Just two months after Australia’s Abbott government achieved the dubious honour of becoming the first in the world to abolish a national carbon pricing scheme, more than 350 global institutional investors representing around $24 trillion in assets have called on government leaders across the globe to put a price on carbon, to help redirect investment on the scale required to combat climate change.
In a statement published on Thursday in New York, a message drafted through a collaboration of six investor groups warns that while the global finance sector is starting to take action on climate change, stronger government action is needed to accelerate the low carbon transition.
“Gaps, weaknesses and delays in climate change and clean energy policies will increase the risks to our investments as a result of the physical impacts of climate change, and will increase the likelihood that more radical policy measures will be required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” says the statement.
“Stronger political leadership and more ambitious policies are needed in order for us to scale up our investments.”
The statement – which will be presented, along with a report, to the UN climate summit in New York next week – also calls on world leaders to forge an ambitious global climate deal, as well as develop plans to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels.
“It is significant that the largest institutional investors from around the world are in agreement that unmitigated climate change puts their investments at risk,” said Mindy Lubber, director of one of the investor groups behind the statement – the Investor Network on Climate Risk – and president of US-based nonprofit sustainability advocacy group, Ceres.
“The financial community has a message for heads of state gathering at the United Nations next week: we can’t afford to wait any longer for a climate deal.”
The report recognises the role investors play in financing clean energy, outlines the specific steps they are committing to take, and calls on policymakers to take action that supports, rather than limits, investments in clean energy and climate solutions.
“The perception prevails that we need to choose between economic well-being or climate stability. The truth is that we need both,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme.
“What is needed is an unprecedented re-channelling of investment from today’s economy into the low-carbon economy of tomorrow. Investors are owners of large segments of the global economy as well as custodians of citizens’ savings around the world. Having such a critical mass of them demand a transition to the low-carbon and green economy is exactly the signal Governments need in order to move to ambitious action quickly,” Steiner said.
The report also details examples of action being taken by investors who support a low carbon, climate resilient economy, to demonstrate that investors are already acting on climate change in a variety of ways.
These activities include direct low carbon investments, the creation of low carbon funds, company engagement, and reducing exposure to fossil fuel and carbon intensive companies.
In addition, the investor groups have launched a Low Carbon Investment Registry, which identifies how institutional investors like pension funds and insurance companies are directing capital towards low-carbon assets.
“The Low Carbon Investment Registry shows how investors are already supporting the transition to a low carbon economy by investing in a variety of different ways – directly into renewable energy projects, into clean energy funds, through green bonds and through the establishment of public-private-partnerships,” said Nathan Fabian, Chief Executive of the Investor Group on Climate Change.
“It gives policymakers a better understanding of how private capital is currently flowing into low-carbon investments.”