Davos WEF

Trump's climate inaction has left companies stepping up to fill the gap, Nasdaq CEO says

Key Points
  • Nasdaq's CEO said U.S. inaction on climate change is "not necessarily a good thing" and has left a "hole" for companies to fill in.
  • The topic of climate has been front and center at Davos, with teen environmental activist Greta Thunberg among the list of attendees.
  • Adena Friedman said that Nordic stock markets like Sweden and Finland's have been leading the way on green initiatives.
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US climate inaction has left a hole to be filled by businesses: Nasdaq CEO

President Donald Trump's lack of engagement on the issue of climate change has meant companies will need to step up their environmental efforts instead, according to the CEO of Nasdaq.

"I actually believe that because of the fact that the government hasn't been engaged on this topic, the corporate world has realized we need to take a much bigger role," Nasdaq's Adena Friedman said in a fireside chat with CNBC's Karen Tso at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Friedman said that Trump's inaction on climate was "not necessarily a good thing" and has left a "hole" that the corporate sector has found a way to fill in. She said she still thinks it would be better "if the whole ecosystem is engaged and aligned."

The U.S. was widely panned by the international community when it decided to withdraw from the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aimed to reduce carbon emissions significantly, thereby decreasing the impacts of climate change. The architect of the agreement, Christiana Figueres, on Monday blasted Trump over the decision, asking: "How can he face himself?"

Adena Friedman
Anjali Sundaram | CNBC

Climate has been front and center at 2020's edition of Davos, an event in the Swiss Alps that hosts some of the world's best-known world leaders and billionaires. It's being attended this year by Greta Thunberg, the teen environmental activist that found herself in a war of words with the U.S. president last year.

Thunberg on Tuesday warned that the remaining carbon budget would be "gone in less than eight years" at current emission levels. "These aren't anyone's views. This is the science."

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Friedman said that Nasdaq has been upping its game in making the capital markets business greener, with the introduction of new securities, like green bonds and funds focused on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG). Nordic stock markets like Sweden and Finland's have been leading the way on those initiatives, she said.

"We own all the markets in the Nordic countries, and the Nordics are leading the world in terms of issues of climate change," said Friedman. "We're bringing that DNA into our American business as well."

Nasdaq operates the Nasdaq stock market in New York as well as eight European exchanges, including Copenhagen, Helsinki and Stockholm.

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Trump vs Greta: How climate change took over Davos