Economy

ZEUS: How NY climate week changes COP26, with Parnassus ESG head Iyassu Essayas

By David Callaway, Callaway Climate Insights

(David Callaway is founder and Editor-in-Chief of Callaway Climate Insights. He is the former president of the World Editors Forum, Editor-in-Chief of USA Today and MarketWatch, and CEO of TheStreet Inc.)

SAN FRANCISCO (Callaway Climate Insights) — Like the dress rehearsal before opening night of a Broadway musical, everything at the United Nations’ global leaders summit in New York this week started off wrong for climate change.

None of the major polluting nations bothered to show at a huddle called by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday to address financial commitments to smaller countries hit by global warming. Johnson’s own speech on uniting to fight climate was overshadowed by an energy crisis at home, and a Twitter storm over his admission he has six kids. China, the world’s largest polluter, hadn’t bothered to send anyone from Beijing to New York at all.

But that changed yesterday as Xi Jinping confirmed in a video statement that China would halt some $50 billion of investment in about 50 coal plants in 20 foreign countries, and the U.S. doubled its pledge of financial assistance to poorer countries to more than $11 billion. A high-level European Union source told Callaway Climate Insights European bureau chief Stephen Rae in Brussels Monday that China would indeed now send a delegation to Glasgow for the COP26 summit in November, despite reports to the contrary. The headlines show how quickly engagement and commitment from the large polluters can change the script.

Back in San Francisco, let’s look to Parnassus Investments, which runs the largest environmental, social and governance (ESG) mutual fund in the country, the $31 billion Parnassus Core Equity Fund (PRBLX). The fund is up 18% year-to-date despite the difficult year in ESG themes and this week’s overall scare in the U.S. stock market.

Iyassu Essayas is the head of ESG Stewardship at Parnassus, and a long-time student of company climate disclosures and sustainability initiatives. In a podcast with me and our columnist Robert Powell, Essayas said he’s looking at the event as an investor from a position of how a bold new set of climate pledges might affect the market. . . .

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