Biden’s Team: Who You Need to Know

See this list of key Biden officials working on climate with information on second-tier personnel and aides.

President Joe Biden has vowed to combat climate change with a $1.7 trillion climate plan aimed at fighting what he calls the “existential threat of our time” while promising millions of jobs to put Americans back to work. Biden has called for a unified response with an “all hands on deck” approach meant to mobilize his entire administration in a strategic, coordinated way.

As part of his strategy, Biden has selected an unprecedented number of climate experts to top White House positions, created new climate agencies and Cabinet-level positions, and elevated the issue across departments. To help journalists report on the Biden administration’s climate plans, Covering Climate Now has compiled a list of top officials you need to know, with information, where available, to second-tier personnel and aides. Be sure to click through to these lists, as they are the insiders that will help you most in your reporting.

As we write this, new appointments are being unveiled, confirmation hearings are underway, and government websites are being updated. In other words, this document is a work in progress. We will continue to update it, so be sure to check back for new information. We’re also in the process of creating a Biden Climate Team twitter list to help you easily follow members of the administration. Please feel free to email us with any thoughts, comments, or questions.

Top Climate & Climate-related Positions


John Kerry

Special Presidential Envoy for Climate

John Kerry, the former Massachusetts state senator and US secretary of state under President Barack Obama, is the special presidential envoy for climate, a newly created Cabinet-level position. He has a seat on the National Security Council, marking the first time an official focused on climate is included. Kerry helped craft the 2015 Paris climate accord and will be responsible for leading climate negotiations internationally.

Kerry on TwitterMore: With John Kerry Pick, Biden Selects a ‘Climate Envoy’ With Stature (The New York Times); Kerry’s First Task on Climate Is to Reestablish U.S. Credibility (Bloomberg)

Jonathan Pershing

Climate and Foreign Policy Advisor

Jonathan Pershing joins Kerry’s climate team after four years as the environment program director at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Pershing previously served as the special envoy for climate change at the Department of State in the Obama administration where he coordinated the joining and implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement.

More: Jonathan Pershing Leaves Hewlett (Hewlett Foundation); A ‘Nerve Center’ for Climate in the Biden White House (The New York Times)

Sue Biniaz

Climate and Foreign Policy Advisor

Sue Biniaz, who served at the State Department for over 25 years, was the lead climate lawyer for the Paris Climate Agreement. She has taught international environmental law and climate negotiation at various law schools.

More: A ‘Nerve Center’ for Climate in the Biden White House (New York Times); Sue Biniaz Senior Fellow for Climate Change (United Nations Foundation)

Leonardo Martinez-Diaz

Climate and Foreign Policy Advisor

Leonardo Martinez-Diaz previously worked for the Treasury Department as a deputy assistant secretary for energy and environment. Most recently, he served as global director for sustainable finance at the World Resources Institute.

Martinez-Diaz on TwitterMore: A ‘Nerve Center’ for Climate in the Biden White House (New York Times)

Richard (Rick) Duke

Climate and Foreign Policy Advisor

Rick Duke was formerly a special assistant on climate to President Obama. More recently, he was a nonresident senior fellow for the Brookings Institution, and served as the president of Gigaton Strategies, where he consulted on climate change mitigation.

Duke on Twitter. More: A ‘Nerve Center’ for Climate in the Biden White House (New York Times)

Melanie Nakagawa

Senior Director for Climate and Energy

Melanie Nakagawa previously worked with then Secretary of State John Kerry as a strategic advisor on climate change in foreign policy efforts. In addition to her various government roles, she has been an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. Most recently, she served as the head of climate initiative at Princeville Global, a technology-focused investment firm.

Nakagawa on Twitter. More: Biden swells the ranks of his White House climate team (The Washington Post); Biden Selects S&T Experts for Security Council Staff (American Institute of Physics)


Gina McCarthy

White House National Climate Adviser

Gina McCarthy is head of the new White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy and serves as the first-ever National Climate Adviser. She previously served as president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council. As a former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, she oversaw President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. McCarthy will be responsible for implementing Biden’s initiative to integrate climate policy throughout the federal government.

McCarthy on Twitter. More: Biden picks former EPA chief Gina McCarthy as White House climate czar (Washington Post); Gina McCarthy will be Biden’s ‘climate czar.’ What the heck is a climate czar? (Grist)

Ali Zaidi

White House Deputy National Climate Adviser

Ali Zaidi, a former top energy official in the White House Office of Management and Budget under President Obama, is the deputy national climate advisor. Zaidi is responsible for advising the president on domestic climate change policy and will also lead the Office of Domestic Climate Change Policy.

