By Trevor Hunnicutt, Valerie Volcovici and Andrea Shalal
WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) – U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday named Brian Deese, who helped lead President Barack Obama’s efforts to bail out the automotive industry and negotiate the Paris climate agreement, as his top economic adviser.
Deese, 42, would be the youngest person to head the National Economic Council. His appointment signals Biden’s intention to put climate change at the heart of his plans for reviving the U.S. economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Deese is “a trusted voice I can count on to help us end the ongoing economic crisis, build a better economy that deals everybody in, and take on the existential threat of climate change in a way that creates good-paying American jobs,” Biden said.
Deese said he would push for “bold, new actions” needed to combat climate change and address the racial inequities that he said were at the core of the climate crisis.
The United States needs to rejoin the Paris climate accord, he said and push “far beyond” it to meet Biden’s goal of achieving a net-zero emissions economy before 2050.
The climate focus marks a sharp departure from the Trump administration, in which top economic adviser Larry Kudlow has used frequent television appearances to soothe markets.
During the Obama administration, Deese served as deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget and the National Economic Council, and as a senior climate and energy adviser to the president.
In 2017 he was named head of sustainable investment at $7.4 trillion asset giant BlackRock Inc (NYSE:), which is shedding some coal investments but still invests heavily in fossil fuel companies.
His BlackRock role prompted an outcry from some environmental and progressive groups, who said he was not aggressive enough on climate change and would have to recuse himself from some decisions under federal laws.
Evan Weber, co-founder of the progressive Sunrise Movement, said on Thursday that Deese’s appointment and what he called the “revolving door between Wall Street and the White House” does not inspire confidence.
In recent days former Obama administration officials, progressives in the Democratic party, and environmentalist Bill McKibben, have come to Deese’s defense however.
McKibben said Deese told him last winter that he had spent his time at BlackRock pushing for change to the company’s climate policies, and that Deese understood it had not yet gone far enough.
Senator Ed Markey, co-author of the Green New Deal congressional resolution with New York lawmaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, said having Deese coordinate economic policy “means there will be an effective climate policy leader driving a climate-centered economic agenda.”
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