Yellen appoints Treasury climate czar

“Climate change presents new challenges and opportunities for the US economy,” Yellen said Monday. “The dire consequences of our actions demand that the Treasury Department make climate change a top priority.”

News of Yellen’s election immediately irritated environmental activists who want the Biden administration to take a tougher line on Wall Street companies that finance fossil fuel producers. Many of them had been urging the Treasury to hire former Under Secretary of the Treasury and Fed Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin, who has been calling for more regulation of the climate-related activities of finance companies.

“Preventing US banks, insurers and asset managers from fueling climate risk will require decisive use of all available regulatory tools and expertise to overcome Wall Street’s pushback,” said Jason Opeña Disterhoft, senior activist at Climate and Energy from the Rainforest Action Network. “By choosing someone with no regulatory background, the Biden administration appears to have hit the first hurdle.”

Why does it matter: The long-awaited hiring, which Yellen pledged to hold during his Senate confirmation hearing in January, is the latest example of President Joe Biden’s “whole government” approach to addressing climate change.

The Treasury timed the news with an international climate summit that Biden will host on Thursday and Friday, and is expected to focus on the role of the financial system in global warming and the potential risks.

On Monday, the Treasury also outlined the department’s climate goals, including:

– “Mobilize financial resources for climate-friendly investments at home and abroad, and prioritize the accelerated transition of sectors and industries with high emissions”
– “Take advantage of economic and fiscal policies to support the construction of climate-resistant infrastructure and ensure the transition to a net zero decarbonized economy”
– “Ensure that environmental justice considerations occupy a central place in programs, policies and activities”
– “Ensuring that policies designed and implemented to assist with the transition to a low-carbon economy are generally fair and equitable and support well-paying jobs”
– “Understand and mitigate the risks that climate change poses to the stability of the financial system and the economy of the United States and the world”

Whats Next: Biden plans to issue a wide-ranging executive order outlining the steps federal agencies must take to combat climate-related financial risks to the government and the economy.

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