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August 15, 2023

Editor’s note: ETA’s greenwashing risks and US ESG marketing

Solar panels and wind turbines
The Energy Transition Accelerator aims to hasten developing countries’ take-up of renewable energy (Photo: Airubon/Dreamstime)

The latest edition of our Sustainable Views newsletter.

Dear Reader,

We serve up a largely American-flavoured newsletter today. We note a think-tank’s assessment of the Energy Transition Accelerator, which aims to hasten developing countries’ exits from coal and take-up of renewables. The framework was launched by US climate envoy John Kerry at COP27 2022.

While the Universal Owner Initiatives think-tank accepts that this framework has potential, it sets out a list of dos and don’ts for the project. It warns that under a worst-case scenario, “an unintentional rise in coal market value spurred by the ETA could extend the lifespan of existing plants and de-risk new coal construction projects”. You can read more about the framework and Universal Owner Initiatives’ take here.

Elsewhere, the US Securities and Exchange Commission has sent subpoenas to several asset managers over their ESG marketing, according to the Financial Times. Former SEC commissioner Michael Piwowar isn’t ruling out enforcement actions in the future – Goldman Sachs and BNY Mellon settled with the regulator last year, while the FT notes that last month, German asset manager DWS said that it had set aside €21mn for the SEC and other regulators over ESG. 

We’ll be imminently covering the SEC’s much-delayed climate disclosure rules as we get to grips with the regulator’s next move. If you have a view, get in touch.

We’ve already done a healthy amount of reporting on the anti-ESG backlash in the US – see Claudia’s piece last month on Washington hearings on the issue – and proponents of this movement will be disheartened this week after a decision by a Montana judge. The FT reports that Judge Kathy Seeley has ruled that young people have a right to a “clean and healthful environment”, ruling Montana’s decision to exclude the consideration of oil and gas permitting unconstitutional at state level.

The UK is never far from picking up the silliest of US politics and pretending that Uncle Sam’s issues are also our own. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been urged by so-called “red wall” members of parliament – politicians in areas that have traditionally voted for the opposition Labour party, many of whom switched to Conservative in the 2019 general election – to put the UK’s 2050 net zero target to a referendum, according to The Telegraph. 

It seems unlikely that Sunak would pursue a public vote on an issue that has the overwhelming backing of voters. Three-quarters of those who planned to vote in May’s local elections supported the net zero target, according to polling commissioned by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit. This is an outcome that consistently shows up in polls. But never underestimate this country’s propensity to be unserious about the serious issues of our time.

Until tomorrow,


Alex Janiaud is senior investment correspondent at Sustainable Views


A service from the Financial Times