Presidential hopeful Warren latest to press BlackRock on climate


SAN FRANCISCO/BOSTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of several vying to be the Democratic party’s presidential nominee, this week pressed the world’s largest asset manager for details on its recent vows to take more account of climate risks.

The five-page letter, also signed by senators Sheldon Whitehouse, Cory Booker and Chris Van Hollen, is the latest outreach BlackRock Inc has received over sustainability matters and reflects the growing interest, at least among some Democrats, in making climate a business issue for financial firms.

Among other things, the Warren-led group asked BlackRock Chief Executive Larry Fink whether he supports legislation that would require companies to disclose risks such as those tied to rising sea levels, and for details on how it plans to make use of sustainable funds.

Currently, “investors lack access to basic information about the potential risk of the climate crisis on American companies,” the letter states.

A BlackRock representative said the company is reviewing the letter.

Climate change has become a central issue in the contest to become the Democrats’ pick to take on President Donald Trump in the November presidential election.

Candidates including Warren, front-runner Bernie Sanders and others have called for steps including an end to fracking, cuts to carbon emissions and shoring up infrastructure against more frequent massive storms.

Trump has called climate change a hoax, although he said at a conference at the Swiss resort of Davos last month that the U.S. would join the one trillion trees sustainability initiative.

Financial firms have faced growing pressure on climate matters including top bank JPMorgan Chase & Co, which on Tuesday raised its clean-energy lending commitments.

U.S. financial regulators so far have declined to embrace calls for standard metrics to evaluate corporate exposure to climate change and other sustainability trends.

One proposed solution is to have companies report against metrics offered by the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, a nonprofit organization whose backers including another Democratic presidential candidate, billionaire Michael Bloomberg.

Last month Fink forecast a “fundamental reshaping of finance” due to climate change risks, and urged companies to make disclosures in line with those suggested by SASB and the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures.

Activists have praised Fink’s intentions but said they are waiting to see how the company acts, such as how it votes on climate-related issues at the springtime proxy season.

Reporting by Ann Saphir in San Francisco and by Ross Kerber in Boston; Editing by Christopher Cushing