Andrew Light

Andrew Light

Andrew Light

Distinguished University Professor

International climate and energy policy and governance, environmental policy and ethics, risk analysis, and ethics and emerging technologies

Andrew Light is temporarily on leave from George Mason University where he is Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy, Public Policy, and Atmospheric Sciences, to serve as Assistant Secretary of Energy for International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy. He was nominated for this position by President Biden on April 28, and confirmed by the U.S. Senate on August 11, 2021.

Andrew has two interrelated careers. One is as an academic where he has worked for twenty years on the normative implications of environmental policy. The other is as a policy expert and advocate where he works on the front lines of international climate, energy, and science policy. Since starting as head of the Office of International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy on January 20, 2021 as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary before his confirmation as Assistant Secretary, he has assumed responsibility for leading and expanding some three dozen bilateral energy dialogues, forums, councils, and partnerships with countries from all regions of the world.  His primary focus has been to increase their work on clean energy whether this is renewables, nuclear, abated fossil fuels, or new technologies such as hydrogen, in response to the threat of climate change and to grow good-paying American energy jobs in the burgeoning global clean energy market.  With respect to multilateral forums, Andrew is Vice Chair of the Governing Board of the International Energy Agency (IEA) and Chair of the IEA Ministerial Bureau,  U.S. representative to the Clean Energy Ministerial and Mission Innovation Steering Committees, lead U.S. negotiator and Ministerial Sherpa for the energy tracks of the G7 and G20, and directs all U.S. Department of Energy engagement at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and other global platforms. 

In addition to this work on clean energy, Andrew is also one of the lead U.S. government officials working on the U.S. and allied response to the continuing global energy impacts of Russia's illegal, immoral, and inhumane war on Ukraine.  This work has included: negotiating the two biggest collective oil actions in history from the International Energy Agency in March and April 2022 to stabilize markets; working with EU and non-EU European countries on diversifying gas supply away from Russia and rapidly accelerating Europe's transition away from fossil fuels; coordinating with the Department of Treasury on the design and implementation of the price cap on Russian oil; and leading the effort to begin delivery of U.S. emergency electric grid equipment to Ukraine starting on December 13, 2022.

Previously, from 2013-2016, Andrew served as Senior Adviser and India Counselor to the U.S. Special Envoy on Climate Change, and as a Staff Climate Adviser in Secretary of State John Kerry's Office of Policy Planning in the U.S. Department of State. In this capacity he was Co-Chair of the U.S.-India Joint Working Group on Combating Climate Change, Chair of the Climate Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals across all agencies for the U.S. government, and served on the senior strategy team for the UN climate negotiations.

In recognition of this work, Andrew was awarded the inaugural Public Philosophy Award, from the International Society for Environmental Ethics -- which has been designated the "Andrew Light Award for Public Philosophy" -- in June 2017, the inaugural Alain Locke Award for Public Philosophy, from the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy in March 2016, and a shared Superior Honor Award, from the U.S. Department of State in July 2016, for “contributions to the U.S. effort that made the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris, where the landmark Paris Agreement was concluded, a historic success.”

Between these government positions, Andrew was also at various times, Distinguished Senior Fellow in the Climate Program at the World Resources Institute in Washington, D.C., Faculty Affiliate at the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy at Tufts University, and Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, where he was chief adviser on international climate policy to the center's founder and chairman, John Podesta.

In the last ten years he has contributed to 22 major policy reports, including most recently, Reflecting Sunlight: Recommendations for Solar Geoengineering Research and Research Governance (2021),  Jay Inslee's Plan for Global Climate Mobilization (2020), An International Climate Agenda for the Next Administration (2020), Delivering on America's Pledge: Achieving Climate Progress (Bloomberg Philanthropies, 2020), which analyzes the scope and resilience of U.S. non-federal action on climate change during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fourth U.S National Climate Assessment, Climate Change Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States, (USGCRP, 2018), and Ramping Up Governance of the Global Environmental Commons (World Resources Institute, 2019). 

In his academic work Andrew is the author of over 100 articles and book chapters on climate change, restoration ecology, and urban sustainability, and has authored, co-authored, and edited 19 books, including The Routledge Companion to Environmental Ethics (Routledge, 2022), Environmental Values (Routledge, 2008), Controlling Technology (Prometheus, 2005), Moral and Political Reasoning in Environmental Practice (MIT, 2003), Technology and the Good Life? (Chicago, 2000), and Environmental Pragmatism (Routledge, 1996). He has previously taught at a variety of institutions, including the Environmental Conservation Program at NYU and the School of Public Affairs and Department of Philosophy at the University of Washington, Seattle.


Listen to Andrew's 2023 interview with the Department of Energy's Direct Current podcast, Keeping the Lights on in Ukraine, about the work of his Office of International Affairs, sending over 890 pieces of high voltage emergency equipment to Ukraine starting in December 2022, in response to the Russian attacks on grid.

Read Andrew's interview with India's "Light's On" on the recent past and potential future for U.S.-India cooperation on climate change and clean energy in 2020.

