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Climate adviser Gina McCarthy on what President Biden wants to accomplish

President Biden is doing a 180 from his predecessor's policies and is vowing to confront the issue of climate change head on. But most Republicans have pushed back on climate change efforts. White House national climate adviser and former head of the EPA, Gina McCarthy, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let's take a closer look now at what President Biden wants to accomplish with Gina McCarthy. She's the White House national climate adviser.

    Gina McCarthy, welcome back to the "NewsHour."

    The president has so many urgent, massive issues facing him, the pandemic, the economy, a politically deeply divided country. How does climate change fit into all of that?

  • Gina McCarthy:

    Well, Judy, thanks for having me.

    And I want you to know that climate change is interrelated with all of the issues that you just identified.

    If we expect to regrow the economy after we tackle COVID-19, we need to grow jobs. We need people to have food on their table, food that's healthy. We need our country to be more secure and grow. The path forward to get that done is clean energy. In fact, clean energy jobs were the fastest growing sector before the pandemic hit.

    And we saw a prior administration that did everything it could to dismantle the clean energy infrastructure, and it failed. You know why? Because clean energy jobs actually are good for us. We can grow thousands of good-paying union jobs.

    This is our opportunity to invest in environmental justice communities that have been left behind. So, this president is not looking at one thing at a time. It's looking at addressing all of those together, so that we do build back in a way that's building a better future. And we can do this if we work together.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, it's interesting, because you are getting praise from a number of sectors, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which says it endorses the overall goal.

    But then it points to the pausing of oil and gas — excuse me — oil and gas leasing, and it says that this is something that is going to hurt the economy. It points to — they said the world is going to need oil and gas for decades, that this is going to starve local communities of revenue.

    And they're arguing it's going to cost jobs. We're hearing this argument from a number of Republicans. How do you respond?

  • Gina McCarthy:

    Well, the whole goal of this is not to leave any community behind in moving forward on clean energy.

    But it's also to recognize that we're not going to leave any workers behind. And so, if you look at this closely, Judy, this — all this is about is whether or not we should pause and look at new leasing, when we know there are acres and acres of leases that are not being used now, and we have to take a balance.

    This is public lands only. It's our lands that need to be protected for their full value, including the natural resources that we need and the biodiversity that keeps our global world moving forward. So, this is not stopping permitting. It's not stopping fracking. This is a very select challenge for us to step back and just say, how are we going to grow?

    And in the meantime, there's plenty of oil, and there's plenty of natural gas, so that we're assuring the governors and the senators and the representatives from these areas that we're not going to run out of anything. This is about just taking a pause to review the whole thing and make sure it makes sense from everybody's perspective.

    And, if you look at this, Judy, this executive order actually looks at creating a task force to revitalize those energy communities that are worried about being left behind and those that are dependent on fossil fuel utilities for their jobs. We have to take care of them.

    It's not about making the choices they're suggesting. We can have thousands of new good-paying union jobs. And we can find opportunities, like in capping those old abandoned oil and gas wells or those coal mines that are spewing methane that is creating climate changes, and instead put those workers in those areas that may otherwise not have a job and give them a good-paying job.

    This is not a zero sum game.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    They are making arguments from different parts of the country.

    For example, Senator Dan Sullivan, Republican of Alaska, is saying, curtailing these jobs, he says, disproportionately harms Alaska Natives, who he says have relied on energy development to lift them out of poverty, also pointing out it contrasts with the racial equity goal that the White House rolled out yesterday.

    Lynne Cheney of Wyoming is speaking about a major lifeline that Americans who — again, Americans being lifted out of a hurting economy by that these oil and gas jobs that are going away for the time being.

  • Gina McCarthy:

    Well, this is a transition where we need to build up the infrastructure to make clean energy on a broad scale available to everyone.

    This is not over the next two weeks or two months. Everybody knows that this job shift has already been happening, and we need to make sure that we're focused in the areas where job shifts are happening for sure.

    But that doesn't mean we can change the future, Judy. We have to protect the future for our kids, and we have to recognize that it is heading to a clean energy for jobs that we can manufacture, products that we should be developing and innovating and selling to the rest of the world.

    This is about getting us into this time in this moment and not being shy about reemerging this country into a position of leadership domestically and internationally. And that's what this effort is all about.

    It's about a whole-of-government approach to start looking with different eyes at the jobs that we're doing. Look at our programs, our policies. Look at our procurement strategy. Let's invest and send signals to the private sector that we all know where the future is heading, and the United States wants to lead it, and we want the jobs and the profits here.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Sharing, again, arguments we're hearing from the other side, if you will, Republican Steve Scalise, Louisiana…

  • Gina McCarthy:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    … saying this is a death knell for Louisiana coastal communities.

    What do you say to critics or criticisms like these about when these new jobs would come along, because they're saying, in the short run, it's going to hurt them?

  • Gina McCarthy:

    Well, Judy, we're going to have to take actions on all of the executive order to take a look at how we can move all these issues forward.

    We're going to have the kind of engagement that we need to have in a democracy and listen to everyone. But, right now, the point is that we have a COVID-19 pandemic that's hit us that we need to straighten out and take care of. That's already been jump-started.

    Now's the time to see how we build back. Are we really going to be that shy and look at what used to be, instead of looking at the opportunities today? Nobody in this country wants to be told to sacrifice, and nobody in this administration is going to ask them to, whether it's leaving them without a job or leaving them without opportunity.

    It's just the opposite. We're bringing these issues together at a time of hope and opportunity, because we either grab this as a country or we continue to cede our leadership to others and our profits and our job growth.

    And this administration has no intention to cede that success to anybody.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Gina McCarthy, the new White House climate adviser, formerly headed the Environmental Protection Agency under President Obama, thank you very much.

  • Gina McCarthy:

    Thanks, Judy.

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