This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.
Without a Democratic majority in the Senate, President Biden will have to rely on administrative action to do the heavy lifting. It's clear that EPA has a central role to play in climate policy, but EPA does not stand alone. Other agencies also have important roles to play. Fortunately, the Biden transition team seems to have come to this realization.
A multi-agency approach is especially important because bold actions by EPA will face a skeptical audience in the 6-3 conservative Supreme Court. Thus, a diverse portfolio with many different actions from many agencies is prudent. Moreover, EPA is much more in the political spotlight, so any bold action on its part is sure to be met with a political firestorm. Other agencies may fly more under the radar.
The final reason for multi-agency action is that climate change itself has such complex roots and multifaceted consequences. Making progress on climate change will require changes in many economic sectors. Mandating reductions in emissions from power plants, for instance, is likely to be ineffective without new transmission lines, which are under the control of FERC. And those lines won't get built without financing from investors, which the government cannot mandate but can influence through regulation of financial markets. In other words, climate policy has to be "whole of government" because climate change itself is "whole of society."
Here are over a dozen other agencies that have important roles to play. Biden will need to activate all of them to turn U.S. carbon emissions downward. Note that this is an incomplete list. Because the causes and impacts of climate change are so widespread and diverse, the issue should be on the agenda of nearly every federal agency.
Because of the importance of these agencies, there's another agency whose activities are crucial: the White House personnel office, which helps vet and select appointees who manage all of these issues. Before Inauguration Day, that personnel role is played by the transition team. As they say, "personnel is policy."
Editor's note: Some of the recommendations in this post are similar to those included in CPR's report, Climate, Energy, Justice: The Policy Path to a Just Transition for an Energy-Hungry America. The report also contains a wealth of policy proposals for implementing a just, equitable transition to a clean energy economy.