May 14, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Kerry: Banks aren't "pressured" on CO2 pledges

John Kerry is denying GOP allegations that he's putting inappropriate pressure on banks to change their financing practices to address climate change.

Why it matters: Banking giants are pledging to steer more capital into clean energy and other climate-friendly projects, and urging industrial clients to cut emissions.

  • But that's drawing the ire of some Republicans.
  • Kerry's back-and-forth with the GOP is part of wider tensions over Biden administration moves to steer Wall Street practices on finance and disclosure.

What they're saying: "We would like to reassure you that at no point have any financial institutions been pressured into making extralegal commitments," Kerry said in a recent letter to GOP Rep. Andy Barr.

Catch up fast: Dozens of House Republicans, in an April 21 letter to Kerry, alleged he's pressing banks to make "radical, overly prescriptive commitments...that may not be in the best interest of their businesses, shareholders, employees or customers."

  • The letter was led by Barr, the top Republican on the oversight panel of the House Financial Services Committee.
  • He pressed Kerry at a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday (skip ahead to 2 hours, 30 minutes here).
  • "They have felt pressure from your office," Barr said.

Yes, but: Kerry's April 28 response letter says banks and asset managers "make their own decisions based on where they see risk and opportunity, and recent, voluntary announcements reflect their own views about where these institutions believe demand for financing will be in the future."

Go deeper