Open Senate Seat Highlights Need and Opportunity for Climate Leadership

An interesting intersection. somervilletom points out in the comments: "One of the reasons apartheid was stopped in South Africa was the success by activist groups in making it toxic to do business with South Africa." And indeed, the fossil fuel campus divestment campaign is doing exactly the same thing ... - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

What do Elizabeth Warren, Barney Frank, and Ed Markey have in common?  The obvious answer has to do with the US Senate. The not so obvious reality is an opportunity to accelerate the shift from fossil fuel-based energy to renewable alternatives in collaboration with big banks.

What do big banks have to do with climate change? Two words: financed emissions. Rainforest Action Network (RAN) published a recent report that makes the connection clear:

The banking sector accelerates global climate change through its ‘financed emissions,’ the greenhouse gas emissions induced by bank loans, investments, and financial services…banks that finance coal-fired electric utilities or fossil fuel producers bear co-responsibility for the massive quantities of greenhouse gases emitted by these companies. Major banks therefore have financed emissions footprints that are much larger than their operational climate impacts and expose them to both reputational and financial risks.

In other words, big banks are keeping the most polluting energy companies afloat – and, so far, have prevented the least polluting alternatives from growing to meaningful scale. As the RAN report clarifies, banks can enlist in a program through the World Resources Institute to both measure current emissions stemming from financing, and set reduction targets. By working across the public and private sector, lawmakers and financial institutions can speed up the transition.

It’s not that there aren’t wind, solar, and geothermal options or efficiency incentives on the table, but banks don’t generally favor these over century-old technologies like coal. Much of the money that could finance the renewables—and the infrastructure needed for their widespread use–is tied up in the wrong investments.

Massachusetts is home to several of the top executives of the largest bank in the country – and the leading financier of the U.S. coal industry – Bank of America. If the company took a leadership role in addressing its financed emissions, other institutions would follow suit.

As both popular and political discussions in the U.S. finally move away from whether or not climate change is happening to which climate policies to adopt, the economics of climate change must remain front and center. Anyone claiming to be a responsible public servant will need to do just that.

We have no time to waste. When it comes to taking to bold actions to shift our economy away from fossil fuels, we need leaders like Warren, Frank and Markey, who can support solutions to keep the largest banks in check and end the legacy of propping up old energy infrastructure that poses threats to our communities.

Constituents are certainly giving their blessing.  Americans across generations are volunteering for campaigns, speaking out at rallies and sitting-in, all to demand climate accountability from our elected-leaders and corporate executives. With the prospect of shiny new Massachusetts leadership and an urgent need to move climate action forward in Washington, we may be in luck.

We have all the right people in position to take these initiatives forward.  Consider Warren as the big bank watchdog, Frank as the big bank insider, and Markey as the climate champion. We have assembled an all-star cast to lead the charge on reducing the disruptions from an unstable climate and work toward transformative policies for a sustainable economy.

Imagine what can happen if Senator Warren teams up with both an interim Senator Frank and a Senator-elect Markey, particularly around holding banks accountable for their climate-forcing role.  Now imagine what you can do to back them up.

Recommended by somervilletom.


8 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Analogous to apartheid

    One of the reasons apartheid was stopped in South Africa was the success by activist groups in making it toxic to do business with South Africa.

    Bank of America is already struggling to recover from largely deserved consumer hostility. We can highlight the eagerness of this corporation to invest in companies that are literally killing us and our progeny, and make such investments socially toxic. In so doing, we surely strengthen the leverage of our elected representatives in their effort to do the right thing.

  2. If Ed Markey is so great

    why not name Ed Markey as interim Senator?

    • Interim senator...

      …can’t run in the election. Better to have Markey for the rest of Kerry’s term than for just a few months.

      • Well

        He or she technically can run, but the Governor’s request is that whomever he appoints does not.

        I think that Franks idea of a relay team makes a lot of sense. Frank gets to have a swan song as a Senator, first gay Senator, and will do a lot of good work on financial matters. He is obviously too tired of the political process to run himself, and its doubtful he’d be as strong statewide as Markey. Hence he passes the torch to Markey who builds on that legacy and does great work on climate change and other legislative priorities in a tag team with Warren working on banking reform.
        Seems pretty awesome to me, the Howie Carrs of the world can call it hackery or undemocratic but the voters will affirm it was a great idea.

        • Tammy Baldwin

          is the first gay senator.

          • Yes and no

            First LGBT Senator yes, technically gay refers to males but ill concede its also an umbrella term for LGBT. In any case, first gay make Senator and I can think of no one more deserving of that honor.

        • Stupid wasted motion

          If Markey’s the guy everyone wants, naming him interim senator without the restriction of skipping the special election would give him a HUGE advantage in the special election, no? This would also preempt most, if not all, other primary challengers.

          Why all the fuss about Barney Frank? If progressives want Markey, name him now and skip all the legacy and torch-passing BS.

        • I stand corrected

          thank you.

          But if Markey is appointed interim, then the House delegation is down one for that same period unless another special or interim, and the whole domino effect. Barney is a free agent right now.

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