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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Wall Street got a front seat at President Biden's climate summit.

Why it matters: Banks, as financing gateways for other businesses, could help set the tone for the rest of corporate America. They're facing pressure — from world leaders, the United Nations, activists, you name it — to play their biggest role yet in greening the global economy.

Driving the news: Bank of America and Citigroup CEOs appeared at Thursday's summit — a nod to the role the administration sees banks playing in its efforts.

  • "Net zero [emissions] is very easy to say, but it’s going to be hard to do. Make no mistake about this, this is going to be really hard," Citi's Jane Fraser said.
  • The White House hasn't yet mandated anything on the climate front from the private sector — though regulators could move to mandate climate risk disclosures.

Background: Financial giants this week signed on to the industry's broadest climate change effort so far, as Axios' Ben Geman reports.

  • Some banks individually said their operations — including those it finances — would achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
  • This UN-backed alliance creates a global common framework to track and verify those emissions. Notably, some banks did not sign on, as Politco reports.

What they're saying: "This is a good business opportunity. We're not doing it because we're getting browbeaten into it," a bank executive involved with the alliance tells Axios of its climate efforts.

Yes, but: Climate activists want banks to go even bigger. Specifically, they want banks to stop financing fossil fuel. The new alliance stops short of calling for that.

Read Axios' Felix Salmon on why greed is green ... See the new climate pledges.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jul 30, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Climate and energy takeaways from the bipartisan infrastructure plan

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Senate's on the cusp of debating a big energy and climate package that says plenty about today's political and scientific moment.

Catch up fast: Text of the bipartisan infrastructure plan isn't out yet, but a summary in circulation and releases from lawmakers and the White House offer contours of the proposal.

Jul 30, 2021 - Podcasts

Suni Lee wins the gold

Yesterday in Tokyo, gymnast Sunisa Lee became the sixth U.S. woman to win an Olympic all-around gold. She’s the first Hmong American to not only win but compete at the Olympics.

  • Plus, how climate fares in the infrastructure deal.
  • And, U.S. GDP growth falls short of expectations.

Guests: Kare 11 News anchor Gia Wang, Axios' Ben Geman and Courtenay Brown.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at podcasts@axios.com. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

Go deeper:

Updated Jul 28, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on racial inequality

Today at 12:30pm ET, Axios co-founder and CEO Mike Allen and Axios Today host Niala Boodhoo discussed how leaders in their respective fields are working to achieve racial equity, how institutions are reckoning with their histories and what is being done to create lasting change, featuring Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), activist and scholar Rosa Clemente and Michelle Duster, author of Ida B. The Queen.

Rep. James E. Clyburn addressed the ongoing fight against systemic racism in America and the importance of a bipartisan path forward. 

  • On the debate over critical race theory in education: “This is a red herring. This is what people are trying to use in order to spread strife...I just think that that's where we are missing the mark, by not explaining to the American people that this is the truth.” 
  • On how the corporate world can advance equity: “I believe that the corporate world really drives so much of the economic activity that takes place in this country. And [it] ought to really play a role there and make sure that we do not allow the limiting of democracy...That's why you see a lot of corporate people in Georgia now stepping forward, saying we are not going to allow these [voter] laws that you pass to define what Georgia is all about.”

Michelle Duster spoke about her great-grandmother Ida B. Wells, discussing her legacy in journalism and speaking out against systemic racism.

  • On journalism as a tool to expose injustice: "If you decided to push the boundaries and try to fight for first class citizenship, there was pushback and ultimately violence. She exposed this reality that lynching was being used as a form of domestic terrorism."
  • On how using the truth sparks change: “You have to tell the truth in order to make change. We have to admit that there's a problem before we can solve it. She was using journalism as a way to shed light on the truth, she was using the truth as a weapon, really against these false narratives that were being used to justify violence that was being inflicted on the Black community. She truly believed that the truth would lead to justice.”

Rosa Clemente dove into the impact of racism in America and what can be done to advance progress on this front.

  • On the impact of the pandemic and the effect of racism on health outcomes: “We as Black and brown people have died disproportionate to the number of people [in the US.] I think it's important that people look at this pandemic because it has shown and shine a light on all the systemic injustices that are happening.”
  • On changing the narrative around allyship: “I don't need an ally. I need you to be an accomplice for justice. I need you to dedicate your life to ending white supremacy and white privilege. Not when it's trendy, not when it's easy, but at the times that it is hardest for a white person to do that. That is the time they should be doing that work.” 

Axios CEO & Co-founder Jim VandeHei hosted a View from the Top segment with secretary of the Smithsonian Lonnie G. Bunch III and global head of environmental, social and governance at Bank of America Andrew Plepler where they discussed Bank of America’s partnership with the Smithsonian.  

  • Lonnie G. Bunch III on the Smithsonian's role in addressing systemic racism: “We were devastated by the dual pandemics, the pandemic of racism and the unfairness in terms of health access...We thought it would be important for us to use our resources to create an opportunity for the American public to find a true understanding of its past and to find hope. So that's what we wanted to do, was to provide opportunities where people use a trusted brand of the Smithsonian to talk about issues, better understand issues of race, and to ultimately help us find that shared future.”
  • Andrew Plepler on Bank of America’s responsibility as a financial institution: “We view it as imperative to our role in society to address some of the great challenges that we face as a country, and we think that a financial institution absolutely can be a partner in examining those challenges and in deploying resources to address those challenges. And there are no two greater challenges today than climate and racial equality.”

Thank you Bank of America for sponsoring this event.