ESG Runs Into Energy Security Challenge

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Backlash — rather than progress — is leading headlines lately on environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing. In the latest blow, US index fund giant Vanguard said it would bail on the high-profile Net-Zero Asset Managers (NZAM) investor group to avoid “confusion” and provide investor clarity on its take on climate risk. Conservative US states have been casting ESG as the latest anti-business bogeyman and threatened to block institutions that adopt net-zero goals from state pension funds. Blackrock, which disrupted industry in 2020 with its declaration that climate risk equals investment risk, now faces upheaval of its own after an activist investor blasted its approach as inconsistent and contradictory. Is this just inevitable noise and teething troubles — or are trajectories shifting? On one side, energy security needs remain at the fore after the Ukraine invasion. After all, money can still be made on new oil and gas projects, and financial players and energy firms are loath to give up those opportunities. On the other side is pressure to stop investing in new oil projects — and gas too, given recent image problems around methane issues — since their useful lifetime only grows shorter every year in the run-up to 2050 net-zero emissions goals. Regulation is just as conflicted: driving forward in Europe and in parts of the US despite some regional backlash.

ESG, Low-Carbon Policy, Corporate Strategy , Equity and Debt Markets
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