Biden Orders Assessment Of Climate Change on Economy

May 24, 2021 by Tom Ramstack
President Joe Biden

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden signed an executive order Thursday directing the Treasury Department to prepare a report on the financial risks to the U.S. economy from climate change.

The report is supposed to help the Biden administration target environmental investments to reduce the economic impact of greenhouse gases. It also advances Biden’s pledge to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by nearly half by 2030.

“The intensifying impacts of climate change present physical risk to assets, publicly traded securities, private investments and companies, such as increased extreme weather risk leading to supply chain disruptions,” the order says.

An explanation that accompanies the order says as long as energy systems are moving away from burning fossil fuels anyway, the United States should capitalize on the trend.

“This global shift presents generational opportunities to enhance U.S. competitiveness and economic growth, while also creating well-paying job opportunities for workers,” the order says. 

Biden announced his American Jobs Plan shortly after his inauguration in January as a $2.3 trillion economic stimulus program that would rely heavily on improving clean energy infrastructure.

One part of it proposes a $174 billion public investment to expand the electric vehicle market in a joint effort with automakers. Other parts would improve public transit.

On Friday, Biden downgraded his proposal from $2.3 trillion to $1.7 trillion as Republicans warned the bigger price tag would be inflationary.

However, he has not backed away from his pledge to more than double U.S. commitments under the 2015 Paris climate agreement to reducing greenhouse gases.

Last week, the International Energy Agency said in a new report that global temperatures will continue to rise without a dramatic shift away from fossil fuels.

“Climate pledges by governments to date – even if fully achieved – would fall well short of what is required to bring global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to net zero by 2050,” the report says.

Biden’s executive order reflected similar themes when it said, “We know that the climate crisis, whether through rising seas or extreme weather, already presents increasing risks to infrastructure, investments and businesses. Yet, these risks are often hidden.”

However, it also sounded upbeat about Biden’s environmental plans.

“The agency actions spurred by the president’s directive today will help safeguard the financial security of America’s families, businesses and workers from the climate related financial risks they are already facing,” a White House fact sheet accompanying the order said.

Beginning next year, the Biden administration is requiring the Office of Management and Budget to include climate risk in its financial projections.

In addition, large government contractors must disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and environmental risks they create. Government agencies are supposed to use the disclosures in making purchasing decisions.

Biden’s order reverses a Trump administration Labor Department policy that barred investment firms from considering environmental impacts in strategies for overseeing pensions and retirement funds.

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