Secretary Statements & Remarks

Remarks by Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen at the Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action Event

As Prepared for Delivery

It’s great to be here with all of you. I want to thank our Coalition partners for their collaboration with us, including on this incredibly useful Guide. I am also grateful to my longtime friend, Lord Nicholas Stern, and the Grantham Institute for their work. Twenty-five years ago, I delivered my first speech warning about the dangers of climate change.

In the years since then, we have seen extreme weather events accelerate with alarming severity and frequency. Droughts, floods, hurricanes, and other climate-related events have had devastating impacts on lives and livelihoods. Beyond the chronic impacts of climate change, acute weather-related supply shocks can destabilize regional economies.

That’s why Treasury and the Biden Administration are pursuing important policies to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Examples include our Inflation Reduction Act clean energy investments, which will have positive spillovers across the world. They also include our Just Energy Transition Partnerships in our partner countries – along with our initiative to evolve the multilateral development banks to better address global challenges like the climate crisis. We are also considering ways to encourage private sector delivery of net-zero commitments and activities.

But these policies are not self-executing. Today, I want to focus not on policy but on something more personal to all of us: my own experience running a finance ministry – and how I have evolved our institutional structure to deliver on our shared climate goals.

There are three pillars of our work to highlight.

First: building the capabilities and capacity to act. From my first day in office, our climate work has been a top priority. We reflected this urgency in a number of foundational documents – from Treasury’s Strategic Plan to a Climate Action Plan that we released about six months after I entered office. These plans laid out a comprehensive set of objectives for Treasury over the coming years – along with top-to-bottom actions that we would take to meet them.

We also built the capacity to take on these additional responsibilities. We established a Climate Hub in the Department with a Climate Counselor who reports directly to me. This Hub is in charge of coordinating climate policy across all department offices. We also bolstered expert staff working on climate across our domestic and international affairs offices. We created a new leadership position on our economic analysis team dedicated to climate issues. And we established a new office to implement the landmark clean energy investments under the Inflation Reduction Act.

We also urged our offices to improve the data and tools that they use to assess climate risks. For example, our Federal Insurance Office has proposed a data collection from certain property and casualty insurers. This proposed collection would help Treasury assess the potential for major disruptions of private insurance coverage in regions that are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Second: we are creating the infrastructure to work with others. The U.S. Treasury has significant authorities to implement climate policies. But we cannot go at it alone. Meaningful climate action requires drawing on the best expertise.

At Treasury, that means economists working with scientists and engineers – as well as tax lawyers and other experts. New processes and structures – like advisory committees – have helped us collaborate with others in our own government, as well as the private sector and other stakeholders. And of course, we have redoubled our work internationally and infused climate into all of our bilateral and multilateral engagements. This includes joining important groups – like this very Coalition, where we have benefited from best practices and lessons learned from all of you.

Third: we must never forget that in addition to our responsibilities as finance ministers, we are also chief executives of large organizations. I lead around 100,000 dedicated public servants at Treasury and its bureaus. We have an opportunity to serve as a model for the rest of the nation and meet our respective government net-zero commitments. This means we must “walk the walk.” Treasury is reducing greenhouse gas emissions throughout our operations and transitioning our fleet to electric vehicles. We all have a role to play in the climate transition.

All across the world, we are seeing finance ministries take important institutional steps just like these. Every country confronts a unique set of circumstances. But we all share a common purpose: to mobilize action toward a net-zero world. The Coalition’s Guide is essential reading as each of us takes these significant strides.

I look forward to working with you on this – and so much more.

Thank you.