Story at a glance:
- Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen appointed John Morton, who served in a senior climate post in the Obama administration and has 25 years of experience in green energy consulting and financing.
- “Net-zero” carbon emissions has to be achieve by 2050 in the U.S.
- Some climate activists wanted someone who would be tougher on Wall Street such as Sarah Bloom Raskin, former Treasury deputy secretary and Fed governor.
On Monday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen named John Morton, a climate change financial adviser who also served in a senior climate position in the Obama administration, to be the department’s first-ever climate counselor.
Morton’s appointment is part of the department’s efforts to encourage investment in green energy and reduce carbon emissions through tax policy and financial risk assessments, Politico reported.
Morton previously served in the Obama administration as senior director for energy and climate change on the National Security Council.
He was also a partner with Pollination Group, a climate change advisory and investment firm. According to the Treasury, Morton has 25 years of experience in markets, investment finance, and economic and environmental policy in the climate change industry.
He also held senior positions at the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corp. (OPIC), a government agency that assists businesses looking to invest abroad.
"Climate change presents new challenges and opportunities for the U.S. economy," Yellen said. "The steep consequences of our actions demand that the Treasury Department make climate change a top priority."
"What has been lacking in the last four or five years, there has not been top-down pressure from the [previous] administration. The pressure of the bully pulpit appropriately applied can really unlock things," Morton told Reuters earlier this year.
The move is upsetting some environmental activists who hope the Biden administration takes a harder stance in pushing Wall Street firms toward green investments and away from financing fossil fuel producers, according to Politico. Some wanted former Treasury deputy secretary and ex-Fed governor Sarah Bloom Raskin to take on the role, as she has been calling for greater regulation of financial firms’ involvement in climate-related activities, Politico reports.
“Stopping U.S. banks, insurers and asset managers from fueling climate risk will require decisive use of every available regulatory tool and the experience to outmaneuver Wall Street pushback,” said Jason Opeña Disterhoft, senior climate and energy campaigner with Rainforest Action Network. "By choosing someone with no regulatory track record, the Biden administration looks to have stumbled at the first hurdle."
Morton will report directly to Yellen and advise her on a range of environmental issues, particularly how to finance investments to achieve “net-zero” carbon emissions — a goal President Biden set the U.S. to achieve by 2050.
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