman in U.S. history to hold this position. A long-time believer in climate action, Yellen has previously recognized carbon tax policies as the most effective and efficient way to tackle U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. 

“I believe that climate change is a serious problem demanding an immediate policy response and a carbon tax offers the most cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed that is necessary,” she said last year. 

What’s more, Yellen is a founding member of the Climate Leadership Council, which advocates for a carbon fee and dividend policy similar to CCL’s preferred legislation.

January 2021 update: Check out these carbon pricing statements from Janet Yellen’s confirmation hearing!


Former EPA head tapped for White House climate czar

Gina McCarthy will head the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, the Washington Post reports. In this 2017 video produced by Years of Living Dangerously, McCarthy says, “Now we have even Republicans proposing that there be a price on carbon through a carbon tax and dividend system. […] If Congress can pass a tax that does more than we’re able to do through regulation, I would consider that to be one of the greatest successes we’ve had to address one of the greatest public health threats of our time.”

Watch her remarks here:


What does this mean for CCL?

The news of these nominations is certainly encouraging for CCL and our mission. His choices show that the president-elect is setting himself up to make good on his pledges to take quick and impactful climate action.

“Our volunteers should be encouraged that these key members of the incoming administration already understand the urgency of climate change and see the value of carbon pricing as a tool to address it,” said Ben Pendergrass, CCL’s Senior Director of Government Affairs. “That means we can focus our efforts on pushing Congress to move forward, too.” 

 Elise Koepke is a communications intern with Citizens’ Climate Lobby. She is a recent graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she studied Earth Science.