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Bezos hosted Treasury officials to discuss private sector climate action: FOIA documents show

The meetings, uncovered by Protecting the Public’s Trust, highlight role of some private sector leaders in forwarding climate agenda.

Published: May 15, 2024 11:00pm

Newly revealed documents obtained by a watchdog group show that Amazon founder, multibillionaire, and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos hosted an event bringing together international bureaucrats, a liberal foundation, and senior Treasury Department officials at his palatial Washington, D.C. home to advance “Climate Action” efforts.

The event shows how Bezos has used his convenient capital city location and private foundation to help the Biden Administration advance its climate goals by galvanizing private finance through grants.

The Spring 2022 event—recorded in Treasury Department ethics filings and obtained by Protect the Public’s Trust through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and reviewed by Just the News—was held to coincide with the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington, D.C. and facilitate the Treasury’s relationship with those groups.

The dinner was called “Catalyze Finance for Climate Action and Economic Development,” according to the document. The records show two senior Treasury officials, Deputy Secretary Wally Adeyemo and Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for International Markets Alexia Latortue attended the dinner discussion which was held on April 22, 2022. Other attendees included “Ambassadors, Finance Ministers, NGOs including the IMF/WB, and Government officials,” according to Adeyemo’s filing. In other words, the attendees were the most powerful individuals in global finance.

Sponsoring the event alongside Bezos—who organized it through his Bezos Earth Fund—were the U.N. Climate Change Conference COP 26 and The Rockefeller Foundation. The Earth Fund and Rockefeller previously formed the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP) with the IKEA Foundation to further efforts to harness private capital for the climate change transition according to U.N. goals.

According to the disclosure forms, the value of the dinner was between $25 and $50.

You can read the disclosure forms below:

“Farcical meal value estimates aside, senior Treasury officials who were sensitive to the appearance of impropriety would give stately Bezos Manor a wide berth. He's one of the wealthiest men in the world who's made no secret of his policy agenda, and who owns a Biden-friendly newspaper,” Michael Chamberlain, The Director of Protect the Public’s Trust told Just the News.

“Meanwhile, Americans cringe every time they go grocery shopping or fill up their gas tanks. This is an administration sorely out of touch with public perception. At this rate, it will be a long time before Americans regain trust in their government.”

The Treasury Department did not respond to a request for comment from Just the News on Wednesday.

Ultimately, Adeyemo and Latortue’s attendance at the dinner was approved by the internal reviewer under the “Widely Attended Gathering (WAG)” exception. The reviewer also determined their attendance did not violate the Biden Ethics Pledge because the sponsors were “confirmed not to engage in lobbying activity.”

However, Protecting the Public’s Trust says this appears not to be the case. The Bezos Earth Fund’s website indicates that the group does engage in some form of lobbying or public advocacy.

“For each of [the 50 key climate transitions goals] we try to identify how close they are to positive tipping points, and what are the barriers that we could help remove to cross these tipping points. Sometimes this will involve investing in basic research; sometimes through demonstrating success in pilot projects; sometimes through public policy design and lobbying; sometimes through monitoring and transparency,” the organization says of its approach.

The Bezos Earth Fund was founded in 2020 by Jeff Bezos "with the goal of combatting the climate crisis and driving a nature-positive future.” Its $10 billion grant commitment is closely related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, with the organization promising to disperse the funds by 2030, in line with the U.N.’s deadline for climate action.

The group is “focused on harnessing the best available science and assessing political, economic, social, and technological factors to identify barriers and opportunities where our support will have maximum impact.”

From the beginning, the fund has focused on encouraging private institutions and capital to adopt climate goals to achieve what the government could not on its own.

One area that the Bezos Earth Fund identified is helping private financial institutions develop net-zero commitments, which the Treasury Department applauded as congruent with its own Principles for Net-Zero Financing & Investment in a press release. The press release commended the Earth Fund along with other partners for investing $340 million in helping financial institutions implement net-zero commitments that aligned with the Treasury’s principles.

This press release came in September 2023, a little more than one year after the two senior treasury officials attended the dinner at Bezos’ mansion and discussed catalyzing finance for taking action on climate change.

The Rockefeller Foundation has also heavily committed to the cause, last year promising over $1 billion in investments to advance the climate change transition and labeled “finance” as one of its core areas.

Last year, the Bezos Earth Fund and The Rockefeller Foundation partnered with another government agency, the State Department, to form the High-Level Consultative Group and collaborated on a “joint initiative to catalyze private capital to accelerate the transition from fossil fuel to clean power in developing countries,” called the Energy Transition Accelerator.

The aim of the group, much like the Bezos Earth Fund’s close cooperation with the Treasury Department, is to boost private sector support for the climate transition and achieving net-zero emissions goals.

In fact, since the beginning of the Biden’s presidency, his supporters in business have worked closely with his administration to encourage the private sector to support the ambitious climate change goals, CNBC reported in May 2021. Biden’s plans included trillions in infrastructure spending and electric vehicle investments.

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