April 23, 2021

Treasury creates hub to fight climate change through finance

The Treasury Department on Monday announced its plans to fight climate change through fiscal policy and…

The Treasury Department on Monday announced its plans to fight climate change through fiscal policy and create a new office to chart an economically beneficial path away from fossil fuel energy.

The department said Monday it will create a “Climate Hub” led by John E. Morton, a former Obama administration official and climate finance expert, that will coordinate climate-related initiatives across the entire Treasury Department.

“The steep consequences of our actions demand that the Treasury Department make climate change a top priority,” said Treasury Secretary Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenOn The Money: Yellen touts ‘whole-of-economy’ plan to fight climate change | Senate GOP adopts symbolic earmark ban, digs in on debt limit Overnight Energy: Biden will aim to cut US emissions in half by 2030 | Oil and gas leasing pause on public lands will last at least through June National childcare policy is pro-entrepreneurship and pro-growth MORE in a Monday statement.

“Finance and financial incentives will play a crucial role in addressing the climate crisis at home and abroad and in providing capital for opportunities to transform the economy.”

The creation of the Climate Hub is the first major step in Treasury’s long-anticipated push to use its immense power to drive investments toward projects that will fight climate change, reduce carbon emissions and prepare the economy for climate-related risks.

Yellen, who calls climate change “an existential threat,” has pledged for months to make climate change and the financial risks it poses a primary focus of the Treasury Department and its wide-ranging responsibilities.

The climate hub’s main priority will be helping Treasury “facilitate and unlock” investments in energy technology and drive an “expedited transition” away from fossil fuels in “high-emitting sectors and industries.”

Other responsibilities for the climate hub include using tax and economic policies to support building infrastructure resilient to extreme weather, looking out for communities hit hard by climate change or pollution when crafting policies, and ensuring that the transition toward a carbon-neutral economy provides economic opportunities across income levels.

Morton, the climate hub leader, will serve as Yellen’s climate counselor and coordinate with other climate and financial task forces across the Biden administration. He is currently a partner at Pollination, a climate consulting and investment firm, and previously served as the senior director for energy and climate change on former President Obama’s National Security Council.

Morton was also a vice president at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation — the former development finance arm of the U.S. government — and managing director of economic policy at the Pew Charitable Trusts.

“I look forward to working with John and our team to leverage their expertise and ensure that Treasury is doing everything it can to respond to climate change while creating opportunities that strengthen our economy,” Yellen said.

Yellen’s emphasis on fighting climate change has been the most politically polarizing of her early initiatives as President BidenJoe BidenCornyn, Sinema to introduce bill aimed at addressing border surge Harris to travel to Northern Triangle region in June Biden expected to formally recognize Armenian Genocide: report MORE’s Treasury secretary, drawing praise from fellow Democrats and scorn from many Republicans. 

Democratic lawmakers, advocates for tougher financial rules and environmentalists have called on the Treasury to take a more forceful approach to fighting climate change, driving the growth of green energy, and preparing for the risks both pose ahead. Republicans, however, have blasted Yellen for taking stances that could harm the oil and gas sector, urging her to leave climate finance up to the private sector.

Updated at 2:10 p.m.