Several dozen climate activists gathered Thursday outside the Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park, where the Federal Reserve held its annual Jackson Hole Economic Policy Symposium until Saturday. The event is one of the most important conferences for economists and central bankers around the world, and it has come under even greater scrutiny this year as record high inflation continues to hurt the US economy.
Chanting slogans such as “Hey hey, ho ho, fossil fuels gotta go,” activists came out to deliver a clear message to Fed leaders.
“We would like to see stronger action from the Fed to get banks to limit their funding of fossil fuels,” said Emily Park, 350.org’s Fossil Free Federal Reserve campaign organizer. “Since the Paris climate agreement, 4.6 trillion dollars have been invested in the financing of fossil fuels. [which went into effect in 2016]and the banks show that they are not going to stop unless an external force compels them, because they care above all about their profits.
Park and other speakers said Thursday the Fed should use its power to discourage banks from investing in fossil fuels and encourage investment in the communities hardest hit by climate change, namely low-income Americans. and people of color.
“Who are you fighting for? I’m fighting here for my son,” said Patricia Garcia-Nelson, a Colorado fossil fuel just transition advocate for the national environmental organization GreenLatinos. “I’m fighting here for the 1.6 million Latinos across the United States who live within half a mile of an oil and gas operation.”
Members of the Jackson Hole chapter of the national Sunrise youth movement for climate action also joined Thursday’s protest. Organizers Miles Yazzolino and Anna Kerr discussed the origins of the Jackson Hole conference and the recent local impacts of climate change.
“The Federal Reserve started having this meeting here in Jackson in 1982…in their literature they said, ‘DC is so hot this time of year, it’s miserable,’” Yazzolino said. “So they decided to move to Jackson for the symposium because you could still fish, it was cold enough to keep fishing the waters, [it’s a] Beautiful place.”
“But what they came here to enjoy — the hiking, the fishing, the beautiful mountain views — is sadly changing,” Kerr added during his address to the crowd. “Last summer, smoke from historic wildfires in California and the Pacific Northwest completely blanked out the Tetons. Sweltering heat and continued drought depleted streams and river levels, and the fishing had to stop at the beginning of the afternoon.
Although activists were not allowed to congregate or demonstrate inside the lodge, 350.org’s Park said she hoped their presence would remind academics and bureaucrats at the conference that everyday Americans are “more than data points on a spreadsheet”.
“We are real people suffering real economic consequences, and we are going to suffer even more than we already are. [from] the financial effects of the climate crisis,” Park said. “There is no greater threat to our financial system than the climate crisis.”
For his part, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell appeared to acknowledge the pain Americans are feeling from inflation — he used the word twice in his conference address on Friday, according to CNN. Analysts interpreted Powell’s speech to mean the Fed is willing to raise interest rates again at its September meeting to rein in rising costs.
Advocates would like to see the Fed follow the lead of some of its peer institutions like the European Central Bank, which are already integrating climate risk into their monetary policy.
KHOL’s Hanna Merzbach contributed reporting for this story.