Just over three months ago, Mark Gallogly was brought in to be an advisor to John Kerry, President Biden’s climate envoy. But the appointment was a controversial one.
Kerry has stated that his advisor made invaluable connections with the financial sector to persuade banks and asset managers of the need for climate action. However, it was Gallogy’s background in private equity, which supposedly made him so suited for the role, that caused serious concern.
Gallogly co-founded the private equity and hedge fund group Centerbridge Partners. Centerbridge owns stock and bonds in the Pacific Gas & Electric Company which caused massive wildfires in California in 2018, and profited from climate destruction in the state.
Nearly 150 US organisations, many part of the Stop the Money Pipeline (STMP) coalition, wrote to President Biden to express their outrage at his appointment. With 16 years at Blackstone, the world’s largest private equity firm and major investor in fossil fuels, under his belt, STMP members were worried Gallogly would pave the way for weaker requirements for financial companies, allowing them to continue greenwashing their way out of any serious commitments.
US campaign group Oil Change International also ran adverts on the New York Times website. Even a major business news website, Business Insider, described his appointment as “a rat’s nest of potential ethical problems”.
Those concerns appear to have been heard. Even though Gallogly wasn’t planning to be part of the administration long-term, his departure seems very premature. And it’s a victory for the climate movement to have someone so intimately connected with the financial sector removed from decision-making.
Financial companies have their role to play in addressing the climate crisis, by ending their support for fossil fuels and other destructive activities. But they can’t have a role in setting their own rules, otherwise all we’ll see are more voluntary pledges and vague deadlines.