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ESG Puppeteers

Mark Carney in Davos, 2010. CC BY-SA 2.0

The Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) framework allows a small group of corporate executives, financiers, government officials, and other elites, the ESG “puppeteers,” to force everyone to serve their interests. The policies they want to impose on society — renewable energy mandates, DEI programs, restricting emissions, or costly regulatory and compliance disclosures — increase everyone’s cost of living. But the puppeteers do not worry about that since they stand to gain financially from the “climate transition.”

Consider Mark Carney. After a successful career on Wall Street, he was a governor at two different central banks. Now he serves as the UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance for the United Nations, which means it is his job to persuade, cajole, or bully large financial institutions to sign onto the net-zero agenda.

But Carney also has a position at one of the biggest investment firms pushing the energy transition agenda: Brookfield Asset Management. He has little reason to be concerned about the unintended consequences of his climate agenda, such as higher energy and food prices. Nor will he feel the burden his agenda imposes on hundreds of millions of people around the world.

And he is certainly not the only one. Al Gore, John Kerry, Klaus Schwab, Larry Fink, and thousands of other leaders on ESG and climate activism will weather higher prices just fine. There would be little to object to if these folks merely invested their own resources, and the resources of voluntary investors, in their climate agenda projects. But instead, they use other people’s resources, usually without their knowledge or consent, to advance their personal goals.

Even worse, they regularly use government coercion to push their agenda, which — incidentally? — redounds to their economic benefit. Brookfield Asset Management, where Mark Carney runs his own $5 billion climate fund, invests in renewable energy and climate transition projects, the demand for which is largely driven by government mandates.

For example, the National Conference of State Legislatures has long advocated “Renewable Portfolio Standards” that require state utilities to generate a certain percentage of electricity from renewable sources. The Clean Energy States Alliance tracks which states have committed to moving to 100 percent renewable energy, currently 23 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. And then there are thousands of “State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency.”

Behemoth hedge fund and asset manager BlackRock announced that it is acquiring a large infrastructure company, as a chance to participate in climate transition and benefit its clients financially. BlackRock leadership expects government-fueled demand for their projects, and billions of taxpayer dollars to fund the infrastructure necessary for the “climate transition.”

CEO Larry Fink has admitted, “We believe the expansion of both physical and digital infrastructure will continue to accelerate, as governments prioritize self-sufficiency and security through increased domestic industrial capacity, energy independence, and onshoring or near-shoring of critical sectors. Policymakers are only just beginning to implement once-in-a-generation financial incentives for new infrastructure technologies and projects.” [Emphasis added.]

Carney, Fink, and other climate financiers are not capitalists. They are corporatists who think the government should direct private industry. They want to work with government officials to benefit themselves and hamstring their competition. Capitalists engage in private voluntary association and exchange. They compete with other capitalists in the marketplace for consumer dollars. Success or failure falls squarely on their shoulders and the shoulders of their investors. They are subject to the desires of consumers and are rewarded for making their customers’ lives better.

Corporatists, on the other hand, are like puppeteers. Their donations influence government officials, and, in return, their funding comes out of coerced tax dollars, not voluntary exchange. Their success arises not from improving customers’ lives, but from manipulating the system. They put on a show of creating value rather than really creating value for people. In corporatism, the “public” goals of corporations matter more than the wellbeing of citizens.

But the corporatist ESG advocates are facing serious backlash too. The Texas Permanent School Fund withdrew $8.5 billion from Blackrock last week. They join almost a dozen state pensions that have withdrawn money from Blackrock management over the past few years. And last week Alabama passed legislation defunding public DEI programs. They follow in the footsteps of Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Utah, Tennessee, and others.

State attorneys general have been applying significant pressure on companies that signed on to the “net zero” pledges championed by Carney, Fink, and other ESG advocates. JPMorgan and State Street both withdrew from Climate Action 100+ in February. Major insurance companies started withdrawing from the Net-Zero Insurance Alliance in 2023.

Still, most Americans either don’t know much about ESG and its potential negative consequences on their lives or, worse, actually favor letting ESG distort the market. This must change. It’s time the ESG puppeteers found out that the “puppets” have ideas, goals, and plans of their own. Investors, taxpayers, and voters should not be manipulated and used to climate activists’ ends.

They must keep pulling back on the strings or, better yet, cut them altogether.

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