As 2020 Ends, We Still Need All Hands In

In January, I will be joining the Biden–Harris powerhouse of a Climate Cabinet, and NRDC will continue the work to build a cleaner, healthier, more just and equitable world.

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris listen as Gina McCarthy, their appointee for National Climate Advisor, speaks in Wilmington, Delaware on December 19, 2020.

Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo

It is hard to believe it was only a year ago that I was preparing to take the reins at NRDC, eager to lead this extraordinary organization that I had long admired through its golden anniversary and into the next half century. I was excited to be part of the strongest defense around against the Trump administration’s relentless assault on our health and the environment and to be charting an equitable path forward together on climate solutions.

It seems as though a decade has passed since then, yet it’s only been 12 seemingly endless months of pandemic, racial brutality, climate upheaval, and economic recession that have battered our country, upended our lives, and inflicted a widening toll of hardship and loss on our families and communities.

Out of this storm of trauma and grief something powerful emerged: a racial reckoning and a decisive nationwide call to action to rise to this moment of challenge and, in time, to replace our fear, mourning, and frustration with hope, renewal, and change. It’s a call that millions of Americans nationwide have answered in any way they could over the past year—from workers on the front lines of this pandemic to the people who exercised their right to peaceful protest to those who turned out to vote in historic numbers in the presidential election.

It is because of these people—because of every one of you—that we are now closing out this nightmare of a year with hope on the horizon. Vaccines are beginning to be administered in the United States. Change is coming to the White House. Solutions that can help us improve people’s health, advance racial justice, pull us out of this economic slump, and tackle the climate crisis are at the top of the new administration’s agenda.

And on a personal note, I will be leaving NRDC to join the new administration in the new year. While I had planned to be part of NRDC for at least four more years, it was the opportunity of a lifetime and I simply could not pass it up. I will be joining the Biden–Harris powerhouse of a Climate Cabinet as the White House National Climate Advisor. In that role I will help President-elect Biden turn the promises of his historic climate plan, the strongest we’ve ever seen from any president before him, into progress.

I see this new presidency as a chance at a new beginning, a chance for renewal, progress, and change. And you can be assured that I will do my best to live up to the trust that’s been placed in me.

I am confident that NRDC will continue its unparalleled work to build a cleaner, healthier, more just and equitable world. NRDC will keep insisting that our leaders put people before polluters and return to public policy guided by sound science. It will keep pushing to make sure the nation acts on the hard lessons we learned from COVID-19, the racial reckoning that continues, and the opportunities that are arising from the new presidential administration. And I fully expect that NRDC will never stop demanding a transition to clean energy and the adoption of climate solutions at the local, state, national, and international levels. In short, NRDC will keep improving the health and prosperity of our people and working to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis while our communities become more resilient and our society more equitable.

We all know that the time is now to create a better, more hopeful future for us, for our children, and for people everywhere. It’s time to reverse the damage done over the last four years. It’s time to set the country on track for 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035 and a carbon-neutral economy by 2050. And no matter where we are working, we know our success depends on all of us—activists, advocacy groups, the business sector, government leaders at all levels—to stand together and act on climate. Now is the time. There is nothing we cannot rise to, nothing we can’t achieve, when we roll up our sleeves and work together.

Come January, that’s just what we’ll do once more.

About the Authors

Gina McCarthy

Former President

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