Photo Credit: @orourke_photo
Positive Money went to Jackson Hole, Wyoming in August for the annual economic event attended by key leaders from the U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve. We joined our partners (350 US, 350 Colorado, 350 Wisconsin, 350 Minnesota, Sierra Club WY, The Sunrise Movement and more) for three days of powerful and colourful actions calling on the Fed to protect our economy against a climate-fuelled crash.
Central bankers, economists, policy makers, academics and other officials from around the world gathered to discuss the state of the economy at the annual Jackson Hole Economic Symposium hosted in the richest county in America, Teton County.
For over a year, civil society groups, politicians, economists and activists across the U.S. have been demanding stronger action by the Fed to assess and address what is known as “climate-related financial risk.” These arise from the physical damages wrought by increasingly frequent and intense extreme weather events driven by a warming planet, and from the transition to clean energy we must undertake to stave off the worst impacts of climate change. The climate crisis is also adding significant inflationary pressures as extreme weather destroys infrastructure, jobs and supply-chains.
The consequences of not addressing these risks could be catastrophic, potentially materialising in a financial crash worse than 2008. And right now, major banks on Wall Street are pushing in the wrong direction by actively financing fossil fuels and therefore steering the financial system and the economy towards disaster. Still, we have seen little to no meaningful action by the Fed, one of the most powerful banking regulators tasked with promoting a healthy economy and regulating banks to keep the financial system stable.
So, we showed up at the gathering to tell the leaders of the Fed that they must centre climate change in their policy making priorities. Together, we staged powerful actions calling on the supervisor of our financial system to do what it is legally mandated to do: address climate-related financial risk, starting with reining in banks’ risky and reckless fossil fuel financing.
We stood holding banners along the main road in dispersed groups each separated by a mile all the way from the airport to the Jackson Lake Lodge, where the conference was held, to make sure attendees saw us as they drove to the lodge for the symposium. Our actions ensured that climate change made it into the media as a central demand. With credit to our partners, the rallies and events got a lot of coverage in the news: Reuters, Yahoo! Finance, NPR, AP, local media.
Included in the crowd of high profile attendees at Jackson was Chairman of the Fed, Jerome Powell, who has recently been in the news for fighting inflation with aggressive interest rate hikes — which we have argued is a terrible idea that will further hurt working communities. Powell’s speech at the conference was disappointing, and made no mention of climate change. Instead, he stuck to the book and prescribed more rate hikes even if it means causing pain to households and businesses, calling this the “unfortunate costs of reducing inflation.”
Chair Powell refused to talk with activists on the ground, despite multiple requests to discuss climate change, and its impacts on our economy and communities.
Under Powell’s leadership, the Fed has cemented its position as a climate laggard among major central banks. Given Powell’s speech at the symposium, his response to our requests to meet, and his willingness to keep jacking up interest rates, it’s obvious that our work does not end here. We must keep the pressure up to ensure that the Fed responds to climate risk, and helps steer the economy towards a more stable and sustainable future.
So thousands of us are coming together to keep up the pressure on the Fed, pushing it to do the right thing. We have launched a petition urging the Fed Board of Governors to follow the lead of two other regulatory agencies — The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) — and issue climate-related risk management principles for the large banks under its supervision.
The more of us who add our names, the more likely they’ll step up. Take one minute to add your name and tell the Fed: Stop banks’ fuelling climate chaos!
Positive Money thanks our partner 350 US for facilitating our participation in this action. The power of organising and taking collective, non-violent direct action must never be underestimated. So we’d like to thank 350 Colorado and others for the incredible organising that went behind putting together such a powerful and inspiring few days of actions, that no-doubt proved logistically difficult. We look forward to working with our partners in the future to continue to hold the Federal Reserve to account.