Election's implications for the ESG world
Climate change and Big Tech’s outsized influence are top of mind.
With the presidential election just around the corner, here’s where the two candidates stand on two key environmental, social and governance considerations.
Joe Biden has put forward the most ambitious climate plan of any U.S. presidential candidate in history—promising, among other things, to get the country to 100% clean electricity generation by 2035 and to invest $400 billion in clean energy innovation and technology over 10 years. Indeed, the Democratic candidate, if elected, is considering a White House climate “czar” to coordinate efforts to fight global warming. While short of what Green New Deal advocates want, Biden has proposed a sweeping $2 trillion climate plan that includes a target of net-zero emissions across the entire economy by 2050.
President Donald Trump, by contrast, has mocked global-warming fears and rolled back climate regulations imposed by his predecessor, arguing they were harmful for the economy. But the Republican position runs deeper than that, with the party inching over decades from denying the existence of climate change, to saying it was part of a natural cycle, to dismissing it as unstoppable to considering modest policy responses. Furthermore, House Republicans have introduced legislation that would fund the capture and storage of CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, research new ways to use and commercialize the captured carbon, and conserve the environment by planting trees.
Implementation of their respective visions may be more tortuous than either candidate would care to choose—young Republicans will continue to push Trump to soften his stance, while Biden will need to satisfy a large number of constituencies.
In early October, the House published a 449-page antitrust report containing some serious allegations against Big Tech, citing the monopoly position of Google search with a respective 89% market share, the duopoly market for mobile phone operating systems (Apple and Google), and the duopoly hold of the Facebook group and YouTube on social networks. Meanwhile, members of the House antitrust committee are pondering throwing more resources at enforcing existing antitrust rules, tightening laws to give enforcers more teeth and/or designing entirely new regulatory frameworks with the most powerful digital gatekeepers imaginable. All of these would bring the U.S. closer to Europe’s approach and present risks to Big Tech; do they also reflect a Biden agenda for what will happen if he’s elected?
President Trump certainly has shown he appreciates the power of social media and has courted the emperor founders (albeit with mixed success). But his administration’s decision this month to file an antitrust case against Google parent Alphabet gives him an election-season achievement during the final run-up on an issue Democrats and Republicans see as a major problem: the influence of the biggest tech companies over consumers and the possibility their business practices have stifled new competitors and hobbled such legacy industries as telecom and media.