Apr 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

A zero-carbon future is now the central thesis for most financial giants

a money tree

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The U.S.-hosted climate summit has now begun, ahead of the bigger U.N. climate change conference in Glasgow in November.

The state of play: One major theme has already emerged: Investing in a zero-carbon future has moved from being a contrarian strategy with virtue-signaling upside, to being the central investing thesis for most giant financial institutions.

Driving the news: A new financial coalition calling itself Gfanz is coordinating the deployment of trillions of dollars in quasi-permanent capital — much more than is currently being mooted by President Biden's environmentally disappointing infrastructure plan.

The big picture: Environmentally responsible investing over the past decade or so has in large part been a trade that's long tech and short fossil fuels. That trade has been enormously profitable — and has made it hard for investors to cling to their prior beliefs that constraining one's investment universe means giving up total returns.

  • Instead, the opposite argument has become mainstream among institutional investors — that the only way to avoid catastrophically negative investment returns as a result of climate change is to invest in net-zero resilient projects.
  • That's why the second session this morning is devoted to climate finance and private investment. Senior private-sector financiers like Jane Fraser of Citigroup and Brian Moynihan of Bank of America are appearing alongside heads of state, the heads of the World Bank and the IMF, and a high-profile U.S. delegation led by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

The bottom line: What we're seeing is a pro-climate cartel of the richest and most powerful individuals in the world, led by the president of the United States, saying very clearly that they're going to try their hardest to rig the scales in favor of green investment.

  • The White House is determined to corral "market forces" to meet its emissions targets. That's code for "invest in sustainability, and we'll ensure you make lots of money."
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