There isn’t a day that goes by now, it seems, that doesn’t include some ground-shifting announcement in the fight against climate change.
Last week, for instance, the European Union laid out a €1-trillion ($1.45-trillion) plan to lower carbon emissions and get the continent carbon-neutral by 2050. That amounts to nearly one quarter of the European Commission’s annual budget, money that will be used to underwrite the new “green deal” announced in December, which will affect the economies of virtually every member state.
As big as that development was, however, it took a back seat to the news that broke recently on Wall Street: the revelation that Larry Fink, head of the world’s largest asset manager BlackRock, had written to clients and fellow chief executives to say his firm will be making investment decisions in the future with environmental sustainability as a central mantra.
Some were shocked by just how unequivocal he was about the revolutionary changes that were imminent for the investment world. “I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance,” said Mr. Fink, one of the most influential money managers in the world. “The evidence on climate risk is compelling investors to reassess core assumptions about modern finance.”
It should be said that Mr. Fink is not exactly a trailblazer when it comes to this point of view. Mark Carney, the outgoing governor of the Bank of England, said very much the same thing months ago. And recently, 631 institutional investors from around the globe, managing more than US$37-trillion in assets, urged governments to do more to tackle climate change and achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate.
But there are institutional investors, and then there is Mr. Fink. His opinion holds sway in capital markets. And when he says BlackRock will now begin putting environmental, social and governance concerns on even terms with the pursuit of great financial returns, it has the potential to create fundamental change in the investment world – which, in turn, has the capacity to impose uncomfortable choices upon those inhabiting the boardrooms of the oil and gas industry.
Now, if you happened to be at conference in downtown Calgary last weekend called The Value of Alberta, you might never have guessed just how dramatically events are moving in the oil and gas universe. In fact, you may well have gone away from it believing that this whole climate change thing is overhyped nonsense.
That was certainly the message of the conference’s keynote speaker, Conrad Black, the one member of the central Canadian elite whose views people in Alberta don’t mind hearing, apparently. To enthusiastic applause, Mr. Black told the crowd that scientific research had not justified the “level of alarm” we are witnessing about a warming planet.
The former publisher said there hadn’t been global warming in the first 20 years of this century (even though last year included the hottest month on record) and that it was a “terrible fate” Alberta had to “bear the burden” of the “incredible seizure” of its riches as a result of the “holy war” being waged on fossil fuel industries.
I would suggest Mr. Black get out a little more. Or at least, perhaps he could be intellectually braver and at least entertain the notion that global warming is not the hoax his friend U.S. President Donald Trump believes it is. In fact, many of Alberta’s so-called thought leaders could also benefit from being a little more open-minded and aware when it comes to not just rising temperatures, but the fundamental realignment underway in the energy world that results from them.
Alberta has two choices. It can accept what’s going on and begin the uneasy transition that will need to take place in its economy over the next few decades. Or it can continue organizing conferences like the one this past weekend and inviting speakers who are blind to the facts of the zeitgeist.
If Alberta’s elites believe that separating from Canada will somehow spare them from what is taking place in the world right now, they are sadly misinformed. The federal government didn’t set a goal of zero-net emissions by 2050 to punish the province – it did so because Canada has a moral duty to try to save the planet from catastrophic consequences.
Mr. Black can blather on all he wants about what a sham global warming is because, like many in his demographic, he will be long gone before the bill for our environmental failings has to be paid. It will not come out of his pocket, nor out of the pockets of most of those cheering him on.
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