The Biden administration will reach its decarbonization goals even if Congress fails to pass a $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill and $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy said Wednesday.
Regulations from a broad swath of agencies—including, but not limited to, the EPA and Interior Department—will help the administration reach its various climate goals, such as cutting domestic emissions in half by 2030, McCarthy said at a briefing convened by Environmental Entrepreneurs, or E2.
“We’re going to do it, because there’s many other ways to get to an endgame here,” she said.
The power sector and other regulated industries also see market signals that are nudging them firmly toward decarbonizing, McCarthy said. Federal investment approaches could make it “too enticing and economically viable” for utilities not to embrace clean energy, she said.
“I don’t think we need to have every penny in here to make progress,” McCarthy said, referring to the twin bills being negotiated in Congress. “I don’t want anyone to think that just because we didn’t get it all, that we’re not going to get where we need to go, because we will.”
Nevertheless, McCarthy said the administration believes “we’ll get what we’ve asked for” and that the national conversation over climate science has evolved significantly in recent years.
“I don’t think, at this point, we’re trying to convince people that climate change is a problem,” she said.
She also linked President Joe Biden’s climate plan to economic growth, a message Biden and other administration officials have repeatedly stressed.
“We’re trying to make it clear that things like the bipartisan infrastructure deal and the Build Back Better plan, as a whole, is not about sacrifice,” she said. “Nobody wants to be in this pandemic and worrying that the federal government’s trying to cost them more.”
McCarthy also said the White House’s focus on environmental justice is “not just about identifying those communities and expending money there.”
“It really is about workers as well,” she said. “How do we look at those areas where we have lost jobs? How do we look at those areas that were dependent on a coal facility that no longer exists?”
Agencies such as the EPA and Energy Department are working on expanding environmental job training programs and supporting internships and research projects. And the White House is looking to expand on green banks to support clean energy and sustainability projects, McCarthy said.
The Civilian Climate Corps—part of Democrats’ reconciliation bill—could act a “feeder system” for employment in clean energy, she added. The push for such a group has gained momentum among Democrats as a way to marry much-needed job creation with their goal of tackling climate change and improving environmental stewardship across the country.
Corps members, for example, could be teamed up with unions such as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to work on decarbonizing housing projects in their communities, McCarthy said.