Zaidi on Twitter. More: Who is Ali Zaidi? He might be Biden’s climate adviser (E&E News); Biden Plans to Fight Climate Change in a New Way (EcoWatch)

Sonia Aggarwal

Senior Advisor for Climate Policy and Innovation

Sonia Aggarwal leaves her role as vice president of Energy Innovation, an energy and environment policy firm, to join Gina McCarthy’s domestic climate policy and innovation team as a senior advisor.

Aggarwal on Twitter. More: Indian American Sonia Aggarwal to be US President-elect Joe Biden’s climate policy adviser (Business Insider); EI’s Sonia Aggarwal Appointed to White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy (Energy Innovation)

David Hayes

Special Assistant to the President for Climate Policy

David Hayes is special assistant to the president for climate policy. Hayes has led the NYU Law’s State Impact Center, which supports state attorneys general in their advocacy for clean energy and climate and environmental laws and policies, since 2017. He previously served as Interior deputy secretary during the Obama and Clinton administrations.

Hayes on Twitter. More: Biden unveils picks to staff White House climate office (Axios); Biden nominees signal cooperation with states on climate (Grist)

Maggie Thomas

Chief of Staff, Office of Domestic Climate Policy

Maggie Thomas, the former political director of the nonprofit Evergreen Action, is chief of staff for the Office of Domestic Climate Policy. During the 2020 presidential primary, she served in climate adviser roles in the presidential campaigns of Washington State Governor Jay Inslee and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Thomas on Twitter. More: Biden adds 6 policy experts to his climate team (E&E News)

Jahi Wise

Senior Adviser for Climate Policy and Finance

Jahi Wise is a senior adviser for climate policy and finance. He previously served as policy director for the Coalition for Green Capital, a nonprofit that aims to drive investment in clean energy. He was a policy volunteer to the Biden campaign.

More: Biden adds 6 policy experts to his climate team (E&E News)

Jeff Marootian

Special Assistant to President for Climate & Science Agency Personnel

Jeff Marootian, who previously led Washington, D.C’s, transportation department, is Biden’s special assistant for climate and science agency personnel. Marootian was assistant secretary for administration at the U.S. Transportation Department during the Obama administration.

Marootian on Twitter More: D.C. transportation director leaving to join Biden administration’s climate team (Washington Post)


Pete Buttigieg

Secretary of Transportation

Pete Buttigieg, a former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and a Democratic presidential contender, heads the Department of Transportation. He leads the agency that oversees the nation’s airlines, highways, and transit systems, America’s leading source of greenhouse gas emissions. He is the first openly gay person to serve in a Cabinet position.

Buttigieg on Twitter. More: Transportation nominee Buttigieg says millions of new electric vehicles needed on US roads (The Hill); Hailing His ‘New Voice,’ Biden Introduces Transportation Choice Buttigieg (NPR)

Brian Deese

Director of the National Economic Council

Brian Deese, the former head of sustainable investing at BlackRock, is head of the White House National Economic Council. Deese recently said that Biden’s economic recovery strategy puts solving the climate crisis at the center of job creation. During the Obama administration, Deese served as deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget and the National Economic Council, and as a senior climate and energy adviser to the president.

Deese on Twitter. More: Biden Names BlackRock’s Brian Deese As His Top Economic Aide (NPR); Biden’s Executive Orders Seek to Restore Obama’s Climate Legacy. That’s Not Enough (Time)

Merrick Garland

Attorney General

Merrick Garland, who’s nomination by President Obama to the Supreme Court in 2016 was derailed by Senate Republicans, is Biden’s choice to head the Department of Justice. The department includes the Environment and Natural Resources Division, which enforces environmental laws and defends government actions related to climate change and the environment. Garland currently is a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, a position he has held since 1997.

More: Meet Joe Biden’s Cabinet picks (PBS NewsHour) How Merrick Garland could figure into Biden’s climate plans as attorney general (Grist)

Rich Glick

Chair of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

Rich Glick, a Democratic who was appointed to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by President Trump in 2017, will now serve as its chair. The commission, which oversees electric grid, natural gas pipelines and other energy infrastructure, will not have a Democratic majority until after June 30. Glick is expected to make a cleaner electric grid a top priority. See members of Glick’s staff.

Glick on Twitter. More: Biden names Democrat Glick to chair energy regulatory panel (Reuters); GOP control to linger over agency key to Biden climate goals (Roll Call)

Jennifer Granholm

Secretary of Energy

Jennifer Granholm, who served two terms as Michigan’s governor from 2003 to 2011, is tapped to run the Energy Department. A champion of electric vehicles, she worked closely with the Obama administration on the 2009 bailout of automobile manufacturers. She is expected to play a key role in the department’s support of advanced batteries, energy efficiency, and electricity generation from renewable and nuclear power. See key members of the Energy Department’s team (Make sure you click this!)

