GOP Opens New Front on War Against Climate Action

May 27, 2022

New York Times:

In West Virginia, the state treasurer has pulled money from BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, because the Wall Street firm has flagged climate change as an economic risk.

In Texas, a new law bars the state’s retirement and investment funds from doing business with companies that the state comptroller says are boycotting fossil fuels. Conservative lawmakers in 15 other states are promoting similar legislation.

And officials in Utah and Idaho have assailed a major ratings agency for considering environmental risks and other factors, in addition to the balance sheet, when assessing states’ creditworthiness.

Across the country, Republican lawmakers and their allies have launched a campaign to try to rein in what they see as activist companies trying to reduce the greenhouse gases that are dangerously heating the planet.

“We’re an energy state, and energy accounts for hundreds of millions of dollars of tax revenue for us,” said Riley Moore, the West Virginia state treasurer. “All of our jobs come from coal and gas. I mean, this is who we are. This is part of our way of life here in the state. And they’re telling us that these industries are bad.”

“We have an existential threat here,” Mr. Moore said. “We have to fight back.”

In doing so, Mr. Moore and others have pushed climate change from the scientific realm into the political battles already raging over topics like voting rights, abortion and L.G.B.T.Q. issues. In recent months, conservatives have moved beyond tough words and used legislative and financial leverage to pressure the private sector to drop climate action and any other causes they label as “woke.”

“There is a coordinated effort to chill corporate engagement on these issues,” said Daniella Ballou-Aares, chief executive of the Leadership Now Project, a nonprofit organization that wants corporations to address threats to democracy. “And it is an effective campaign. Companies are starting to go into hiding.”

The pushback has been spearheaded by a group of Republican state officials that has reached out to financial organizations, facilitated media appearances and threatened to punish companies that, among other things, divest from fossil fuels.

They have worked alongside a nonprofit organization that has run television ads, dispatched roaming billboard trucks and rented out a Times Square billboard criticizing BlackRock for championing what they call woke causes, including environmentalism.

Over the last decade, corporate leadership has worked to position themselves on the right side of history, by supporting, among other things, action on climate, but also the rights of people of color, LGBTQ and others.
Local example for me would be the rainbow flag that flies in front of the HQ of chemical giant Dow, which is just down the road. (and regularly draws outraged letters to the local paper).

I’ve posted (above) on the move of global investment giant BlackRock’s turn towards climate conscious investing.

Times again:

Larry Fink, the chief executive of BlackRock, has been among the most outspoken executives, using his annual letter to corporate leaders to implore them to look beyond the bottom line and make a positive contribution to society.

In his most recent letter, issued in January, Mr. Fink made the case for what he calls “stakeholder capitalism,” saying there is a sound business rationale for taking up the fight against climate change and imploring other companies to act.

“Every company and every industry will be transformed by the transition to a net-zero world,” Mr. Fink wrote. “The question is, will you lead, or will you be led?”

Other executives also say they are unbowed by the brewing conservative backlash.

“It’s not going to stop me,” said Marc Benioff, the co-founder and co-chief executive of Salesforce and one of the most outspoken business leaders on social and political issues. “It’s pretty hard to restrict or control how a C.E.O. creates the culture of his company.”

Mr. Benioff dismissed many of the actions of conservatives as theatrics. “Politicians have to do what politicians do, which is try to get elected,” Mr. Benioff said. “It’s a lot of posturing for the base.”

Republican lawmakers, however, are becoming more organized in their efforts to slow corporate progress on climate issues.

People familiar with BlackRock said the pressure was not changing the firm’s investment strategy. But the company has scrambled to limit the fallout in states like Texas, stressing that it is following the wishes of its clients and investing broadly.

“We are perhaps the world’s largest investor in fossil fuel companies, and, as a long-term investor in these companies, we want to see these companies succeed and prosper,” BlackRock’s head of external affairs, Dalia Blass, wrote in a letter to Texas regulators in January.

BlackRock, on behalf of its clients, had $259 billion in assets invested in fossil fuel companies around the world, with $91 billion invested in Texas fossil fuel companies alone, Ms. Blass stressed, listing BlackRock’s sizable holdings in Texas energy companies, including Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips and Kinder Morgan.

BlackRock also this month said it would support fewer shareholder proposals calling for climate action because “we do not consider them to be consistent with our clients’ long-term financial interests.”

Much more at the link, recommended to understand the deep intransigence of the fossil funded right wing base, and how fossil funding has underpinned resistance to just about any kind of social progress, most recently even such simple, historically wildly successful measures as vaccines and public health education.

3 Responses to “GOP Opens New Front on War Against Climate Action”

  1. indy222 Says:

    Jeeezzzz….. so now that we’re tipping over the edges of the waterfalls, NOW they decide to get holier-than-thou and lecture others on their climate consciousness?? I’m hugely less than impressed. Where were they when actions were really needed? They were too busy counting their loot off the backs and pockets of future generations.

  2. ubrew12 Says:

    “a new law bars the state’s retirement… funds from doing business with companies that… are boycotting fossil fuels.”
    I guess this is what Republicans mean when they say they are the ‘Party of Small Government’

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      It’s like claiming the Confederacy was about “states’ rights” when the states of the CSA had fewer rights than those of the union (e.g., a CSA state had was limited in how it treated runaway slaves).


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