by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer
Today, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor, Pete Buttigieg, will face a Senate confirmation hearing for his appointment as Secretary of Transportation. If confirmed, Buttigieg will be the first openly gay Cabinet secretary to be confirmed by the Senate.
Not only will Buttigieg be a member of one of the most diverse Cabinets in Presidential history, but he will also be a part of the most pro-climate administration the country has ever seen (the Climate Avengers, as ODP likes to call them). Picked in part because of his climate-first transportation plan, experts and advocates hope he can guide the nation’s transportation infrastructure down a greener road.
Why This Matters: Cars now represent the largest subset of the United States’s carbon emissions, accounting for about 28% of emissions as of 2018. The Trump administration, in its effort to clear a path for the fossil fuel industry, launched an assault on regulations limiting emissions. This assault is estimated to add an extra 1.8 billion tons to the nation’s carbon footprint between now and 2045. Just two days ago a federal appeals court struck down Trump’s rollback of the Clean Air Act, passed in 1970 to limit the amount of certain pollutants in the air, but over 100 environmental rollbacks remain to be addressed.
And on the issue of America’s struggling public transportation systems, CNN reported that “those who are familiar with Buttigieg’s work in South Bend say he’s well-suited for the job given his track record, intellect, and view of transportation as about more than moving vehicles. They point to his success in revitalizing South Bend’s downtown. He redesigned streets, which attracted new businesses, boosted property values and made the city safer for pedestrians.”
A New Roadmap: President Biden has brought dozens of former energy and climate officials from the Obama administration to work for him on what promises to be the greatest fight of this generation. The team of experts and advocates Biden has picked has already shaken the oil industry, but it won’t stop there. The auto industry may be the next to feel the pressure;
- Buttigieg has pledged to put “millions of new electric vehicles on America’s roads.”
- He’s also promised to invest heavily in “public charging infrastructure powered by clean energy.”
Keeping in theme with the rest of this new administration, Buttigieg has also planned to take an intersectional approach with a focus on equity. “Black and brown neighborhoods have been disproportionately divided by highway projects or left isolated by the lack of adequate transit and transportation resources,” he said in a tweet, “in the Biden-Harris administration, we will make righting these wrongs an imperative.”
Good Company: If confirmed, Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen and Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken will join Buttigieg in Biden’s Cabinet. In her confirmation hearing Tuesday, Yellen vowed to take the threat climate change presents to the economy “very, very seriously” calling it an “existential threat.”
“Both the impact of climate change itself and policies to address it could have major impacts, creating stranded assets, generating large changes in asset prices, credit risks and so forth that could affect the financial system. These are very real risks.” – Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen
Blinken has also pledged to ensure the U.S.’s international investments promote sustainability. During his confirmation hearing, he stated, “we want to make sure that we are not doing anything to facilitate countries exporting dirty technology around the world.” With friends like these, experts and advocates hope to see Biden’s ambitious climate goals coming into view over the horizon soon.