Hopes of a giant step forward on climate change at the Cornwall G7 proved optimistic. US politics has a nasty habit of getting in the way, as it has over setting a new global minimum tax of 15 per cent.
Among specific proposals to cut collective carbon emissions in half by 2030 was a pledge to stop funding any coal projects which lacked (still unproven) carbon capture technology.
The pledge to rapidly scale up carbon capture technologies is regarded as weak because no target date was mentioned.
Joe Biden (pictured) reportedly needs the vote of senator Joe Machin of coal dependent West Virginia if he is to win Congressional backing for his $1trillion infrastructure plan
The New York Times reports that this is because President Joe Biden needs the vote of Democrat senator Joe Machin of coal-dependent West Virginia if he is to win Congressional backing for his $1trillion infrastructure plan, which was also given the thumbs-up by the G7.
The G7 endorsed the Biden plan as part of the effort by Western democracies to challenge China’s ‘belt and road’ initiative.
Nudging quoted big energy firms into change may prove an effective path to net zero, working along with politically sensible top-down targets. Shell finds itself in the crosshairs of Dutch courts and investors over the speed of its carbon transition.
The Dutch courts have ordered it to reduce greenhouse emissions by 2030, which is faster than planned.
Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden plans to appeal against the decision. Shell is taking steps to pull back.
It is reported to be preparing to embark on a sale of its interests in the US Permian Basin, which accounted for 6 per cent of the oil major’s output last year.
The disposal, which could yield $10billion, would be a retreat from an area previously regarded as one of nine core holdings.
British rival BP, under chief executive Bernard Looney, has placed net zero at the core of everything it does.
Changing the behaviour of quoted natural resources firms such as Shell and Anglo-American through shareholder suasion is useful.
But the oil majors are only responsible for 10 per cent of the energy pumped. The rest is produced by state-controlled drillers such as Saudi Aramco, Russia’s Rosneft and the National Iranian Oil Company.
Their behaviour is far beyond the reach of the G7, the courts in the Western democracies or investors.
On the same theme, Aviva Investors, with £405billion under management, is drinking the ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) Kool-Aid.
Six months into his appointment as chief executive, Mark Versey is wielding the axe by refocusing the fund manager on sustainable outcomes. In the process, ten sub-scale equity funds are to be closed and managers shown the door.
The most high-profile departure is chief investment officer David Cumming, who moved from Standard Life in 2017.
He is a distinctive voice on governance and among the first to draw attention to uncertainties surrounding Deliveroo and the employment conditions of riders.
It was an intervention which contributed to a one-third collapse in the share of the food delivery service when it came to market.
Less welcome was Cumming’s intervention on leadership at Glaxosmithkline, where he aligned with activist vultures Elliott Partners by taking aim at chief executive Emma Walmsley, one of a handful of FTSE 100 women bosses.
That was a step too far for Aviva’s senior team, headed by chief executive Amanda Blanc.
Aviva is itself under pressure from Swedish activist Cevian, which is demanding the insurer cut costs and speed up the distribution of £5billion from asset sales, even though not all of the money has arrived.
One trusts Versey will also axe backing for New York corporate destroyer Ed Bramsom of Sherborne.
As executive chairman of JD Sports, Peter Cowgill is among the last of the corporate dinosaurs.
He clearly believes success at the tills and on equity markets allows him to run roughshod over decency.
During the pandemic he treated landlords with disdain, took £86million in furlough and £38million in business rates relief and still felt it was fine to take home a £4.3million bonus last financial year.
He is due a further £1.3million this year.
It is time that controlling investor, the Rubin family vehicle Pentland, recognised that their star performer has gone rogue.
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