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Climate activists still demonstrate after Fed makes Jackson Hole economic symposium virtual

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Climate activist Lisa Widdekind was disappointed but not dissuaded by the lack of officials present Thursday at Jackson Lake Lodge.

“It’s too bad we didn’t have the opportunity to speak with them directly,” she told the Jackson Hole Daily. “But we’re hoping that because people are paying attention to economic news at this juncture, people will be able to get the word out.”

The word, in this case, was a handful of demands from and the local Sunrise Movement, climate advocacy groups that want to see President Biden replace Jerome Powell as chair of the Federal Reserve, the United States’ central bank.

Climate activists and progressive Democrats are pushing to remove Powell, a moderate Republican appointed by former President Donald Trump, and replace him with someone like Fed governor Lael Brainard. The hope on the left is to find a “candidate who is focused on tight financial regulation, climate change and digital money,” according to the New York Times. Powell’s supporters see him as a champion of full employment — one of the central bank’s dual mandates — and want Biden to reward his steady leadership.

Activists on Thursday also called for progressive climate- and socially focused changes in how the Fed operates, like using its regulatory authority to phase out the banking industry’s financing of fossil fuels while encouraging investments that would limit climate change.

“The Federal Reserve is basically the regulator of the big banks, and they have the power — should they choose — to set policy that would start to divest from fossil fuels and start to invest in solutions,” said Micah Parkin, executive director of 350 Colorado.

Bloomberg Green reported that the action at Jackson Lake Lodge would “mark an inflection point for the broader climate movement as it refocuses its attention from the bipartisan infrastructure package and the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion spending proposal to the fight over the Fed chair.” Demonstrators were set to line the roadways in Grand Teton National Park from the airport to Jackson Lake Lodge.

But the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, which hosts the annual economic policy symposium in Jackson Hole, decided to make the event virtual this year due to rising COVID-19 caseloads from the infectious delta variant. That meant the 120 or so bankers, economists and Federal Reserve officials that usually attend weren’t present — or were, at least, watching the symposium online and not on the back porch overlooking Jackson Lake where activists demonstrated.

And the turnout wasn’t what activists originally intended. About 17 people, rather than 80 or so, showed up to film a video making their demands. They wore masks that said “End fossil fuel finance” and held signs that said “We need a climate leader Fed chair,” while people ate on the balcony above and a few curious onlookers watched from the sidelines.

Afterward, those who came from Colorado planned to make a vacation of their trip to Jackson Hole.

See page 18 for a story on Powell’s speech Friday to the virtual symposium.