David Solomon, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, said last month that his firm would continue funding fossil fuel companies, stressing that not doing so would lead to much higher prices. “We have to balance good public policy with the short-term implications and that’s why it is a transition,” he said. “If we’re too aggressive in the context of how we direct capital to the private sector, that can be more inflationary.”
To supporters of the divestment movement, attributing high energy prices to the push to reduce funding of fossil fuels is a cynical attempt to undermine what they say is an important part of the solution to the climate crisis.
“Blaming divestments for high prices and energy shortages is really a red herring,” said Ben Cushing, who runs the Sierra Club’s Fossil-Free Finance campaign. “The reality is that oil and gas are volatile, global commodities and exist in a global market that is in flux for a lot of different reasons.”
Henry Fernandez, chief executive of MSCI, a financial services company that offers E.S.G. products, suggested that finance firms were blaming environmental and social concerns for high energy prices in order to excuse lagging performance.
“The asset managers are under pressure not to support oil and gas investments, and they know that the transition is difficult and entails risks, and that they may underperform,” he said. “So they are pointing to E.S.G. as the culprit so they can take a breather. That is not what the world needs.”
And still, fossil fuel production will be with us for years to come, and senior banking executives are adamant that it is in the world’s best interest that major financial firms continue to support it. Without investment from large institutional investors, they say, many fossil fuel companies could be taken private, leading to less transparency and accountability, and potentially higher emissions.
“We can’t have simple edicts like: No more fossil fuels. It’s just not practical,” Bill Winters, the chief executive of Standard Chartered, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television last month. “We’re going to be dependent on fossil fuels for the next 15 or 20 years, unless there’s some miraculous technology breakthrough.”