Finance, corporate world gives cautious support for US climate plan

Steam rises from the Miller coal Power Plant in West Jefferson, Alabama, on April 11, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

BOSTON/LONDON (REUTERS) - US President Joe Biden welcomed world leaders to a landmark climate summit this week at which the world's biggest economy laid out a plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 to 52 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.

Alongside that, Biden's administration pledged a range of other measures including plans to increase the funding it provides to international climate efforts, and help mobilise more private finance internationally.

Below are comments on the news from financial service market participants and various trade bodies.

Eric Pan, President and CEO of the Investment Company Institute

"President Biden's climate finance plan along with Secretary Yellen's remarks rightly put the United States back at the centre of international deliberations on climate change and indicates a critical understanding that companies should provide investors better, useful, and comparable information to investors such as investment funds."

Wai-shin Chan, Co-head of ESG Research at HSBC

"We think this new pledge is a step in the right direction for the US, one which will give it clout when it comes to climate diplomacy. The pressure is on other major emitters to align their 2030 targets to a net-zero pathway. As businesses do the same, we think investors will have to look through the details to determine whether corporate strategies are properly aligned to net zero, as well as consider the carbon footprints of their own portfolios."

Rebecca Karnovitz, Senior Analyst at Moody's Investors Service

"President Biden's pledge at the Leaders' Summit on Climate cements the administration's existing targets of reaching a net-zero carbon emissions economy by 2050 and aligns US targets with those of the EU.

Over the long term, such actions are credit positive in that they should help reduce the expected negative impacts of a changing climate for a broad swathe of issuers across the globe, particularly sovereigns and regional local governments who will be at the forefront of climate adaptation and management efforts.

"Currently, the large gap between climate adaptation-related financing needs and low-cost funding sources threatens sovereigns with highly negative exposure to physical climate risk, especially those with already low fiscal strength. At the same time, net-zero policy efforts may heighten credit risks for many entities in carbon-intensive industries, but may also create significant opportunities for those who adjust business models to align with accelerated policy trends."

Jerry Thomas, Head of Global Equities at Sarasin & Partners

The most promising aspect of President Biden's climate policy is its all-encompassing framework. The new administration recognises the systemic challenge and is taking a multi-agency approach to tackling it. Furthermore, the Biden approach considers the role of the finance sector, which is critical for aligning financial flows with climate change efforts.

Marty Durbin, Senior Vice President of Policy at the US Chamber of Commerce

President Biden is setting out an ambitious goal. Achieving that goal while also supporting economic growth and job creation will require new technology and new policy that is durable and has the support of bipartisan members of congress, consumers, business, and other stakeholders. We will work with our members, the administration, and Congress to forge durable, bipartisan policy that puts us on a sustainable path to make significant and meaningful emission reductions. We welcome President Biden's focus on returning the US to international leadership on climate change.

US businesses are leading the world in pursuit of climate change solutions, and we see great opportunities to develop and export technologies that will help address a truly global challenge."

Mike Sommers, President & CEO at the American Petroleum Institute

"API supports the goals of the Paris Agreement to reduce global emissions and alleviate poverty. The new US nationally determined contribution addresses only half of the dual challenge of reducing the risks of climate change while ensuring affordable, reliable energy for all Americans."

"With a transparent price on carbon and innovation, we can make measurable climate progress within this decade without hurting America's middle class, jeopardising US national security, and undermining economic recovery. We are focused on working with Congress and the administration on effective government policies, while accelerating industry initiatives and innovation as outlined in API's Climate Action Framework."

Sarah Gordon, CEO of the Impact Investing Institute

"The Impact Investing Institute strongly welcomes the announcements of leading nations at US President Biden's Climate Summit to cut emissions more quickly, while supporting climate finance and creating green jobs globally.

"It is vital that policymakers continue to recognise the role that private finance can play in tackling climate change and delivering social renewal at home and abroad. This includes facilitating investment in climate-vulnerable countries as well as promoting a prosperous, green economy for all."

Gilles Moec, Chief Economist at AXA Investment Managers

"The US clearly wants to assert some leadership on the green transition, and the statement shows the intent to do so. The US probably sees China as its main competitor on this, as on many other issues, after Beijing's unexpected pledge last year to reach "net zero" by 2060.

"However, on the regulatory aspects, and especially on green finance, the real competitor may well be the European Union.

"Biden's main problem in trying to take global leadership on this essential matter is that the US track record is far from unblemished - including at times when the Democrats dominated the policy stance in Washington DC.

"The Obama-Biden administration, for example, failed to get a comprehensive carbon "cap and trade" framework through in 2010. It had been supported in the House but could not reach a majority in the Senate although the Democrats held a 9-seat majority."

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