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Press Release

US Voters Support Strong Government and Corporate Action to Curb Wall Street's Climate Impacts

Voters want the federal government to play an active role in reducing Wall Street’s impact on the climate and preventing climate-fueled economic crises.
WASHINGTON -

Today, a new set of polling released by Data for Progress shows that US voters overwhelmingly support the federal government taking strong action to curb the climate impact of Wall Street in order to prevent economic crises driven by the financing of fossil fuels and other risky, high-emitting sectors.

The polling shows that voters want the Biden administration to apply its “whole-of-government” approach — including action by the Treasury Department, the SEC, the Federal Reserve, and other financial regulators—to implement climate finance reforms that prevent major US banks and other financial institutions from further exacerbating the climate crisis and its economic ramifications. 

Additionally, the polling shows that the vast majority US voters across demographic lines want more transparency about their bank or other financial institutions’ contributions to climate change, and they believe that Wall Street firms’ long-term climate pledges — such as the recent wave of “net zero by 2050” commitments — are not credible without concrete action plans. 

Key findings from the polling include:

  • A majority of voters (60 percent) agree the federal government should enforce more financial safeguards on big banks and insurers to prevent a future financial and economic crisis driven by climate change.
  • A majority of voters (62 percent) agree the government should enact mandatory climate risk disclosure rules, including both the risks financial institutions face from climate change and their contributions to that risk through their financing.
  • By a 35-percentage-point margin, voters prefer for the federal government to enforce climate risk disclosure rules rather than let Wall Street “self-regulate” their climate risk disclosures.
  • Nearly two-thirds of voters (63 percent) agree the Treasury and Federal Reserve should play an active role in protecting the financial system from a future financial crisis driven by climate change.
  • A majority of voters (62 percent) agree that banks making investments in industries that exacerbate climate change should also make investments in frontline communities.

More details from the poll are available HERE.

The new findings come as the Biden administration is reportedly finalizing an executive order to “develop a strategy on climate-related risks for public and private financial assets.” Members of the Biden administration, such as Treasury Secretary Yellen and Acting SEC Chair Lee, have begun to highlight climate change as a key financial risk issue. However, climate actions by US financial regulators have been minimal thus far, and several key climate finance positions still remain unfilled. 

Climate and financial reform advocates have put forward numerous policy recommendations in recent weeks and months, including, among others: Public Citizen and Americans for Financial Reform’s “Climate Roadmap for U.S. Financial Regulation” report, Evergreen Action’s five steps for SEC and Treasury, and Stop the Money Pipeline’s priorities for the Biden administration.

In response to the new polling data, members of the Stop the Money Pipeline coalition issued the following statements:

Ben Cushing, Financial Advocacy Campaign Manager, Sierra Club: “The American people have paid the price before when Wall Street's risky and destructive practices have gone unchecked, and they clearly don't want to do it again. The Biden administration has made bold climate commitments and indicated it will treat climate change as a financial risk issue; this new polling shows it also has the overwhelming support of US voters to act on these promises. There’s no time to waste.”

Moira Birss, Climate and Finance Director, Amazon Watch: “Climate policy has so far been left to markets, and now we’re in a climate crisis. It’s time that the US government take the reins back from Wall Street so we can assure the rapid, justice-centered decarbonization necessary for a livable planet.”

Erika Thi Patterson, Climate and Environmental Justice Director, Action Center on Race and the Economy: “Wall Street has been financing environmental racism and climate destruction in Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities for generations. We can’t trust these institutions to self-regulate us out of a climate crisis or to address decades of harm to frontline communities of color. The majority of voters want the federal government to stand up to Wall Street to protect front-line communities and our planet from further climate disaster.” 

Yevgeny Shrago, Policy Counsel, Public Citizen: “Banks, insurers and asset managers have been gambling with our health and our future for too long. Financial regulators have an obligation to use all of the tools that they already have to immediately start protecting the financial system and front-line communities from Wall Street’s contributions to climate chaos.”

Jason Opeña Disterhoft, Climate and Energy Senior Campaigner, Rainforest Action Network: “By a ratio of 2.5 to 1, Americans say that financial institutions’ 2050 commitments are ‘empty promises’ without a concrete action plan. Unless they start to immediately phase out their fossil and deforestation financing, banks’ 2050 pledges will continue to be met with fully justified skepticism.” 

Tracey Lewis, Senior Policy Analyst, 350.org: “It is clear, a majority of Americans want our Central Bank to do their job, and protect the economy from climate chaos. The people are tired of the Federal Reserve’s knee-jerk reflex of bailing out Wall Street, while dragging their feet on managing climate risk. It’s high-time for some meaningful action from the Fed.”

Dorothy Slater, Research Assistant, Revolving Door Project: “The American public has made clear it is hungry for legitimate financial regulation to confront the global climate crisis. Industry pressure on financial regulators to avoid inconvenient disruptions to their business models will be enormous, so we need strong climate leaders throughout the executive branch who are on the public’s side. Details are consequential here, and we can’t afford regulators who side with Wall Street over the planet.”

Further background:

Read the full polling memo from Data for Progress here.

Find shareable graphics of all the topline findings from Data for Progress here.

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