President Trump'stax affairs highlight again how he embodies the very worst of kleptocratic capitalism - a mode of doing business many corporate leaders are desperate to leave behind once and for all
Is there a climate angle amidst the thicket of questions and scandals raised by the New York Times' bombshell investigation of President Trump's tax affairs?
Well, just as there is always a tweet to highlight Donald Trump's radioactive levels of hypocrisy, there is also always a climate angle to any major story.
The obvious one is that the revelation that Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017 should deal yet another major blow to his chances of re-election.
The implications for the global net zero transition that flow from the result in November remain as stark as ever. A Biden victory would ensure the US remains in the Paris Agreement and would result in all three of the world's largest economies - the EU, China, and the US - having a net zero target in place. A Trump victory would, despite the continued revolution in clean tech, slow US decarbonisation efforts and embolden other opponents of the Paris Agreement to step up efforts to undermine the accord.
Only a fool would declare that the revelation of Trump's tax shenanigans will definitely prove a knock out blow, given Trump's shock 2016 victory and the vagaries of the electoral college. But the incumbent is continuing to lag in the polls and Joe Biden was the front-runner even before Trump's myriad business failures were laid bare.
More broadly, though, there is another climate-related angle here. The tax story highlights clearer than ever before how Trump is the living embodiment of a particular form of businessman. He is literally a rentier capitalist. He is the prioritisation of financial engineering over actual engineering. He is the illegitimate son of Gordon Gekko and Montgomery Burns. He is capitalism as kleptocracy.
Trump is often cast, rightly, as the nadir of toxic masculinity and white privilege, but he is also representative of the absolute worst of unfettered, unregulated capitalism.
One of the many fascinating aspects of Trump's ascendancy to the position of the world's most powerful man is how his rise coincided with the emergence of an increasingly forceful attempt by other business leaders to pursue a diametrically opposed form of purpose-led capitalism that welcomes sensible regulation, abhors exploitation and extractivism, and wants to build a better future for all rather than simply make a quick buck.
At a time when the British government has kicked off another front in the culture war with the news it is to stop teachers from touching on anything that could be construed as advocating for the overthrow of capitalism it is worth noting once again that capitalism is the most capacious and amorphous of terms. The gap between Trump's brand of grifter capitalism and that pursued by the growing band of B Corps or the multinationals aspiring to build a net zero emission economy is so wide as to stretch the over-arching umbrella term to breaking point.
Yesterday, we staged a preview for the Net Zero Festival. I spoke to the brilliant John Elkington and the inspirational Farhana Yamin about how businesses and political leaders are responding to what promises to be a tumultuous decade by leaning in to the net zero transition. We also heard from some of the businesses that have declared 'climate emergencies' and are transforming their operations accordingly. They are unrecognisable from the world of business inhabited by Donald J Trump.
Like the election itself, you would be a mug to state with certainty how this battle between the two wings of modern capitalism will play out. But from this distance it looks like President Trump and his acolytes are losing ground on both counts.
A version of this article originally appeared in the BusinessGreen Overnight Briefing newsletter, which is available to all BusinessGreen subscribers.
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