(Bloomberg) -- Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer David Solomon defended the need to support traditional energy companies, batting away demands from climate activists to abandon their clients in that sector.
“Traditional energy companies are hugely important to the global economy, they are hugely important to Goldman Sachs,” Solomon said at the American Energy Security Summit in Oklahoma City Monday. “We are all going to continue to finance traditional companies for a long time.”
Last year, the vast majority of energy in the world came from fossil fuels, and emissions grew, Solomon said, adding that “we recognize there needs to be a transition over time but that transition is going to take time.”
His remarks mirrored those made by other Wall Street leaders who have been pushing back against growing agitation from climate activists for banks to more quickly step away from financing and supporting fossil-fuel companies. That has led to disruptions at banking events and protests outside companies’ headquarters.
Earlier this year, a group of shareholders asked the six biggest US banks to phase out their funding of oil and gas exploration and development. Those proposals have so far been unsuccessful.
Solomon’s comments also echoed his message to a group of students at his alma mater, Hamilton College, earlier this year. That turned into a fractious discussion, as some of those students later wrote in an anonymous letter to the college newspaper that Solomon indicated fossil-fuel divestment was a stupid movement. He told the students who traveled to countries such as China, India and Cambodia that they could see how the world “really worked” before the conversation further devolved. A spokesman for Goldman previously said that the CEO didn’t say things to offend the students.
“Candidly, with what’s going on geopolitically, we are in a better position to have a more rational, honest conversation now,” the 61-year-old CEO said Monday, stressing the need to support traditional energy. In the absence of secure energy at an appropriate price, “society won’t function,” he said.
“There’s no easy answer to the journey we are on,” Solomon said. “But I think it is hugely important that we provide the appropriate support.”
--With assistance from David Wethe.
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