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Republicans balk as Biden admin sets climate goals for financial giants

The Department of the Treasury last week published its "Principles for Net-Zero Financing & Investment."

Published: September 27, 2023 5:00pm

Republicans are fuming after the Biden administration published "net-zero" principles for major financial institutions, accusing the administration of "cronyism" and coercive efforts to bolster the Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) agenda.

The Department of the Treasury last week published its "Principles for Net-Zero Financing & Investment," a set of voluntary guidelines it says "highlight emerging best practices for private sector financial institutions that have made net-zero commitments and promote consistency and credibility in approaches to implementing them."

The nine principles instruct institutions to make targeted investments with a mind toward advancement climate-related goals. For example, principle 4 advises firms to "assess client and portfolio company alignment to their (i.e., financial institutions’) targets and to limiting the increase in the global average temperature to 1.5°C."

"The climate crisis is propelling a massive economic shift and is hitting the most vulnerable countries and communities first and hardest. There’s increasing demand for technologies, products, and services that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, support a clean energy future, and help adapt to a changing climate across all sectors," the agency stated. "This demand is fueling growth in new industries and business models. In the United States, government support is playing a role in accelerating this transition."

Republicans, however, remain wary of the so-called "voluntary" principles and have expressed skepticism that the guidelines represents an attempt to coerce organizations into participation while protecting key ESG proponents from accountability measures.

"Merely labeling something voluntary doesn’t make it is so. The Administration cannot bypass legislative and regulatory processes and still protect the Net Zero cartels from antitrust scrutiny," said Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. "The coercive pressure of ESG and Net-Zero mandates across the financial sector is a constraint on trade and manipulation of markets amplified by this government syndicate."

"When the weight of federal authority combines with the overwhelming might of private capital, few are free from the compulsion of the green cabal," he continued. "Celebrating the suppression of free will in the markets with ‘principles’ and happy phrases is reminiscent of totalitarian regimes reciting doctrines in the public square while parading shiny-booted troops in front of the masses."

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen suggested the principles were an effort by the administration to insulate members of climate blocs against antitrust efforts.

"Just because you say something is voluntary doesn’t mean it is voluntary. The coercion that we are seeing within the financial sector on ESG is a clear constraint on trade and manipulation of markets," he said. "The federal government cannot bypass the legislative and regulatory processes to protect the Net-Zero cartels from antitrust scrutiny, these ‘principles’ fly in the face of our legal system and have no standing."

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall declared that "Americans have awakened to the scam of ESG, so the Biden Administration must desperately try to resuscitate it. This has never been about the climate or consumers, but about cronyism."

Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti, meanwhile, deemed the guidance "heavy-handed" and said the effort "appears intended to insulate our energy policy from any degree of accountability to the people or our elected representatives."

ESG policy has attracted considerable scrutiny due to concerns that climate commitments may force asset managers to make investments to those ends rather than seek to maximize shareholder return, something that could constitute a breach of fiduciary duty.

Last December, Vanguard CEO Tim Buckley reached a similar conclusion and withdrew the company from the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative, insisting that "[o]ur research indicates that ESG investing does not have any advantage over broad-based investing."

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter.

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