March 10, 2023

Senator Warren Urges Treasury Secretary to Use Climate Hub to Take Swift, Aggressive Action on Climate Risks

“Treasury must develop a bold agenda to address the climate crisis, address the risks posed to the financial system, and guide the transition to a clean energy economy.”

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), along with Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen following Climate Counselor John Morton’s departure and urging Treasury to take swift and aggressive action to tackle the climate crisis, which threatens our health, security, and financial system. 

In April 2021, Treasury announced the formation of a Climate Hub and the appointment of Mr. Morton as Climate Counselor to prioritize the administration’s broad range of climate-related policies. With Mr. Morton’s departure from the Department in December of last year,  the lawmakers are raising concern over the inactivity of the Climate Hub during his tenure.

“Given this Treasury and Climate Hub inactivity, we write to learn about how you plan to reposition and reinvigorate the Hub in order to support the Biden administration’s ‘whole-of-government approach to climate change,’” wrote the lawmakers. “We are therefore seeking information on the progress made by Counselor Morton in the 20 months he was in this role, and on your plans for the Climate Hub and the Climate Counselor position moving forward.”

On May 20, 2021, President Biden signed an Executive Order (EO) on climate-related financial risk and directed the Treasury Secretary to engage with other members of the Financial Stability Oversight Committee (FSOC) “to integrate consideration of climate-related financial risk in their policies and programs.” However, the letter raises concerns that FSOC has not taken strong action on climate issues.

“Given Treasury’s leadership position in FSOC, the Department and the Climate Hub must do more to mobilize our financial regulators to implement strong guidelines to ensure that banks and financial institutions are adequately prepared for climate-related financial disruptions,” wrote the lawmakers.

President Biden’s EO also instructed Treasury to use its leadership at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to “promote financing programs, economic stimulus packages, and debt relief initiatives that are aligned with and support the goals of the Paris Agreement.” However, since January 2021, the IMF Board has “approved several reports and loan programs that endorse or enable fossil fuel expansion.”

“Treasury must use the United States’ power as majority shareholder to end the IMF’s role in the expansion of fossil fuels, and guide the body towards policies that support climate action,” wrote the lawmakers. 

The lawmakers have asked Secretary Yellen to provide information to better understand the Climate Hub’s work and the Department’s plans for the future of the Climate Counselor role no later than March 23, 2021. 

“With Counselor Morton’s departure from the role, it is all the more important to assess the role of the Climate Hub over the past 22 months and to ensure that the next Climate Counselor is more effective in carrying out the Hub’s crucial responsibilities,” concluded the lawmakers. “Treasury must develop a bold agenda to address the climate crisis, address the risks posed to the financial system, and guide the transition to a clean energy economy.”

This letter was endorsed by Public Citizen, Americans for Financial Reform, and Friends of the Earth. “Treasury must play a critical role in meeting the Biden administration goals for mitigating climate risk and advancing the transition to a greener economy. Secretary Yellen’s inaction falls short of the administration’s vision,” said David Arkush, Director of Public Citizen’s Climate Program. “With a few exceptions, Treasury has failed to say or do enough, either via the Climate Hub or in Secretary Yellen’s role as chair of the Financial Stability Oversight Council. As implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act’s green policy mandates take center stage, 2023 is an opportunity for the agency to change course and choose a Climate Counselor who will be a strong leader on these critical priorities.”

Senator Warren has long fought to push financial regulators to act on climate and climate financial risk:

  • In March 2023, Senators Elizabeth Warren, Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Representatives Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and 47 of their colleagues sent a letter to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Gary Gensler, urging him to protect investors and finalize a strong climate disclosure rule without further delay.
  • In September 2022, at a hearing of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, Senator Warren called on SEC Chair Gary Gensler to protect investors and stand up to fossil fuel lobbying by issuing a strong climate risk disclosure rule quickly.
  • In June 2022, Senator Warren led a comment letter with Senators Whitehouse and Schatz on the SEC’s mandatory climate disclosure rule, highlighting several areas for improvement and key elements that the SEC should preserve in its final rule, including strong Scope 3 emissions disclosure requirements.
  • In March 2022, Senator Warren led a letter with Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) urging the SEC to require disclosure of anti-climate lobbying activities in the Commission’s rule.
  • In February 2022, Senator Warren led a letter to the SEC about the delayed release of the SEC’s proposed climate change disclosure rule, urging them to act quickly to get a rule out.
  • In August 2021, Senators Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) sent a letter to John Morton – the first Climate Counselor at the new Climate Hub at the U.S. Department of the Treasury – urging swift and aggressive action to tackle the climate crisis, a major threat to the country’s health, security, and financial system.
  • On May 27, 2021, Senator Warren and Congressman Andy Levin (D-Mich.) introduced the Buy Green Act to use the enormous breadth of U.S. federal procurement to help fight the climate crisis, spur innovation, and boost demand for American-made clean energy products at home and in the rapidly-growing markets for green products abroad.
  • On May 27, 2021, Senator Warren and Congressman Andy Levin (D-Mich.) introduced the National Institutes of Clean Energy Act of 2021, legislation that would invest $400 billion over the next ten years to establish and operate a new system of institutes at the Department of Energy dedicated to research and development (R&D) of advanced clean energy technologies.
  • On April 15, 2021, she and Representative Sean Casten (D-Ill.) reintroduced the Climate Risk Disclosure Act of 2021 which would reduce the chances of environmental and financial catastrophe by requiring public companies to disclose more information about their exposure to climate-related risks.
  • On March 18, 2021, Senator Warren unveiled the BUILD GREEN Infrastructure and Jobs Act which would invest $500 billion over ten years in state, local, and tribal projects to jumpstart the transition to all electric public vehicles and rail and help modernize the nation's crumbling infrastructure.