Ill winds blow for ESG as wild summer gives way to election season, Covid recovery battles

By David Callaway, Callaway Climate Insights

. . . . Remember Covid? It seems like only yesterday we were hoarding toilet paper and beer and peering out windows at long-haired, masked zombies in the streets below. August put an end to that, thrusting climate change into the headlines with wildfires, heatwaves, flooding, and hurricanes.

But as summer gives way to election season, political battling over Covid-19 recovery plans — and general economic reckoning — the ESG momentum play faces an ill wind worldwide. In the U.S., the Trump/Biden election hinges on the economy, and a fight over inequality and law enforcement the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Civil Rights Movement. My ZEUS column this week looks at the prospects for climate change as a major issue on such an incendiary calendar.

In Europe, scandal and squabbling over cost is dousing early enthusiasm for green rebuilding, as Stephen Rae points out in his European notebook from Dublin. In Canada, fights over a carbon tax are part of a political stalemate that could lead to a snap election later this year. In Latin America, the push to carve up the Amazon moves on despite the ravages of the pandemic.

In the record-running stock market, Covid-19 rebound stocks like banks, consumer finance and even airlines are moving, as investors look beyond tech. Against this backdrop, ESG investing and corporate pushes toward net zero emissions, renewable energy, and cleaner supply lines will continue, with this week’s highlights and notables below. But they will fight for profile as autumn 2020 shapes up to be a doozy.

More insights below … and yes, we have the most powerful hurricanes ranked.

ZEUS: Election stretch will leave climate change in the dust

. . . . If ever there was a presidential election year that demanded a priority debate about combating climate change, 2020 is it, writes David Callaway. Fueled by a run of hurricanes, wildfires, flooding, and protests for environmental justice, the changes shaping the nation are right in front of our eyes.

In electoral politics, though, the climate emergency will have to take its place in line. And it won’t be up front. . . .

As we’ve seen in the past few weeks, climate change is life and death for many. It’s just not yet political life and death. A study earlier this month by the Pew Research Center doesn’t even have climate change in the top 10 of important issues for voters. It trails economic inequality, violent crime, even foreign policy. Still, it is making inroads by attaching itself to other issues.

The social unrest that has scarred the country this summer after shootings in Minneapolis and now Wisconsin have tied climate change to the plight of minorities such as Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans. No political speech or economic strategy tied to green rebuilding leaves aside environmental justice. By twinning these two important issues, they become more urgent. And more high profile.

Read the full ZEUS column

. . . . Climate finance enthusiast and former Bank of England Governor Mark Carney (above), who stepped down earlier this year, popped back up this week as vice chairman and head of ESG for Brookfield Asset Management, a significant get for the investment manager. Carney, who was governor of the Bank of Canada before the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street, has long spoken of climate change as the next great challenge. Great to see him putting his time and money where his mouth is. Shame the annual Jackson Hole retreat for central bankers this year is virtual, though. . . .

. . . . Hong Kong-based fund management grandee Christof Kutscher takes the reins as executive chairman at a new joint venture between HSBC Global Asset Management and Pollination Group Holdings to form HSBC Pollination Climate Asset Management. The group will work with sovereign investors, pension funds and other institutional investments to create financial returns on environmental projects. Kutscher stepped down from his latest role as chairman of Axa Investment Managers last year. . . .

. . . . Better late than never: Two weeks after rolling blackouts shook Northern California during a massive heat wave, New York-based LS Power unveiled what’s billed as the world’s most powerful lithium-ion based battery, which reportedly will double California’s battery storage capacity when it hits full power at the end of this month, according to a report in the Financial Times. . . .

Hurricane history: The most powerful

. . . . As the Gulf Coast recovers from Hurricane Laura, and we are reminded that we’re only halfway through the alphabet in a busy hurricane season, our partners at 24/7 Wall St. take us through the most powerful hurricanes of all time. The Atlantic hurricane season usually lasts from early June until the end of November, and the second part of August is usually its peak. For the fifth year in a row, weather experts are predicting a busier than average Atlantic hurricane season in 2020. Read more about the most powerful hurricanes, dating back to 1851. . . .

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