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Energy Seminar: A Fireside Chat with President Biden’s National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi and Steven Chu

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Ali Zaidi serves as Assistant to the President and National Climate Advisor. In this role, he leads the White House Climate Policy Office, which coordinates policy development and President Biden’s all-of-government approach to tackle the climate crisis, create good-paying, union jobs, and advance environmental justice. Zaidi is a longtime advisor to President Biden, having provided counsel and leadership on climate policy development, legislation, and executive action from day one of the Administration and on the Biden presidential transition and campaign.  Before his current role, he served as Deputy National Climate Advisor. 

During his time in the Biden-Harris Administration, Zaidi has led on efforts to re-establish U.S. climate leadership, set a national target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52 percent by 2030; deliver robust executive actions, including regulatory, investment, and procurement-based initiatives; and secure the largest legislative wins on climate in U.S. history, through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act.  Together these efforts have advanced the largest annual deployment of solar, wind, and batteries; brought together the U.S. auto sector around an all-electric future; tackled super-pollutants like methane and HFCs; bolstered domestic adaptation and resilience; and centered U.S. climate action around workers and communities, prioritizing good-paying union jobs and the critical work of environmental justice.

Zaidi joined the Biden-Harris Administration after serving as the state of New York’s Deputy Secretary for Energy and Environment and Chairman of Climate Policy and Finance, where he led the state's efforts on climate change — driving investment into infrastructure and innovation, empowering workers and communities, and boosting economic and environmental resilience.  Zaidi also taught graduate courses on technology policy and studied the fiscal and financial impacts of climate change as an adjunct professor at Stanford University.  During that time, Zaidi also co-founded Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy, a Stanford-coordinated initiative that equips sustainability-focused startups with pro bono legal services.

Zaidi brings the cross-sector and multi-disciplinary experience needed to deliver a whole-of-government response to the climate crisis.  During the Obama-Biden Administration, Zaidi served as Associate Director for Natural Resources, Energy, and Science for the Office of Management and Budget and as Deputy Director of Energy Policy for the Domestic Policy Council — helping to design and implement a wide range of domestic and international policies.  Zaidi has advised non-profits, including as a Trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council, and counseled the private sector, as an attorney who helped launch a sustainable investment practice.

Zaidi immigrated from Pakistan and grew up outside Erie, Pennsylvania. He received an A.B. from Harvard University and J.D. from Georgetown University.

Steven Chu is Professor of Physics, Molecular and Cellular Physiology, and Energy Science and Engineering at Stanford University. He received the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics for laser cooling and trapping of atoms. Other contributions include the first optical tweezers manipulation of biomolecules, precision atom interferometry based on optical pulses of light, and single molecule FRET of biomolecules tethered to surfaces. He is now developing and applying new methods in molecular biology and medical imaging, materials science, and batteries. Previously he was U.S. Secretary of Energy, where he began ARPA-E, the Energy Innovation Hubs, and was tasked by President Obama to help BP stop the Macondo Oil spill. Previously, he was director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Stanford, and help initiate Bio-X, that linked the physical and biological sciences with engineering and medicine. Before Stanford, he was a department head at Bell Laboratories. He was past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a Senior Advisor to the Directors of the NIH and the NNSA. He received an A.B. degree in mathematics and a B.S. degree in physics from the University of Rochester, a Ph.D. in physics from the University of California, Berkeley, has 35 honorary degrees, and is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and 8 foreign academies.

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