Watch Andrew's Mason Impact discussion of climate change, COVID-19, and creating a sustainable recovery in 2020.

Watch Andrew's in-depth 2019 interview and questions from callers on CSPAN's Washington Journal on the current state of domestic and international climate policy and politics.

Watch Andrew's CBS interview on the release of the Fourth U.S. National Climate Assessment, and listen to his NPR All Things Considered interview on the assessment in 2018. 

Listen to Andrew's interviews on NPR's To the Point and Marketplace on the announcement of the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement in 2017.

Listen to Andrew's interview on NPR's All Things Considered on historic agreement in the Montreal Protocol to get rid of the most potent greenhouse gases in 2016.

Selected Publications

Selected Books

Environmental Values, with John O’Neill and Alan Holland. (London: Routledge Press, 2008).

The Routledge Companion to Environmental Ethics, with Benjamin Hale and Lydia Lawhon (London: Routledge Press, 2022).

Selected Reports

Reflecting Sunlight: Recommendations for Solar Geoengineering Research and Research Governance (Washington, D.C.: National Academies of Science 2021)

An International Climate Agenda for the Next Administration (2020)

Delivering on America's Pledge: Achieving Climate Progress (New York: Bloomberg Philanthropies 2020)

Ramping up Governance of the Global Environmental Commons: What Do Theory and History Tell Us? (Washington, D.C.:  World Resources Institute, February 2019).

Climate Change Impacts, Risks and Adaptation in the U.S.:  Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA 4), Volume II.  (Washington, D.C.:  U.S. Global Change Research Program, November 2018).  Review Editor for Chapter 29, “Mitigation:  Avoiding and Reducing Long-Term Risks.”

Strengthening Nationally Determined Contributions to Catalyze Actions That Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (Washington, D.C.:  World Resources Institute, October 2018).

Governing Solar Radiation Management (Washington, D.C.: Forum for Solar Radiation Management, October 2018).

Proposal for a North American Climate Strategy.  (Washington, D.C.:  Center for American Progress and World Resources Institute, June 2016).

Carbon Market Crossroads: New Ideas for Harnessing Global Markets to Confront Climate Change. (Washington, D.C.: Climate Advisers and Center for American Progress, April 2013).

40 x 35: A Zero Carbon Energy Target for the World’s Largest Economies. (Washington, D.C.: Center for American Progress, March 2013).

The U.S. Role in International Climate Finance: A Blueprint for Near Term Leadership. (Washington, D.C.: Alliance for Climate Protection and Center for American Progress, December 2010).

A Roadmap for U.S.-China Cooperation on Carbon Capture and Sequestration. Washington, D.C.:  Center for American Progress and Asia Society, November 2009.

Selected Articles and Book Chapters

"Governing Climate Engineering: A Proposal for Immediate Governance of Solar Radiation Management," with S. Jinnah, et. al., Sustainability,  Volume 11, 2019, pp. 1-9.

"Climate Diplomacy," in The Oxford Handbook of Environmental Ethics, eds. S. Gardiner and A. Thompson (Oxford: Oxford University Pres, 2016), pp. 487-500 and on-line at

"A Responsible Path: Enhancing Action on Short-Lived Climate Pollutants,” with Gwynne Taraska, in Climate Justice in a Non-Ideal World, eds. C. Heyward, and D. Roser (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), pp. 169-188.

Climate Change, Adaptation, and Climate-Ready Development Assistance,” with Gwynne Taraska, Environmental Values, Vol. 23, No. 2, 2014, pp. 129-147.

An Equity Hurdle in International Climate Negotiations,” Philosophy and Public Policy Quarterly, Vol. 31, No. 1, 2013, pp. 27-34.

“Valuing Novel Ecosystems,” with Allen Thompson and Eric Higgs, in Novel Ecosystems: Intervening in the New Ecological World Order, eds. R. Hobbs, E. Higgs, and C. Hall (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2013), pp. 257-268.

Finding a Future for Environmental Ethics,” The Ethics Forum / Les Ateliers de l’éthique, Vol. 7, No. 3, 2012, pp. 71-80.

“On the Need for Front Line Climate Ethics,” in The Environment: Philosophy, Science, and Ethics (Topics in Contemporary Philosophy), eds. B. Kabesenche, M. O’Rourke and M. Slater (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2012), pp. 277-292.

The Death of Restoration?” in Ethical Adaptation to Climate Change: Human Virtues of the Future, eds. A. Thompson and J. Bendik-Keymer (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2012), pp. 105-122.

The Moral Journey of Environmentalism: From Wilderness to Place,” in Pragmatic Sustainability: Theoretical and Practical Tools, ed. S. Moore (London: Routledge Press, 2010), pp. 136-148.

“Does a Public Environmental Philosophy Need a Convergence Hypothesis? in Nature in Common: Environmental Ethics and the Contested Foundations of Environmental Policy, ed. B. Minteer (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2009).  [Draft text]