Biden returns US to Paris Agreement and appoints proxy voting advocate

Allison Herren Lee takes the top regulatory job

Joe Biden has already shown his commitment to acting on climate change, bringing the US back into the Paris accord and appointing Allison Herren Lee as acting chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Just hours into his presidency on January 20, Biden wrote to the United Nations to start the 30-day process of re-joining the 2016 Paris Agreement to keep global warming below 2C compared with pre-industrial levels, with ambitions to limit this to 1.5C.

The US will re-enter the agreement after it became the first nation in the world to formally withdraw from the Paris climate agreement in November 2020 after a three-year delay.

In his inauguration speech, Biden said addressing the “climate in crisis” was a priority, and that “a cry for survival comes from planet itself”. 

On January 21, Biden appointed Herren Lee – one of two Democratic commissioners on the now-split SEC – to lead the securities regulator while Biden’s choice awaits confirmation by the Senate.

Acting chair Herren Lee, who has been an SEC commissioner since July 8, 2019, said: “It’s an honour to continue my service on the commission in this new role. I have tremendous respect for my colleagues on the commission and the exceptional staff across the agency and look forward to working closely with them. Together we will continue the agency’s work of protecting investors and ensuring market integrity.”

“During my time as commissioner, I have focused on climate and sustainability, and those issues will continue to be a priority for me,” she added.

Last year, Herren Lee was the only SEC commissioner to vote against controversial proxy voting regulations – which some of the largest investors warned would increase costs and complexity. On July 22 last year, the SEC voted 3-1 to pass the raft of new measures focusing on how investors and their investment managers vote the shares of companies held in their funds.

In her published comment responding to the pass, Herren Lee warned that the rules “harm the governance process and suppress the free and full exercise of shareholder voting rights”, leading shareholders to pay higher costs for less management accountability.

Last Updated: 22 January 2021
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