Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden speaks on November job numbers at the Queen Theater December 4, 2020 Wilmington, Delaware. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden speaks on November job numbers at the Queen Theater December 4, 2020 Wilmington, Delaware. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

To Combat the Climate Crisis, We Need a Government-Wide Mobilization

Hopefully Biden will nominate leaders who understand the severity of the climate crisis and the environmental injustices that burden communities of color and low-income communities.

Michael Brune

 by Sierra Club Blog

The climate crisis isn't a single issue: It's an everything issue. To solve it, we'll have to change how we get around, how we grow food, how we heat and cool our homes, how we create electricity, and much else. We'll need an economy-wide, and society-wide, transformation that will create millions of family-sustaining jobs in clean energy, energy efficiency, and more.

To achieve that economy-wide transformation, we need every part of our government working toward it, as well as a powerful movement pushing officials to be even more ambitious and inclusive. Thankfully, many of President-elect Biden's first few cabinet picks show that he understands the necessity of a whole-government approach.

Chief among them is John Kerry, who was named to the new post of special presidential envoy for climate. Kerry is a longtime climate champion who played a key role in negotiating the Paris agreement in 2015. His cabinet-level position sits in the National Security Council, which isn't known for its focus on the climate crisis. But this foreign-policy role offers Kerry, and Antony Blinken, Biden's climate-conscious pick for Secretary of State, the opportunity to mobilize the global community toward climate action.

After years of fossil-fuel boosterism by the Trump administration, they'll have their work cut out for them. As Kerry well knows, just rejoining the Paris agreement is not enough to take U.S. off the path of planetary destruction. We'll have to go well beyond those goals, and phasing out the use of coal worldwide is a good place to start. Communities from South Korea to South Africa have documented the destructive health impacts of mining and burning dirty coal while showing how clean energy will save lives and money and create millions of jobs. One key opportunity for international climate diplomacy is to share technologies and pathways to an accelerated transition to 100% clean, renewable energy.

Our own country is in the middle of a painful recession, and Biden understands that our best way out is through a green stimulus that creates millions of family-sustaining jobs in clean energy, sustainable agriculture, and cleaning up pollution in communities of color and low-income communities. And his pick for Treasury secretary, former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen, will be a central part of making such a plan reality. Yellen can help ensure that we spend public money to create jobs that revitalize our communities and stave off climate catastrophe. And luckily, she's long been a proponent of using financial tools to address the risk climate change poses to this country and our economy.

Yellen's engagement on the climate can—and must—go beyond a green stimulus. After all, as Treasury Secretary, she will have profound influence over government spending, development finance, and risk management in our financial sector. Climate change is one of the greatest risks to our economy, but the largest U.S. financial institutions are accelerating the crisis by pouring more money into fossil fuels. Yellen and other financial regulators in the Biden administration have the power to carry out a managed decline of fossil fuels, and to ensure that financial institutions zero out their climate impact.

Biden still has many roles to fill in his administration, including the heads of the EPA, Department of the Interior, and the Department of Energy. And I hope that for each one, he'll nominate a leader who understands the severity of the climate crisis and the environmental injustices that burden communities of color and low-income communities. Good policy starts with good people—and good movements that push them to make the most of the power voters have granted them.


© 2019 Sierra Club
Michael Brune

Michael Brune

Michael Brune is the executive director of The Sierra Club. His book "Coming Clean: Breaking America's Addiction to Oil and Coal "was published by Sierra Club Books in September 2008.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Rights Group Urges Civilian Safeguards as Biden Sends Troops Back to Somalia

"A culture of impunity for civilian loss breeds resentment and mistrust among the population and undermines efforts to build a more rights-respecting state," Human Rights Watch's regional director asserted.

Brett Wilkins ·


Australian Progressives Hail 'Greenslide' Amid Big Left Wins and Morrison's Ouster

"People have backed the Greens in record numbers and delivered a massive mandate for action on climate and inequality," said party leader Adam Bandt.

Brett Wilkins ·


Omar Leads Charge Against Baby Formula Monopolies Amid US Shortage

Democrats urge the FTC to probe "any unfair or unsustainable practices, like deceptive marketing, price gouging, and stock buybacks, that may be weakening our nutritional formula supply."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Arbitrary, Racist, and Unfair': Judge Blocks Biden From Ending Title 42

"Only the coyotes profiteering off of people seeking protection have reason to celebrate this ill-reasoned ruling," said one migrant rights advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·


'This Is a War' for Democratic Party's Future, Says Sanders of AIPAC's Super PAC

"They are doing everything they can to destroy the progressive movement in this country," said the senator.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo