Editor’s Note: Gina McCarthy is the White House National Climate Advisor. She served as the 13th Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from 2013 to 2017. The views expressed in this commentary are her own. View more opinion on CNN.
When President Joe Biden and I think about the climate crisis, we think about people – his family, my family and your family.
We think about the countless Americans who are in the crosshairs of the climate catastrophe we face. We think about the children who grasp for their inhalers because they grew up in a marginalized community on the fence line of a big polluter. We think about the workers who lay awake at night worried about what the future of their work looks like. We think about the families whose homes and lives were engulfed by wildfires or swept away by a hurricane this past year.
When I was asked to become the first-ever National Climate Advisor to lead the charge in combating the climate crisis, there was a pretty simple reason: the new administration wants to help people.
As we face a pandemic, economic fallout and racial injustices, Americans are grappling with profound pain. While climate change adds another challenge to these crises, it also presents a unique opportunity to begin to solve the unprecedented public health, economic and equity problems we face.
Last week, President Biden declared that, in his White House, “Climate Day” is “Jobs Day.” And as the new administration seeks to address the state of the economy today, it is a crucial reminder of how climate will play an integral role in economic growth and job creation in the months and years ahead. It’s all part of a broader economic recovery plan to build our country back better – building up American manufacturing, investing in clean energy technology, and creating jobs with good pay and the chance to join a union.
Here’s where we’ll start.
First, we will strengthen and expand existing American manufacturing. Last week, President Biden laid this groundwork with a Buy American executive order that will require the federal government to procure supplies and products from American companies and also ensure our future is built in America and by American workers. Our actions will increase demand for clean energy, grow the domestic supply chain and boost the bottom line for American industry and its workers. Whether it’s building and deploying offshore wind turbines in the Northeast, installing solar panels in Nevada or retrofitting residential and commercial buildings in Ohio, we are making sure the clean energy revolution is made in America, bought in America and built by American workers.
Second, we are pledging to prioritize investments in American research, development and innovation that pave the way for the US to catalyze new clean energy technologies. We will tap into the imagination, talent and grit of America’s workforce to scale and accelerate cleaner technologies that will fuel our future – from manufacturing zero-emission vehicles to building sustainable and resilient infrastructure. These critical investments will spur the innovation and technology that will create new opportunities for American workers in old and new auto factories, manufacturing facilities and more – and they will do so in working communities all across the country. For example, working communities in New Mexico have fueled American energy from nonrenewable sources for decades. And now, because of new clean energy technologies, New Mexico is also home to the largest wind complex in North America – and the jobs that come along with building and powering it.
And, ultimately, as we leverage American manufacturing and clean energy technology to fuel our recovery, we want to be crystal clear about the jobs we are creating: good paying, union jobs. President Biden has already signed an executive order to ensure a fair wage to support workers and their families. But he also understands how unions have helped countless workers earn hard-fought protections and benefits, so the President has asked his newly formed National Climate Task Force to create plans that will look at the jobs that have been lost and the opportunities we have to grow good paying, union jobs that support local communities
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Climate Day last week and Jobs Day this week are intertwined because this is not a zero-sum game. We can tackle the climate crisis and create jobs – putting communities and workers at the forefront at the same time.
We know the challenges we face right now will not be easy to overcome. But the Americans on the frontlines and fence lines of these issues are who our entire administration will think about when leading our efforts to tackle climate change, create jobs and spur America’s economic comeback.
The American people are not going to just be a part of the clean energy revolution that builds a more sustainable and healthier future – they are going to lead it.