Big Banks Reveal What They Really Want at Davos and it Might Surprise You
JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon. Image: CNBC
by Miro Korenha, co-founder and publisher of Our Daily Planet
As the World Economic Forum (WEF) kicked off this past week in Davos, Switzerland, there was a lot of promise that maybe this would finally be the year where business leaders wholeheartedly stood up for climate action. But aside from CEOs cringing at Donald Trump’s bizarre climate speech, most of the biggest movers and shakers made no indication that they’d actually move their companies away from business as usual.
JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon lamented the United States withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement, even as his bank is funding more fossil fuel projects than any other. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff announced that 300 companies have signed on to help plant 1 trillion trees, all while his company continues to sell CRM software to oil companies to help them extract more oil. And Coca-Cola announced that it will not work to phase out single-use plastic bottles as customers “still want” them–despite the fact that plastics contribute to the climate crisis.
Even though World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab sent conference attendees a letter urging them to commit to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, there hasn’t been an announcement of how many companies have actually made the pledge. So at this point, it’s not looking like the companies in attendance are taking the action that the WEF’s annual risk report would suggest they need.
But before throwing our hands in the air and calling it all a waste, there was one interesting tidbit from Jamie Dimon that may indicate what could actually get these CEOs to step up their efforts. In an interview at Davos with CNBC, Dimon said the following:
“At the end of the day, the public needs to know that you can yell and scream all you want at private enterprise [but] you need government policy. It’s the only thing that will globally solve this problem. “
Call me crazy but Dimon is essentially refuting what conservatives have been saying for years, and that government actually IS the solution? Even if he’s advocating for a carbon tax and dividend this still means that the government has to get involved to create and manage a massive new tax policy.
However, experts have said that while a carbon tax is important, it still won’t be enough to get us the levels of decarbonization we need. So we’ll have to lean into government solutions (per Dimon’s suggestion) that will ban the production of coal, gas and oil on public lands, drastically tighten clean and water regulations, and subsidize cleantech (which could be paid for by rolling back tax cuts for billionaires like Dimon et al).
We shouldn’t hold our breath until Davos 2021 to see if any of these companies actually make drastic emissions reductions commitments. In the U.S. we should use the elections happening in 2020 to vote into power lawmakers who are ready to take action on climate the first day they’re sworn into office. If government is the best solution we have to curb the climate crisis then we have our marching orders and they lead us straight to the polls.
Anger at corporations is understandable, and much of that anger was felt in Switzerland this past week. But while boycotting is an important tactic we should channel much of our anger into getting our fellow environmental voters out to the polls along with us. If you’re not sure how, the Environmental Voter Project is a great place to volunteer. The future is in our hands, so let’s keep pushing all those in power to do the absolute most they can. Which in the case of Davos, may start with doing something about all those private jets.