Manchin rips big banks for net-zero carbon goals

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)
Greg Nash

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) criticized major U.S. banks for setting goals to zero-out their carbon emissions within decades, arguing that they should take “a more realistic approach” to fighting climate change.

In remarks to a virtual conference of community bankers, Manchin voiced frustration with recent commitments from the biggest U.S. banks to completely offset all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“I would hope that a lot of the larger financial institutions would take a more realistic approach, and not just a knee-jerking approach … where shareholders are wanting to do this and that and everything,” Manchin said during the Independent Community Bankers of America’s annual D.C. summit. 

Along with targeting their own personal climate footprints, major U.S. banks have reduced their financing of oil and gas drilling projects, particularly within the Arctic region.

Manchin, one of the few Democrats not in favor of a total transition from fossil fuels, stressed the need to preserve the “balance that we have between the economy and environment” and take a measured approach to fighting climate change. He said that instead of limiting the activities of the fossil fuel industry, banks should help develop technology that could capture and reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“We’ve done more in the last two decades to clean up the environment than any other country, and we can do an awful lot more by developing the new technology with carbon capture sequestration,” Manchin said.

“You’re not going to have a better climate by eliminating,” he added, citing the rising use of fossil fuel energy across many developing countries.

Manchin, whose home state has been hit hard by the decline of the U.S. coal industry, has been an outlier among Democrats on climate issues for several years. But those differences have become increasingly important with Manchin’s outsize role in a 50-50 Senate.

President Biden and most Democratic lawmakers have called for urgent and aggressive action to fight climate change and make a quick and economically beneficial transition to renewable energy. Biden’s election has also accelerated efforts among financial regulators to take a closer look at climate-related risks, and the Treasury Department has laid out its plans for a “whole-of-economy” approach to climate change.

Republicans and advocates for fossil fuel companies have grown increasingly concerned about what the totality of those efforts could mean for the industry as it faces financial woes and increasing political headwinds.

Tags Joe Biden Joe Manchin
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