On climate, Wall Street out-Orwells Orwell

By | February 25, 2021

Bill McKibben writes:

It was likely too much to hope that the Biden Administration, as it tries to get a handle on climate change, might find some help from Wall Street. Instead, last week, we saw financial heavyweights turn in a performance so rigid and so short-sighted that it makes one wonder whether capitalism in anything resembling its current form can, or should, survive.

The scene was a virtual forum organized by the Institute of International Finance, and the participants were the people running the world’s biggest banks, investment houses, and insurance companies. The backdrop was the heightened effort by activists in the past eighteen months to get them to stop loaning money to, buying the stocks of, and underwriting the expansion plans for the fossil-fuel industry. (Another backdrop was one of the hottest years ever recorded on Earth, a year that also saw the biggest wildfires and the most Atlantic hurricanes.) The Biden Administration has begun to make noises about supporting those activist efforts with new regulations at the Federal Reserve, the Department of the Treasury, and the Securities and Exchange Commission. And now the money men were saying, essentially, go to Hell. Not in the obvious, gloating way of the Texas gas exec who boasted last week of “hitting the jackpot with some of these incredible prices.” Nothing quite so crude, yet far more ominous.

Larry Fink, the C.E.O. of BlackRock, warned against a “full divestiture” from fossil-fuel stocks, because it would be “greenwashing.” Not only is that statement contrary to his company’s own policies—BlackRock has made a conditional promise to divest from some coal-mining companies—it’s also a remarkably Orwellian use of an Orwellian idea. Greenwashing, in truth, is what Fink and his peers engage in when they announce their calls for Paris compliance or for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 or the other dodges that, for the time being, allow them to keep lending vast sums of money to the fossil-fuel industry while insisting that they’re very worried. [Continue reading…]

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