Yellen vows to use 'full power' of U.S. government to tackle climate change

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government will marshal all of its resources to address climate change as the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Tuesday, as she stressed that the poor suffer the most from climate change.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Treasury Secretary-designate Janet Yellen in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., December 1, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis

President Joe Biden has tasked the Treasury Department with using the “vote and voice” of the United States to advance emissions reduction goals, and working to end international financing of carbon-intensive fossil-fuel-based energy sources.

Yellen underscored her focus on tackling climate change and reducing global poverty in a meeting with Christian and Jewish religious leaders and Jubilee USA Network, a non-profit that advocates for debt relief, according to a Treasury statement.

She “stressed that the global poor are the least responsible for climate change, but will suffer most from it,” Treasury said. “She noted that the Administration is committed to using the full power of the U.S. federal government to address climate change as part of the Build Back Better plan.”

Yellen said the pandemic had accelerated global economic inequality, and low-income countries would need continued international support to address the COVID-19 crisis.

The United States would work with international partners to tackle the crisis, including through support of a Group of 20 debt moratorium and adoption of a common framework to help countries restructure their debts, she said.

Yellen also said she saw a potential new allocation of the International Monetary Fund’s emergency reserves, or Special Drawing Rights, as part of a broader package of assistance to low-income countries, but gave no details.

Yellen’s support, first announced last month, reversed the opposition of the Trump administration, paving the way for a likely SDR allocation this year. U.S. support is critical because it is the IMF’s largest shareholder.

Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA Network, said the discussion made clear that climate policies were a growing focus of the G7 and G20 major economies.

“Treasury is looking at climate issues in very deep ways,” he said.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Leslie Adler