By Isla Binnie
MADRID, Sept 15 (Reuters) - BlackRock Inc Chief Executive Laurence Fink said on Thursday that natural gas would play a key role in the global drive to cut planet-warming carbon emissions and praised the European Union's decision to label as sustainable some investments in using the fuel.
During a recorded conversation with the chairman of Spanish bank BBVA, Fink said it was likely to be impossible to phase out hydrocarbons in the next 20 years.
"The key is going to be gas," he said, describing it as "obviously less pollutive than other forms of hydrocarbons".
Fink's comments were in line with other recent messages from the $8.5 trillion asset manager as it tries to steer a middle path on environmental issues.
The world’s largest fund firm has faced criticism from many sides in the debate on low-carbon fuels, with environmentalists protesting it does too little to press for change at fossil fuel portfolio companies on one side, and Republican U.S. politicians accusing it of boycotting energy stocks on the other.
In the talk, a transcript of which was provided by BBVA, Fink weighed in on a decision by the European Union earlier this year to include gas and nuclear plants in its sustainable investment rulebook, if they meet certain criteria.
"I'm very pleased that the Eurozone finally has said gas is green," Fink said, suggesting the continent's energy crisis stemming from Russia's invasion of Ukraine may have had a bearing on the assessment.
Characterising the shift away from fossil fuels as a "balancing act", Fink also said energy companies should look to develop relatively new technology that aims to capture, use and store carbon emitted from industry.
"I believe the major energy companies of the world today are going to be the leaders in sequestration of carbon," he said. (Reporting by Isla Binnie in Madrid; Editing by Ross Kerber and Jonathan Oatis)