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Biden sparks environmentalist row over top economic pick Brian Deese

Josh Marcus
·2-min read
<p>Joe Biden </p> (AFP via Getty Images)

Joe Biden

(AFP via Getty Images)

President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday officially tapped Brian Deese, a former Obama administration official who helped negotiate the Paris climate accords, to be his top economic adviser. It’s a move he said would put a focus on climate change, but some environmentalists aren’t convinced Mr Deese, who worked for asset manager BlackRock, is green enough for the job.

“Brian is among the most tested and accomplished public servants in the country — a trusted voice I can count on to help us end the ongoing economic crisis, build a better economy that deals everybody in, and take on the existential threat of climate change in a way that creates good-paying American jobs," Mr Biden said in a statement.

Mr Deese, picked to direct the National Economic Council, also helped the Obama administration with its auto industry rescue package during the financial crisis.

Following his time in the White House, he moved on to BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, where he was head of sustainable investing. His selection won the endorsement of prominent environmentalists like former vice president Al Gore and senator Ed Markey, one of the authors of the Green New Deal legislation.

Still, other environmentalists like the Sunrise Movement, a prominent group of young climate activists, expressed skepticism over Mr Deese. BlackRock, despite its sustainable investment efforts, also holds stakes in energy companies which contribute to climate change.

Climate journalist Kate Aronoff has argued that environmentalists should be wary of Mr Deese and his time at BlackRock.

The firm won praise for committing in January to focus more on climate change, but this, according to Ms Aronoff, is an "object lesson in greenwashing." As part of its sustainability efforts, BlackRock joined an investor coalition called Climate Action 100+, but has voted down 10 of the 12 climate-rated shareholder resolutions the coalition identified as important.

During his time in the Obama administration, Mr Deese also partially defended Arctic oil drilling and celebrated expanded fossil fuel production in the US.

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