“Poor Tom’s a cold” – Stuart Kirk -still crying in the storm.

Uncertainty has always been the mortal enemy of investing. And few ideas are more inconsistent, and thus uncertain, than ESG — no matter how you brand it. – Stuart Kirk (FT)

Though most of us want certainty, “achievement” comes from being “in uncertainty” without reaching out after “fact and reason“.

Stuart Kirk is open minded enough to understand the contradictions that come from trying to capture the moral high ground on ESG. Rishi Sunak, Jo Biden and other world leaders have to find ways to balance the books and stay in power. Last week’s announcements on scraping the oil barrel in the North Sea, is a macrocosm of abandoning ULEZ in Uxbridge.

But Kirk’s sneer may win him readers but it won’t win him friends, he ain’t no Keats, or Coleridge or Shakespeare. We will find our way through the climate crisis by living with its uncertainties and I am certain that the world of 2123 will look back at us with a sense of wonder that we didn’t know better, just as we look back at our forefathers.

The difficulty comes from living in the moment of crisis without the certainty of what will come out of it.  Kirk may not be a Shakespeare, but he has the characteristics of Shakespeare’s fools who saw things as they were , not how others wanted them to be.

We all know what we want to happen, the vision is in the emission targets we set and our hope for curbing global warning, but setting long term goals has to be combined with taking short term actions. As one comment on Stuart Kirk’s article points out

If governments/enterprises were serious in reducing emissions then they would set out, for example, 12 monthly targets with doable plans – but that is too dangerous as it might work  but if it doesn’t they might have to explain their failures.

Governments outsource difficult problems to the people who voted for them. it’s what smart  leaders do.

The TCFD framework is about getting organizations to set out (to themselves and others) how they are managing climate change and whether that management is working. It should be doing what Government finds it impossible to do, remain consistent.

But consistency depends on certainty and we don’t enjoy certainty, If we did, we wouldn’t have sport, or business – we would be in a feudal society where things didn’t change. All the great things we aspire to in society, like social mobility, depend on likely things not happening. In short – we prosper from uncertainty by being smart and finding ways to do the least harm for the maximum good. Which is why , reluctantly, we have to go along with compromises and keep a smile on our faces. Something that  leaders like Lear fail to do.

HSBC’s Noel Quinn

Being authoritative

Lear needed a fool but the fool needed a king. Stuart Kirk will not be a king but he still needs an authoritative structure to poke his stick into. He ran into Noel Quinn, a boss who couldn’t see the funny side of his fool and fired him.

Now Kirk is looking at other sources of authority like TCFD (“Death by fatuous and incomparable data”); and like excluding stocks from Meta to Exxon Mobil (“No wonder both companies are found in sustainable funds. It’s a free for all”).

Into this world of foolishness, authority steps forwards, intent on tolerating the fool but on being king.

There is  an arms race among asset managers to appoint the most authoritative “product advocate” who can command most respect in the storm. Net Zero Investor lists each month’s new candidates

We want to crown a new king.  We reach out to them for certainty , we are in Lear’s storm and all we can hear is Stuart Kirk crying “Tom’s a cold”.

When the storm subsides, Shakespeare leaves us wondering what is left. In his barren vision of the post storm  there is no fool and precious little authority. That is one way of looking at the future, but there are others.

I wish our new climate heroes well, you will need to be weather-proof in many ways! Remember your achievement is to be in uncertainty without reaching out for fact and reason.




About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
This entry was posted in pensions and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply