NEW YORK: Global institutional investors managing $24 trillion in assets are calling on the world's political leaders to establish a stable price for carbon and phase out subsidies for fossil fuels.
In a statement released prior to the U.N. Climate Summit, the group declared: "Gaps, weaknesses and delays in climate change and clean energy policies will increase the risks to our investments ... and will increase the likelihood that more radical policy measures will be required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
Willie Walsh, CEO of International Airlines Group, says he supports carbon pricing through the development of carbon markets because it is the most effective way for businesses to address climate change: "We support international efforts to develop a global system for airlines that will use carbon markets to put a price on carbon emissions by 2020. An effective system will increase incentives for the aviation industry to accelerate the introduction of low-carbon technology and lock in the great potential to decarbonize air transport."
According to the International Energy Agency, governments, fund managers and corporations must invest at least US$1 trillion in clean energy every year until 2050 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Last year the number was just US$254 billion. Reinsure Swiss Re said natural disasters cost the global insurance industry around US$45 billion in 2013.
"The perception prevails that we need to choose between economic well-being or climate stability. The truth is that we need both," commented 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," he added.
Investor networks from the U.S., Europe, Asia and Australia/New Zealand acknowledge that with an estimated US$225 trillion in assets, the global financial sector has a unique opportunity to help achieve a low carbon, climate resilient world.
"Asia presents perhaps the greatest challenges and most significant opportunities in the efforts to transition towards a green economy," noted Alexandra Tracy, a senior advisor to the Asia Investor Group on Climate Change: "Policymakers need to balance difficult trade-offs between a development agenda and environmental concerns, but we see promising moves from governments in the region, such as the measures in China's most recent Five Year Plan."