Granholm on Twitter. More: Biden to pick former Michigan governor Granholm to be energy secretary (Reuters); Who’s Jennifer Granholm, Biden’s pick for energy secretary? (Grist)

Deb Haaland

Secretary of the Interior

Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM), a member of the Laguna Pueblo people, is head of the Interior Department, the agency that oversees the country’s natural resources and public and tribal lands. She is the first Native American to lead the agency and the first Native American cabinet secretary in U.S. history. Haaland serves on the House Natural Resources Committee and is a former chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico. See key members of the Interior Department’s team. (Make sure you click this!)

Haaland on Twitter. More: Deb Haaland’s Cabinet Nomination Is a Triumph for Native Americans (The Nation); Biden taps Deb Haaland to be first Native American interior secretary (CBS)

Dr. Eric Lander

Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)

Eric Lander, a geneticist, has been selected as director of the OSTP, a new Cabinet-level position. Lander is a Harvard and MIT professor who helped lead the Human Genome Project and served on President Obama’s council of science advisors. If confirmed, Lander is expected to assess how science and technology can create new solutions to address climate change.

Lander on Twitter. More: Joe Biden names scientific advisers and seeks to bring Eric Lander into cabinet (The Guardian); Joe Biden names top geneticist Eric Lander as science adviser (Nature)

Jane Lubchenco

Head Climate Scientist of the Office of Science and Technology Policy

Jane Lubchenco, head climate scientist for the OSTP, previously directed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration during the Obama administration. She will be working with Lander, McCarthy, and federal agencies such as NASA and the Energy Department. The OSTP produces the annual National Climate Assessment and oversees the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

Lubchenco on Twitter. More: White House appoints former NOAA leader Jane Lubchenco to key climate change role (Washington Post)

Brenda Mallory

Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality

Brenda Mallory, director of regulatory policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center, heads the Council for Environmental Quality. She will oversee the legal and environmental impacts of federal infrastructure projects. Mallory served as the General Counsel for the White House Council on Environmental Quality for Obama and has several years experience working for the EPA. She is the first black woman to hold this position.

Mallory on Twitter. More: The Senate Confirms Brenda Mallory to Lead a White House Environmental Agency (New York Times); Biden taps environmental law expert Brenda Mallory to head White House Council on Environmental Quality (Washington Post)

Michael Regan

Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency

Michael Regan, who has been serving as North Carolina’s top environmental regulator, has been selected to head the Environmental Protection Agency. He is the first Black man to run the agency and is expected to play a key role in addressing environmental racism. Regan previously served at the EPA during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. See key members of the EPA’s team. (Make sure you click this!)

Regan on Twitter. More: EPA pick Michael Regan has rural roots, ties to farm country (E&E News); Will 2021 Be the Year for Environmental Justice Legislation? States Are Already Leading the Way (InsideClimate News)

Tom Vilsack

Secretary of Agriculture

Tom Vilsack, who headed the Department of Agriculture under President Obama throughout his term, has been nominated for the job once again. A former governor of Iowa, Vilsack has said he will quickly ramp up USDA programs to combat climate change. Vilsack currently serves as president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council.

More: Biden Climate Plan Looks For Buy-in From Farmers Who Are Often Skeptical About Global Warming (InsideClimate News); Biden’s Climate Plan Relies on Farmers Who Are Often Climate Skeptics (Civil Eats)

Janet Yellen

Secretary of the Treasury

Janet Yellen has been confirmed Secretary of the Treasury, and will be the first woman to hold the position. During her confirmation hearings, Yellen pledged to create a team to focus on climate change, including an assessment of risks it poses to the financial system and tax policy incentives to address it. She previously served as chair of the Federal Reserve from 2014 to 2018.

More: Yellen Opens Debate on Giant Spending, Saying the ‘World Has Changed’ (Bloomberg); Who is Janet Yellen, Biden’s pioneering pick to lead the Treasury amid a deep crisis? (Washington Post)

Willie Phillips Jr.

Commissioner on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

The Senate unanimously confirmed Willie Phillips Jr. to be a member of FERC, the commission that oversees the electric grid, natural gas pipelines, and other energy infrastructure. Democrats now have a 3-2 majority on an entity that was previously deadlocked and obscure. During his confirmation hearings, Phillips said “I believe that we have a moral and ethical obligation to address [climate change]” and promised to weigh climate and environmental justice issues when evaluating proposed fossil fuel projects. Phillips previously served as chair of the D.C. Public Service Commission.

More: Senate confirms energy regulator, completing panel (The Hill); Senate Confirms FERC Nominee Willie Phillips (RTO Insider); Phillips Confirmed to FERC (Nexus Media News)


Members of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council make recommendations to the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council.