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Biden taps Podesta to implement climate and energy spending in Inflation Reduction Act

John Podesta’s climate and government background, the president said, "means we can truly hit the ground running."
John Podesta
John Podesta speaks to the media ahead of a vice presidential debate at Longwood University in Farmville, Va. on Oct. 4, 2016.Daniel Acker / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

President Joe Biden revamped his climate change team on Friday, announcing that longtime political operative and climate advocate John Podesta would join the White House and Ali Zaidi would take over for Gina McCarthy as domestic climate adviser.

Podesta, a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and counselor to President Barack Obama, will take on a role implementing the energy and climate parts of the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act.

Zaidi, an alumnus of the Obama administration who served as deputy to McCarthy, a former Environmental Protection Agency administrator, was promoted to become Biden’s top national climate aide. McCarthy steps down on Sept. 16.

“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,” Biden said in a statement.

Deputy national climate advisor Ali Zaidi
Deputy national climate advisor Ali Zaidi speaks in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 16, 2021.Al Drago / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Podesta’s climate and government background, Biden said, “mean we can truly hit the ground running to take advantage of the massive clean energy opportunity in front of us.”

McCarthy, 68, led the implementation of Biden’s expansive climate policy agenda across all federal agencies.

Her departure comes just weeks after Congress passed a $430 billion package of policies aimed at combating climate change that Biden signed into law in August after months of uncertainty and roller-coaster negotiations.

The New York Times first reported that McCarthy’s last day would be Sept. 16. Reuters was first to report in April that McCarthy planned to step down.

Zaidi worked in the Obama administration for years and later served as deputy secretary for energy and environment and chair of climate policy and finance for the state of New York. He has been a key player, with McCarthy, in formulating and advancing Biden’s climate goals.

Under her leadership as EPA administrator, the agency devised the Clean Power Plan that aimed to slash emissions from power plants, which was later struck down by courts.

She briefly served as the head of the Natural Resources Defense Council environmental group after her run at the EPA before being tapped by Biden to coordinate domestic climate change policy.

McCarthy has been the U.S.-focused counterpart to John Kerry, who Biden appointed as his special international envoy on climate change.