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  • Writer's pictureWill paraskeva

Red, Blue and Green: What are the ESG aims of the Republicans and the Democrats in the upcoming 2024 elections?

The upcoming presidential election in November is an event I’m sure many are eagerly awaiting. As the Blues and the Reds battle it out for control over the world’s largest economy, they have made numerous changes to their manifestos. Although their economic and military commitments are interesting, the most polarising policies are those centred around the environment. So, how do the Republicans and the Democrats intend to tackle the climate crisis should they take power later this year?

In contrast to the laissez-faire attitude of the Republicans, the Democrats are taking a more direct and involved role with the environment and social governance. Regarding the environment, the Democrats have set a goal of reaching net zero by 2050 and eliminating carbon emissions by 2035. They have committed to installing 500 million solar panels (including eight million solar roofs and community solar energy systems), reducing legacy emissions, investing in clean transit, building sustainable housing, and improving critical and clean water infrastructure.

In addition to making several environmental commitments, the Democrat party also seems to be committed to improving the equity of the USA by supporting development in impoverished areas. The Democrats have pledged to target relative investments to ensure that at least 40% of the benefits are received by disadvantaged communities. Furthermore, the party aims to improve worker protections for migrant communities by supporting the creation of secure and unionised jobs and improving labour standards through better wages, benefits, and training. 

All these changes come as part of their desire to build “a thriving, equitable and globally competitive clean energy economy”. 

Conversely, the Republicans are taking a radically different approach to ESG to counter the heavily supportive stance of the Democrats. Throughout 2023 and the start of 2024, the Republican party has taken action to limit the funding allocated to clean energy and instead promote fossil fuels. For example, Mike Johnson (who has accepted more funding from the oil and gas sector than any other sector) was elected as a speaker in the US House of Representatives and has voted against numerous climate-related bills and the subsidies given to green energy companies in Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act. General suspicion towards climate change in the Republican party was also echoed in the Republican Primary election with candidates like Vivek Ramaswamy arguing that “the climate change agenda is a hoax”. Out of the 7 candidates present in the Primacy debate in August 2023, only one agreed with the statement that climate change was caused by human behaviour. Now, with Trump as the presidential candidate for the Republican party, it seems unlikely that there will be a radical shift towards ESG favouring policies in their manifesto. 

But why do these differences emerge? Well firstly, Republicans tend to have a financial incentive to endorse polluting companies, with many refusing to support clean energy to please fossil fuel megadonors. Another reason could come down to the Democrat's desire to earn the support of swing voters who, unlike typical republican voters, have a large affinity towards the environment. 

Overall, the ESG debate between the parties is brash and full of insults (such as the Democrats arguing that Donald Trump “callously and wilfully ignores the science that explains why so many are suffering” and yet highly interesting. The completely polarising policies of the Republicans and the Democrats mean it’s impossible to predict what the ESG policy will look like for the American government in the next 4 years. Will it continue to move towards achieving net zero or will it swing back to fossil fuels and the liquid gold that is oil?



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