BlackRock Investment Fund's Larry Fink Looks to a Net-Zero World

BlackRock's Larry Fink discusses for-profit sustainability

Every year, BlackRock chief executive Larry Fink sends out a letter to CEOs. As the leader of the world's biggest investment fund manager, his thoughts have sway in the business community. Two years ago, Fink wrote about climate risk as an investment risk. In the years since, many mores businesses have rolled out carbon neutrality and net zero plans. This year's letter emphasizes climate policies as a way to make money. "We focus on sustainability not because we're environmentalists, but because we are capitalists and fiduciaries to our clients," he writes.

CNBC: BlackRock CEO Larry Fink - We need to work with hydrocarbon companies, not against them, January 18, 2022.

Why This Matters

Fink's words may resonate for some business leaders, who are under pressure to make money for shareholders. But his framing of climate policy isn't one that leads to the kind of urgent energy transition the IEA and others say we need to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. And while climate concern may be on the rise with CEOs, climate action is much slower. In a recent survey of C-suite executives, nearly all respondents said climate change had negatively impacted their business, but only 19% had put tools in place as a response.

In his letter, Fink does acknowledge that "all markets will require unprecedented investment in decarbonization technology," but also makes clear that "BlackRock does not pursue divestment from oil and gas companies as a policy." Without aggressively moving away from oil and gas, the world will remain on its current trajectory to hit 2.7 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

West Virginia Drops BlackRock

With approximately $85 billion invested in coal projects globally, BlackRock has faced scrutiny from left and right. In particular, Fink's framing of climate change as an opportunity and reason for companies to consider new strategies has received scorn from some in fossil fuel and coal states. Indeed, West Virginia State Treasurer Riley Moore announced Monday that the state would no longer use BlackRock's investment funds, which Gizmodo identifies as part of the "growing cultural war front tied to fossil fuel extraction."

Bloomberg: Blackrock Expands Investments In Renewables, April 15, 2021.