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Colorado 350 had 60 to 70 people along with representatives from other states at the Federal Reserve’s annual meeting in Jackson Hole. What did they hope to accomplish?


Call it a working vacation. Some 60 to 70 people from Colorado traveled to Jackson Hole in late August to make their case for a stronger role in federal fiscal policy in shrinking investments in fossil fuels.

Every summer, many of the nation’s top fiscal policy makers as well as prominent central bankers and others gather at the Jackson Hole Economic Symposium. This year’s session was particularly prominent given the jitters about inflation.

Members of tried to get on the agenda. They sort of did so when, on the eve of the conference, five people from the Colorado delegation dined at a table adjacent to that of Jerome Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, the agency tasked with managing U.S. monetary policy, regulating bank holding companies and other member banks, and monitoring systemic risk in the financial system.

At the restaurant, the members waited until Powell had finished and was leaving, then asked for a brief audience with him to express their concerns. He declined.

Then, during the next two days of the conference, the 125 plus climate protestors from Colorado, Wyoming, and other states assembled at the Jackson Lake Lodge with placards, almost entirely homemade, to express their concerns. Some delegates agreed to take literature from the groups.

Deborah McNamara, the communications and development director at 350 Colorado, said the trip to Jackson Hole was part of 350’s strategy of attempting to draw attention to a fundamental task needed to transition from fossil fuels.



Top: Micah Parkin, who directs Colorado 350, speaks to protestors at the Jackson Lake Lodge. Above, on the road to the conference. Photos/©Christian O’Rourke

“About 60 banks have funded fossil fuels to the tune of $4.6 trillion since the Paris climate agreement was reached in 2015,” she said, and the majority of those banks are in the United States. Given their continued financing of fossil fuel extraction, has mounted the campaign called Fossil Free Federal Reserve.

“We want the Federal Reserve to use their supervisory and regulatory authority to direct the banks to shift their investments practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” she added.

What will constitute success? It’s a matter of showing up and reminding those in power that there is “actually a role to be played by all of us, but in this case the role of the Federal Reserve.” That body has policy that governs “the way our economy runs and the way money flows, and it is not separate from the climate crisis,” she explained.

In its story about the protests, Reuters explained the situation in this way:

“The Fed has long shied away from wading into climate matters, a hot-button U.S. political issue. It was the last major central bank, for instance, to join the Network for Greening the Financial System. Peers like the Bank of England and European Central Bank perform annual climate stress tests on the banks in their jurisdictions.

The U.S. central bank instead has focused on understanding the risks climate change and the transition away from fossil fuels pose to the economy. But it has largely ruled out a more aggressive role in driving investment toward green energy, as the ECB has begun to do, and as activists would like.

That is in line with many Republican members of Congress who balk at the prospect of the Fed taking an active role in mitigating climate risks. Activists and some Democrats feel such a stance should at least be under consideration.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell has also indicated the Fed is exploring how banks can cope with climate risks like rising temperatures and weather disasters, including developing climate stress scenarios already in use by other central banks.

Any focus on climate will work with the Fed’s mandates to achieve maximum employment and price stability, Powell has said.

Colorado 350 has 20,000 members in Colorado assigned to four chapters along the Front Range and one chapter in the Western Slope’s Roaring Fork Valley. About a third of the members in Colorado live outside the Front Range.

It has members in each of Colorado’s top-10 counties for oil-and-gas production, a target of many of its protests at the State Capitol and elsewhere.

Allen Best
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