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This week, highlights in responsible investing include greedy CEOs and oil and gas companies fighting against the SEC’s new reporting rule and an exposé by the Houston Chronicle revealed how the state’s new anti-ESG law could cost taxpayers $22 billion. Here’s more news you may have missed:

Late Friday last week, noted anti-ESG ideologue Vivek Ramaswamy addressed CPAC in a sparsely-covered event well-suited to his standing in the public’s estimation.

From UAF’s release: Outside of Vivek’s address, anti-responsible investing is expected to be a hot topic among the speakers. Other addresses include “No Woke Warriors” and “Putting Our Heads in a Gas Stove.” The fact is that anti-responsible investing remains wildly unpopular among Americans.

During the National Governors’ Association meeting, UAF released a memo highlighting the governors working for and against responsible investing.

From UAF’s memo: This week, governors and their staff are gathering for the National Governors Association’s 2024 Winter Meeting in Washington D.C. to discuss the nation’s most pressing policy issues. The convening comes off the heels of several unprecedented attacks against responsible investing, including Exxon filing a lawsuit against its own shareholders, a coalition of big business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce suing California, and New Hampshire introducing legislation that would criminalize using ESG criteria in public contracts. 

Yahoo Finance highlighted a poll from Unlocking America’s Future when analyzing Wall Street’s reaction to current political attacks on responsible investing.

From Yahoo Finance: A new poll released Thursday from left-leaning group Unlocking America’s Future found that American voters are largely unfamiliar with terminology like “ESG” but responded very positively to terms like “responsible companies” (78% favorability) and “sustainable business practices” (73%). The takeaway, says Kyle Herrig of the group, is that anti-ESG forces “have misread the American people with their attacks.” He added that pro-ESG forces should use the new data to go on the offensive against the ongoing Republican efforts on the other side.

UAF released a memo highlighting the oil and gas industry’s continuing attack on the SEC’s upcoming rule announcement.

From UAF’s memo: New campaign contribution data from the 4th quarter of 2023 show the oil and gas industry gave nearly $2 million to federal politicians that have a record of attacking the SEC’s proposed ruling and responsible investing. This adds to the industry’s $83 million given to the 200+ members of congress tracked in Unlocking America’s Future’s latest SEC report, looking at lifetime contributions through the first half of 2023. 

Standard Chartered CEO Bill Winters said responsible investing can be good for business, saying frankly, “I do want to wake up one day and have a planet so if that makes me woke, shoot me.”

From CNBC: “If you don’t make a decent return on this business, you can’t keep on throwing resources at it, up to a point. This is not philanthropy. This is not political wokeness. This is do the right thing for the planet, do the right thing for your business. That’s what we’re doing, and I don’t see other people backing away from that.”

The co-leaders of the Antitrust and Sustainability Project at Columbia University’s Climate Law and Finance Initiative wrote an op-ed in the Hill highlighting how the anti-ESG movement is driven by the fossil fuel industry.

From the Hill: Perhaps, then, the firms defecting from CA100+ want to avoid a partisan fight over climate change. They may perceive greater reputational risk now to being involved in such alliances — including the potential cost and visibility of political investigations. Here again, narrative has trumped reality. While there are legitimate criticisms of “ESG” investing and, importantly, the concentrated power of financial firms, the broader anti-ESG campaign is largely driven by fossil fuel industry groups and climate denial think tanks. Their unfortunate goal is to protect oil and gas companies from widening public disapproval and regulatory scrutiny as the societal harms of the industry continue to grow. 

UAF released a memo highlighting the upcoming SEC rule as an important first step in holding polluters accountable.

From UAF’s memo: The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in March 2022 issued a proposed rule that would require publicly traded companies to disclose information about greenhouse gas emissions. In the two years since, opponents have mobilized to try to kill the rule. Greedy billionaires and corporate special interests have engaged trade associations – primarily the Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute – and lobbied members of Congress they have showered with nearly $60 million to avoid disclosure. Despite these efforts, the SEC is taking an important step to ensure companies disclose information regarding greenhouse gas emissions. Establishing climate disclosure requirements is critical for a resilient American financial system in the 21st century and in an increasingly globalized economy. 

Finally, the Houston Chronicle released an analysis demonstrating a new anti-responsible investing law could cost taxpayers $22 billion.

From the Houston Chronicle: “The problem with protecting oil and gas, though, is the high cost to Texas taxpayers. Only a few companies can handle the $50 billion in bonds that Texas governments issue yearly. Companies compete by offering lower interest rates than others. But when you take the biggest players out of the competition, the cost of those bonds goes up.”

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