EXCLUSIVE: U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and GOP senators continued to butt heads over allegations the Biden administration directed banks to make energy-related lending commitments.
In a letter sent Thursday to Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., Kerry denied GOP claims that the Biden administration deterred lending to, and investment in, lawful energy companies.
"At no point have any financial institutions been pressured into making extralegal commitments," Kerry wrote. "Financial institutions, including 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."
Toomey is calling Kerry's bluff.
"Mr. Kerry’s response is disappointing but unsurprising," Amanda Thompson, spokesperson for Senate Banking Committee Republicans, told FOX Business.
"The only global warming-related risk for financial institutions is the Biden administration’s effort to choke off capital and credit to energy companies. As Sen. Toomey has said before, this movement isn’t grounded in science, but is instead a self-fulfilling prophesy: claim there are financial risks with disfavored investments, and then use woke, unelected financial regulators to ban or limit funding for those activities."
A report out last month that indicated Kerry had privately asked banks to make climate-friendly lending commitments that Biden could announce at his recent Earth Day summit, where he hosted 40 world leaders and made commitments to lower U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 50% before the end of the decade.
Still, Kerry insists Wall Street's commitment to a greener planet has been underway for quite some time.
A shift toward environmental, social and corporate governance investing has in recent years emerged on Wall Street with firms including J.P. Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and BlackRock among those promoting the trend, Kerry noted. Financial institutions since at least 2014 have been setting targets for "green" finance.
In his letter, Kerry pushed back against GOP concerns over an executive order set to be signed by Biden that requires publicly traded companies to disclose non-material information on global warming, noting that U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Gary Gensler said investors increasingly want to see climate risk disclosures and decide what is "material" to them.
Kerry said the administration is highlighting "green" finance commitments in public communications in order to make investors aware about economic opportunities in a net-zero carbon economy.
He also said climate risk disclosures are gaining traction in the United Kingdom and European Union and that the U.S. must act quickly to ensure American investors are not at a "competitive disadvantage."
"Mr. Kerry’s argument is because Europe is harming economic growth, we need to do it too?" Thompson asked.
Biden has made fighting climate change a top issue of his administration during his first 100 days in office, including signing a number of executive orders to "transition" the U.S. economy away from fossil fuels.
Included in those orders were canceling the Keystone XL pipeline’s permit, temporarily banning new permits and leases for oil and gas drilling on federal lands and waters, and rejoining the 2016 Paris climate agreement, among other things.