As investors and financial firms heed the call to cut fossil fuel holdings, others hang on: Warren Buffett holds the third-largest fortune in the world connected to greenhouse-gas emissions, according to a new survey.
The Oracle of Omaha comes in behind the Koch family — owners of Koch Industries Inc. — and Saudi Arabia’s ruling family in the top 10 ranking from Bloomberg.
Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, whose interests run from ice cream to underwear, was “directly and indirectly” responsible for 189 million tons of greenhouse-gas emissions in 2018, mostly because of its utility division and multibillion-dollar stake in Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co., one of the world’s largest railroad companies.
Buffett has stated that his personal political opinions don’t affect his business decisions. But that philosophy may be becoming increasingly dated at a time when a broad cross section of companies, governments, regulators and investors are calling for disclosure and action to address climate issues. BlackRock Inc. CEO Larry Fink announced this month that the world’s largest asset manager would put sustainability at the center of its business, and British billionaire Chris Hohn, whose fund manages $30 billion in assets, has said he’ll oust boards and dump shares of companies that don’t work to actively cut emissions.
The two fortunes on the Bloomberg list ahead of Buffett’s were the $150 billion attributed to the Koch family and the $100 billion listed for Saudi Arabia’s Al Saud family. Buffett came in at $89.3 billion. Together, the 10 fortunes on the list were valued at $537 billion at the end of 2019.
The Bloomberg list cross-references year-end 2019 net worth data from the Bloomberg Billionaires Index against emissions estimates from three sources: CDP — an international nonprofit which works to boost environmental disclosure and action by companies, cities, states and regions; the Climate Accountability Institute’s Carbon Majors list; and the University of Massachusetts’ Greenhouse 100 Polluters list.
- Buffett is spending billions to make Iowa “the wind capital of the world, the Saudi Arabia of wind,” he told The Financial Times. But he said he’s doing it because of government incentives, not to cut carbon emissions or fight climate change.
- He expressed wariness about companies pursuing social and environmental goals.
- Buffett is making a big bet on solar power, Barron’s reported earlier this month.
- Buffett topped Fortune’s list of billionaire givers for 2014-2018, donating almost $15 billion to charity over the five-year period, with a focus on health and alleviating poverty.