Climate Leaders Make a To-Do List for the White House

President Joe Biden is aiming to green the country’s electrical grids by 2035 and everything else by 2050, ambitions requiring thousands of specific federal actions to set states, cities and the private sector in a compatible direction. Now, a new collaboration of climate-minded investors and policy experts is offering a way to help that’s novel in its detail and organization.

The group, called the Cleen Project (which stands for “Clean Economy Employment Now”), announced today that it has built a database that features 180 proposals intended to combat climate change, create jobs and advance environmental justice. The plans run the gamut from enabling electric-car charging along federal highways to creating an infrastructure bank that provides backstop financing for disadvantaged communities. Several of the ideas were pitched under the assumption that the Republicans would hold onto the Senate, and thus don’t require congressional approval or an additional appropriation.

“From the get-go, the focus has been on highly actionable ideas — ideas that can happen with regulatory changes and White House announcements,” said Jeff Tannenbaum, private-equity pioneer, founder of Titan Grove and a member of Cleen’s almost 80-member advisory board. “It hasn’t been done in abstract.” The new database was made in consultation with former members of the Obama administration as well as with Biden campaign advisers and transition-team members, he said.

Climate activists had some success in 2009 offering ideas to the Obama administration, which helped jump-start solar power and electric vehicles in the U.S., but the industries were nascent then. Opportunities grew even through the term of former President Donald Trump, whose fossil-fuel triumphalism couldn’t stop the proliferation of solar and wind power. Renewables now dominate new electricity additions — but his actions took a dramatic toll on the federal workforce necessary to implement climate policies.

“We're in a very different transition than we had been in previous administrations in that our federal workforce has been very much gutted over the past four years,” said Anna Lising, a climate-justice advocate and member of Cleen’s advisory board. “Having at least a general sense of types of policies that you could enact would also inform how you're going to staff up the federal government and restart to rebuild that workforce.”

Today, electric vehicles, solar and wind are big businesses, and batteries that enable more clean power are coming of age. “Now, environmental investments create more jobs,” said Greg Kats, a Cleen advisory board member and the chief executive officer of the Smart Surfaces Coalition, which focuses on climate-proofing cities.

All of the proposals that appear in Cleen’s searchable database have been vetted by members of the collective’s advisory board of experts for political feasibility and environmental justice. Each proposal is coded for specific paths to adoption, including via regulation or legislation. A search on potential executive orders reveals ideas for decarbonizing federal buildings and ways to speed up adoption of clean-power investment in multifamily homes and in healthcare.

A dozen years ago, the focus was primarily on clean energy. “There was no real discussion of environmental justice and equity,” Tannenbaum said. “Now, the lens that all of us are looking at this through is so broad it really encompasses all sectors.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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