U.S. Treasury names green financial adviser to new climate 'czar' post

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Treasury on Monday named climate change financial adviser John Morton to head the department’s new “climate hub,’ to foster green finance and use tax policy and financial risk assessments to help reduce carbon emissions.

FILE PHOTO: The United States Department of the Treasury is seen in Washington, D.C., U.S., August 30, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

Morton, a partner with Pollination Group, a specialist climate change advisory and investment firm, had served in the Obama administration White House as senior director for energy and climate change on the National Security Council.

He also served in senior positions at the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corp and has more than 25 years of experience in emerging markets, investment finance and economic and environmental policy, Treasury said.

As the Treasury’s ‘climate counselor’ Morton will report directly to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and advise her on a broad range of climate matters, in particular efforts to facilitate and unlock financing needed for investments to achieve ‘net zero’ carbon emissions, the Treasury said.

“Climate change requires economy-wide investments by industry and government as well as actions to measure and mitigate climate-related risks to households, businesses, and our financial sector,” Yellen said in a 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.”

At Pollination Group, Morton worked with “high ambition” companies that set corporate emission reduction and clean investment targets but didn’t have firm plans in place and helped them take concrete steps to match their pledges.

In an interview with Reuters earlier this year, Morton said that in order to mobilize more private capital to developing countries to help them transition to a lower-carbon economy, the United States should use its voice and influence through multilateral development banks to prioritize this and investor coalitions should apply more pressure.

“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,” he said.

The new Treasury climate czar joins several other high-profile positions within the Biden administration, including a White House climate policy team led by former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy and former Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kerry said earlier this month that President Joe Biden plans to issue an executive order here that will lead to greater disclosures of financial risks by companies and financial institutions to investors.

The Treasury said that in mobilizing financial resources to cut carbon emissions, the new climate hub would prioritize the expedited transition of high-emitting sectors and industries and would leverage tax and economic policies to support building climate resilient infrastructure.

The hub also will seek to understand and mitigate the risks that climate change poses to financial system stability and promote globally consistent approaches to assessing those risks, Treasury said.

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