Can $15 Trillion in Assets Galvanize UN Climate Talks in Cancun?

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Bloomberg News is reporting that a coalition of international investors led by Deutsche Banke AG and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CALPERS) are calling for global policy action at the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, November 29-December 10.

The statement, which is being curated by Ceres, warns that continued weak US leadership on climate policy will only push private capital overseas posing drastically more serious risks to the faltering US economy. According to the letter, as much as 20% of GDP could be lost by 2050 if governments fail to support alternate energy innovation. In total, the financier signatories represent 259 asset managers responsible for $15 trillion in investment vehicles, or nearly one quarter of global capitalization.

Some interesting quotes:

“Investors need greater policy certainty from governments,” Donald MacDonald, trustee for BT Pension Scheme, the U.K.’s largest employee pension plan, said today in a statement. “Deferring climate-change agreement adds to investor concerns that climate-change risks and costs aren’t taken seriously.”

“A basic lesson to be learned from past experience in renewable energy is that, almost without exception, private sector investment has been driven by consistent and sustained government policy. Experiences from a number of countries around the world show how structured policies can bolster investor confidence, help ramp up renewable energy investments,  bring technologies down the cost curve and thereby eventually strengthen their competitiveness.” said Ole Beier Sørensen, Chairman of the Institutional Investor Group on Climate Change and chief of Research and Strategy at the Danish pension fund ATP, with EUR56 billion in assets.

Sadly, the current lame duck session of Congress has no teeth to create any movement on the energy stalemate, but CALPERS nonetheless had a stinging message for the gridlock-loving lawmakers:

Climate change may be out of vogue in Washington today, but it poses serious financial risks that are not going away and will only increase the longer we delay enacting sensible policies to transition to a low-carbon economy,” said Jack Ehnes, chief executive officer of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, the nation’s second largest public pension fund with $141 billion in assets. “The nation’s leaders should take the cue from California, where strong clean energy policies have spurred American innovation and created thousands of jobs.”

Image Credit by Tbass Effendi via Flickr under a CC license.

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