Gina McCarthy

First-Ever White House Climate Advisor, Former EPA Administrator, Harvard Professor & Environmental Thought Leader

The first-ever White House National Climate Advisor and former U.S. EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy is one of the nation’s most respected voices on climate change, the environment, and public health. As head of the Climate Policy Office under President Biden, McCarthy’s leadership led to the most aggressive action on climate in U.S. history, creating new jobs and unprecedented clean energy innovation and investments across the country. Her commitment to bold action across the Biden administration, supported by the climate and clean energy provisions in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, restored U.S. climate leadership on a global stage and put a new U.S. national target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 within reach.

Throughout her years of public service in both Republican and Democratic administrations, McCarthy is credited for her common-sense strategies and ability to work across the aisle, with states, communities, business leaders, and the labor community, to tackle our nation’s toughest environmental challenges in ways that spur economic growth. and improve public health for workers and families, especially those living in environmental justice communities.

Before joining the Biden administration, McCarthy served as President and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the nation's largest and most influential environmental advocacy organizations. Prior to NRDC, she was a Professor of the Practice of Public Health in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health where she served as the Director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment. She was also a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. During this time, she engaged students and climate science thought-leaders across the faculty, as well as corporate and non-profit leaders across the world, to coordinate strategies to turn climate and health science into actions that promote a healthier, more sustainable, and just world. McCarthy also served as a Member of the Board of Directors of the Energy Foundation and Ceres and was an operating advisor to Pegasus Capital, an impact investment management firm focused on climate-related investing. 

From 2013–2017, McCarthy was the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under President Obama. McCarthy focused on using science and input from broad external engagement to strengthen clean air standards including establishing tighter standards on mercury pollution, a new EPA Clean Water Rule to protect rivers and streams that 117 million Americans rely on for drinking water, the first national standards requiring reductions in greenhouse gas emissions for fossil-fuel-fired power plants, and many other policies, programmatic and regulatory efforts that demonstrated the United States' strong commitment to protecting public health and the environment.  To advance climate and environmental justice domestically and internationally, McCarthy worked to implement President Obama’s climate action plan spearheading U.S. international engagements that resulted in the passage of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase out the use of high global warming chemicals and engaged in efforts leading to the adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Prior to her role as EPA Administrator, McCarthy held the position of Assistant Administrator in the Office of Air and Radiation. Prior to that Presidential appointment, McCarthy was the Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, where she served as Chair of the Governor’s Climate Advisory Council, developed the state’s Climate Action Plan, began an initiative called “No Child Left Inside” to introduce families to the natural world by visiting state parks, helped design and implement the nine-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the nation’s first cap and trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for power plants. She also held senior positions in the administration of five Massachusetts governors, including Deputy Secretary of the Office of Commonwealth Development and Undersecretary for Policy for the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. 

McCarthy earned a Bachelor of Arts in Social Anthropology from the University of Massachusetts at Boston and a joint Master of Science in Environmental Health Engineering, Planning and Policy from Tuft’s University.

Live Event Appearances

Podcast Guest Appearances

Climate Ambition with Gina McCarthy, Annie Leonard and Tamara Toles O’Laughlin

Sep 22 2020 - 4:00pm

Will Joe Biden take bold action on climate if he becomes President? And what lessons can be drawn from the failure of Barack Obama and Joe Biden to get a national climate plan in place when they were in office?

“The context is different than the last time Joe Biden was anywhere near the White House,” says Annie Leonard, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA. “The science has changed, [the] climate crisis is here now.”

John Kerry, Gina McCarthy and Biden’s Climate Team

Joe Biden did not start out as the “climate candidate” – that was a title first claimed by Washington Governor Jay Inslee, one of  more than two dozen Democratic candidates jockeying for position in the early days of the 2020 presidential campaign.  When Inslee spoke on the Climate One stage in May of 2020, climate was top of mind for him. 

“Everybody’s got a to do list right on your refrigerator,” Inslee said. “This cannot be just on the next president's to do list, because if it's not job one, it won't get done.”

Kamala Harris and Gina McCarthy: Views From The Inside

It’s been a big year for U.S. climate policy. Three major pieces of legislation: the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act have all become law, ushering in the largest commitment of federal money toward the climate crisis to date. In a bipartisan vote, the Senate also finally ratified the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which will help phase out the use of some of the most potent greenhouse gasses. 

2022: This Year in Climate

As 2022 comes to a close, Climate One takes a look back at the climate highs and lows and revisits conversations with some of the most insightful leaders we spoke with this year.  

Climate-amplified natural disasters continue to wreak devastation on communities and countries all across the world, costing many lives and lots of money. This year’s Atlantic hurricane season was one of the costliest on record. According to the New York Times, the total cost of hurricanes has gone up elevenfold since the 1980s, and that’s adjusted for inflation.