- President-elect Joe Biden has tapped Brian Deese to lead the National Economic Council.
- Deese has extensive experience in climate policy during the Obama administration, and Biden noted in a video that Deese will be the first NEC director who will is a “true expert on climate policy.”
- But some progressives have expressed concerns about Deese’s current role at BlackRock, the world’s largest investment manager where he has been the Global Head of Sustainable Living for three years.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
President-elect Joe Biden campaigned on tackling climate change while simultaneously creating jobs – and one of the latest picks for his administration shows his intent to intertwine environmental policy with economic.
On Thursday, Biden tapped Brian Deese as director of the National Economic Council. The Obama administration alum has been at turns hailed for orchestrating the Paris Climate Accord, but also drawn ire from progressive groups for his work with BlackRock, one of the world’s largest investors in fossil fuels.
The position does not require Senate confirmation.
Like many other notable key appointees and nominees to the incoming Biden administration, Deese worked for the Obama administration as senior advisor for climate and energy policy.
Deese was previously a policy director for the Obama campaign, then later a member of the economic policy working group of the Obama-Biden transition team. He also held roles in the Obama administration as deputy director of the Office of the Management and Budget, and as the deputy director of the National Economic Council.
Robert Stavins, a professor of energy and economic development at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where Deese was once a senior fellow, told Business Insider in a statement that Deese will bring “his abundant and diverse experience from the Obama administration to this new position as Director of the National Economic Council” and is an “excellent appointment.”
Though Biden didn’t fully embrace the progressive movement’s Green New Deal, this past summer he proposed to spend $2 trillion on climate-related initiatives, and listed climate change as one of the top priorities for the US.
Most recently, he announced a new position on climate change on the National Security Council, which former Secretary of State John Kerry will fill.
Environmental activists are skeptical of Deese’s decision to work at BlackRock
Biden noted in a video that Deese will be the first NEC director who is a “true expert on climate policy,” and said in a statement that Deese is a “trusted voice” to help “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.”
Deese echoed Biden’s sentiments, and said in a tweet that “the climate crisis, racial inequity, and our economic recovery are inextricably linked. Our government must reflect that reality-and that is the perspective I will bring to the National Economic Council.”
—Brian Deese (@BrianCDeese) December 3, 2020
But some progressive groups have expressed concerns about Deese’s current role at BlackRock, where he has been the Global Head of Sustainable Living for three years.
BlackRock is the largest investment manager in the world. The firm, which manages $7.8 trillion, has been scrutinized for its investments in fossil fuel companies. Last year, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said in a report that the company “continues to ignore the serious financial risks of putting money into fossil fuel-dependent companies,” Business Insider’s Sinéad Baker reported.
According to the report, BlackRock lost around $90 billion “due largely to ignoring global climate risk.”
Earlier this year, the CEO of BlackRock announced that the firm would emphasize climate change in its investment strategy. Noting that “investors are increasingly reckoning with these questions and recognizing that climate risk is investment risk,” the firm said it would exit investment from thermal coal producers. While some environmental activists lauded the decision as progress, others were skeptical of real change, Business Insider previously reported.
“He went to BlackRock because of the resources they had to address problems he cares about,” a staff member on the Biden-Harris transition team told Business Insider.
A spokesperson for BlackRock told Business Insider in a statement that Deese “has been instrumental to helping investors around the world understand the risks that climate change poses to the economy and to their portfolios.”
Deese is getting mixed reviews from some lawmakers and activists
Environmentalists are split on whether Deese’s time at BlackRock should warrant concern.
The Sunrise Movement Political Director Evan Weber criticized “the revolving door between Wall Street and the White House,” and said in a statement that “there are many diverse, qualified people that can help Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Build Back Better who didn’t choose to work at predatory investment firms.”
When asked about criticisms expressed by the Sunrise Movement, the staff member on the Biden-Harris transition team told Business Insider that a lot of the criticisms were “things that fall outside of his portfolio.”
One petition campaign called “No Corporate Cabinet” urged Deese to not be included in Biden’s cabinet, and said it “seems clear that Deese doesn’t care about climate change or the future of our country at all.”
Meanwhile, Deese has received support from some lawmakers and activists.
Sen. Ed Markey, who alongside Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez has been leading the push for a Green New Deal, said in a tweet on Thursday that Deese’s appointment meant there will be an “effective climate policy leader driving a climate-centered economic agenda.”
Bill McKibben, the founder of international environmental organization 350.org, said in a series of tweets that while he respects some of those who criticized Deese, that he himself did not think it’s “remotely correct” that Deese is “not progressive” or “doesn’t care about climate change.”
Deese did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on this story.