By Ella Nilsen and Kate Sullivan, CNN
The White House announced Wednesday it has created a new climate-focused division within its Office of Science and Technology Policy and tapped Stanford professor Sally Benson to lead it.
Benson will serve as deputy director for energy and chief strategist for the energy transition at OSTP, the White House said in a news release. Costa Samaras, an engineer and policy analyst formerly at Carnegie Mellon University, will serve as principal assistant director for energy and chief adviser for energy policy.
The OSTP Energy Division “will develop national clean energy innovation plans to ensure America’s continued leadership in clean energy innovation and ensure the United States gets to net-zero emissions by 2050,” the White House said.
Benson and Samaras will work with Biden administration science and climate advisers, including White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy and OSTP deputy director for climate and environment Jane Lubchenco.
The Washington Post first reported the announcement.
“Dr. Benson and Dr. Samaras are leading experts in the energy field who will help us realize an emission-free future where clean electricity is the cheapest and most reliable electricity, where clean fuels are the cheapest fuels, and where we enable equitable access to clean energy services to everyone across the country,” the President’s science adviser and OSTP director Eric Lander said in a statement.
Lander continued: “Their leadership of OSTP’s new Energy Division will be a critical asset as America works to lead the way to a prosperous, net-zero carbon economy by 2050.”
Benson has been at Stanford University since 2007 and is co-director of the Stanford Center for Carbon Storage and the Stanford Carbon Removal Initiative. She studies “technologies and pathways to reducing greenhouse gas emissions including geologic storage of CO2 in deep underground formations and energy systems analysis for a low-carbon future,” according to Stanford University.
The creation of the new division underscores the Biden administration’s commitment to tackling the global climate crisis. The President has said he wants the United States to lead the world in the fight against the climate crisis and has committed the United States to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 50%-52% below its 2005 emissions levels by 2030.
The single largest piece of Biden’s massive economic spending bill — the centerpiece of his domestic agenda — focuses on climate. The bill, which was passed by the House of Representatives but could undergo more changes in the Senate, would deliver nearly $570 billion in tax credits and investments aimed at combating climate change. The bill was majorly pared down from Biden’s initial proposal but delivers key wins for the administration on climate.
In addition, the new infrastructure law that Biden recently signed allocates about $50 billion for climate resilience, which includes replacing roads to withstand extreme rainfall, treating forests to prevent wildfires and shoring up reservoirs that sank to new lows this year amid incredible drought.
Special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry recently laid out the Biden administration’s four main climate goals at a major summit in Glasgow: raising global ambition on containing a rise in temperatures; getting countries to commit to taking action this decade; driving ahead on finance and adaptation efforts to vulnerable communities; and completing negotiations on implementation guidelines for the Paris Climate accord.
Kerry, who was then-President Barack Obama’s secretary of state and has long worked on climate issues, is a Cabinet-level official in Biden’s administration and sits on the National Security Council.
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