Senior Fellow


Cathleen Kelly is a senior fellow for Energy and Environment at the Center for American Progress. She specializes in U.S. climate mitigation, climate and environmental justice, preparedness, resilience, and sustainable development policy. She is a co-founder of the Equitable and Just National Climate Forum, a coalition of environmental justice groups and national environmental organizations working to center equity and justice in the national climate agenda. Kelly served in the Obama administration at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, where she led a 20-plus-agency task force to develop a national climate resilience strategy. This strategy helped form the basis of the climate-preparedness pillar of President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan. Kelly also helped formulate the Obama administration’s positions on international sustainable development and climate policy issues.

Previously, Kelly directed the Climate & Energy Program at The German Marshall Fund of the United States, where she led a highly acclaimed paper series and events on climate and clean energy policy that drew the world’s top energy and climate policy players. She also held policy director and senior policy adviser positions at The Nature Conservancy and the Center for Clean Air Policy and was a professor of international and environmental policy at the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, or SAIS.

Kelly is an internationally recognized climate policy expert and a regular adviser to U.S. officials on equitable and just climate and environmental policy issues. She is a prize-winning graduate of SAIS, where she earned a master of arts in international relations and energy and environmental policy.


Compact View

Securing Clean Air, Clean Water, and a Healthy Environment for All Video

Securing Clean Air, Clean Water, and a Healthy Environment for All

Industrial facilities are most often located in or near Black, brown, and low-income communities who face the brunt of harmful industrial pollution, climate change impacts, and other environmental and public health hazards—something Harold Mitchell experienced firsthand in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Fortunately, the Biden administration’s long-overdue environmental justice investments can ensure that all people—regardless of race, income, or ZIP code—have clean air and clean water and live in safe and healthy communities.

Equitable and Just Hurricane and Disaster Preparedness Amid COVID-19 Report
Two people walk down a flooded street in Rodanthe, North Carolina, as Hurricane Dorian hits Cape Hatteras on September 6, 2019.

Equitable and Just Hurricane and Disaster Preparedness Amid COVID-19

As the United States struggles to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, federal, state, and local governments must prepare communities for an extremely active hurricane season fueled by climate change, as well as support resilient and equitable rebuilding in the wake of disasters.

Rita Cliffton, Bianca Majumder, Cathleen Kelly

Building a Just Climate Future for North Carolina Report
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 03:  Workers put solar panels down during an installation May 3, 2106 in Washington, DC. The installation marked the one millionth in the U.S. in the past 40 years. It has been predicted that the U.S. will reach 2 million installations in two years.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Building a Just Climate Future for North Carolina

Amid the deadly threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists have detailed how the ongoing threat of climate change is expected to worsen in the future, highlighting the need for state leaders to accelerate actions to provide access to pollution-free energy and build healthy climate change-ready communities.

Rita Cliffton, Cathleen Kelly

The High Price of Inaction Article
A woman stands between her home and the church next door, both of which were severely damaged by Hurricane Michael on October 20, 2018, in Panama City, Florida. (Getty/Scott Olson)

The High Price of Inaction

To avert the economic threats posed by extreme weather and climate disaster events, Congress must act to build resilient infrastructure and communities.

Guillermo Ortiz, Cathleen Kelly

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