Author: Doug Gavel
CAMBRIDGE MA. – Daniel Esty, the Hillhouse Professor of Environmental Law and Policy at Yale University and author of the new book, “Values at Work: Sustainable Investing and ESG Reporting,” expressed his optimism for the prospects for climate policy in the Biden Administration in the latest episode of “Environmental Insights: Discussions on Policy and Practice from the Harvard Environmental Economics Program,” a podcast produced by the Harvard Environmental Economics Program. Listen to the interview here. A transcript of the interview is available here.
Hosted by Robert N. Stavins, A.J. Meyer Professor of Energy and Economic Development at Harvard Kennedy School and director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program and the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, Environmental Insights is intended to promote public discourse on important issues at the intersection of economics and environmental policy.
Esty, who served in a variety of senior roles at the US Environmental Protection Agency where he helped negotiate the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, admitted he was “disturbed” by the ease with which the Trump Administration rolled back environmental policies, but is heartened by the change of leadership in Washington and the course that the new administration is charting.
“I'm excited about having a commitment across the administration to good science, good data, good analysis. And, frankly, the elevation of the White House Science Advisor to Cabinet-level status is a signal of that, and an important one, that…science is back, and we're going to build on the best evidence we can establish, and drive policy from there,” he said.
Esty commended President Biden for many of his high-level appointments, including John Kerry as climate envoy, Gina McCarthy as domestic climate change czar, Jennifer Granholm as Secretary of Energy, Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation, and Michael Regan as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Kerry in particular, Esty remarked, can play a critical role in helping rally international support for climate policy as the UN Conference of the Parties prepares to hold its next annual meeting, this November in Glasgow, Scotland.
“There'll be a big push as we approach that November gathering in Scotland to really have countries demonstrate renewed commitment and increased ambition to speed up the pace at which de-carbonization takes place,” Esty said. “We're not going to renegotiate the Paris agreement, but I think John Kerry is the one who could say, the US is back in this agreement, serious of purpose in terms of its own strategy for emissions reduction, and he will be able to tell that story with conviction to the leaders across the world.”
Esty said he is hopeful that the new administration will deploy a bipartisan approach to domestic climate policy as it lays the foundation for the transition to a clean energy economy in the United States.
“There is a hope, but I know that it's a tough moment, that we might get back to a time, perhaps not this year or next, but at some point soon, when more of the agenda does move on a bipartisan basis,” he said. “I think we're going to need to see a new toolbox, a new set of approaches to the strategy of moving to clean energy, and I'm excited about that because I think it offers the promise, not the certainty, but the possibility of bringing together a broader coalition across party lines.”
Esty’s interview is the 20th episode in the Environmental Insights series, with future episodes scheduled to drop each month.
“Environmental Insights is intended to inform and educate listeners about important issues relating to an economic perspective on developments in environmental policy, including the design and implementation of market-based approaches to environmental protection,” said Stavins. “We speak with accomplished Harvard colleagues, other academics, and practitioners who are working on solving some of the most challenging public problems we face.”