Tag Archives: United Nations Climate Summit

UN summit: Businesses and investors pressing for green policy

Repost from The Associated Press

Businesses and investors pressing for green policy

By Johathan Fahey, AP Energy Writer, September 22, 2014
AP Photo
In this Saturday, Jan. 10, 2009, file photo, a flock of geese fly past a smokestack at the Jeffery Energy Center coal power plant near Emmitt, Kan. Hundreds of corporations, insurance companies and pension funds are calling on world leaders gathering for a U.N. summit on climate change this week to attack the problem by making it more costly for businesses to pollute. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Hundreds of corporations, insurance companies and pension funds are calling on world leaders gathering for a U.N. summit on climate change this week to attack the problem by making it more costly for businesses and ordinary people to pollute.

The idea, long advocated by policymakers, economists and environmental activists, is that the world can’t hope to slow the heating of the planet until its cost is incorporated into the everyday activities that contribute to it, such as using gas- or coal-generated electricity, driving a car, shipping a package or flying around the globe.

Business leaders representing trillions of dollars in revenue and retirement savings say they worry that global warming threatens the long-term value of their investments, and they want world leaders to adopt policies that would provide a financial incentive to people to clean up their act.

That could include a tax on carbon emissions, a cap or some other mechanism.

“There’s a market failure that needs to be fixed,” said Anne Simpson, senior portfolio manager and director of global governance at the $300 billion California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the largest public pension fund in the U.S.

Despite a broad consensus that something needs to be done, it has been impossible so far for global leaders to agree on how to implement what amounts to a price on pollution, because energy is so important for economic growth.

“It may be easier to get large businesses to agree that something should be done than to get them to coalesce around specific policy measures,” said Michael Levi, senior fellow for energy and the environment at the Council on Foreign Relations.

At Tuesday’s U.N. summit, 120 world leaders will try to summon some of the considerable political will required if a new climate treaty is to be reached at international negotiations next year in Paris. The one-day summit is part of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s push to help world leaders to reach a goal they set in 2009: prevent Earth’s temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) from where it is now.

On Sunday, scientists announced that the world set another record last year for the amount of carbon pollution spewed into the atmosphere.

Ahead of the summit, business leaders such as Apple’s Tim Cook renewed or expanded pledges to help the planet by running their businesses more efficiently, investing in renewable energy or pulling their investments from fossil fuel companies.

Last week, CalPERS and other big asset-holders such as the insurance and financial firms Allianz, BlackRock and AXA Group called for a “meaningful” price on carbon emissions. The World Bank said Monday that 73 countries and more than 1,000 companies have expressed their support for a price on carbon.

Also on Monday, a parade of business and political leaders tried to rally support in a series of speeches in New York.

“It doesn’t cost more to deal with climate change; it costs more to ignore it,” said Secretary of State John Kerry.

Cook said customers care about the planet and will “vote with their dollars” for sustainably produced products. He outlined the steps Apple is taking to reduce the carbon emissions of its products and its supply chain, and called for broader action.

“The long-term consequences of not addressing climate change are huge,” he said. “I don’t think anyone can overstate that.”

While many insist a transition to a cleaner economy can boost economic growth or at least not harm it, many worry it would slow the global economy and make it more difficult for people in developing nations to get access to even basic electricity and transportation. Even those who agree that the transition must take place can’t agree on how to do it.

The International Energy Agency estimates that $1 trillion per year must be invested through 2050 in clean energy in order to keep global temperatures from rising past a level that scientists consider especially dangerous.

Charging a price for carbon emissions could prod polluters to change their ways by making it in their financial self-interest to do so. It would make fossil fuel investments less profitable and therefore less attractive. And it would make clean energy more lucrative.

A host of new investment vehicles are already making it easier for investors and others to sink their money into renewable projects. The market for so-called green bonds – tax-free bonds that fund clean energy, energy efficiency or other sustainable projects – is expected to at least double to $20 billion this year, for example.

Last week the $188 billion California Teachers’ Retirement System announced its intention to boost its investment in clean energy and technology to $3.7 billion from $1.4 billion over the next five years and said that could rise to $9.5 billion with changes in policy. Warren Buffet has said he is looking to double his $15 billion in investments in wind and solar projects.

On another front, a group of activists is calling on foundations and endowments to reduce or eliminate investments in fossil fuel-related companies and direct that money toward clean energy. The group, the Divest-Invest Coalition, said Monday that foundations representing $50 billion in assets have signed on, though the fossil-fuel investments in those portfolios are a very small percentage of the total.

Despite these signs, annual global investment in clean energy is only a quarter of what the IEA estimates is required.

“We’re moving tens or even hundreds of billions, but we’re looking at a $1 trillion every year, and if we’re looking at $1 trillion, we need policy,” said David Pitt-Watson, chairman of the U.N. Environment Program’s Finance Initiative.

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    People’s Climate March, September 21 in New York City

    From CoolDavis

     An Invitation to Change Everything

    “My poster focuses on a young girl holding a pinwheel, which alludes to wind turbines, while the sun behind her alludes to solar energy … She looks up from the precipice, wearing on her face the symbol of the march: a green heart," Jean said about his design.

    “My poster focuses on a young girl holding a pinwheel, which alludes to wind turbines, while the sun behind her alludes to solar energy … She looks up from the precipice, wearing on her face the symbol of the march: a green heart,” Jean said about his design.

    If possible, on September 21 travel to New York City and join tens of thousands in the People’s Climate March two days before the United Nations Climate Summit 2014….Or, join us here in Davis for exhibits, speakers, films, and actions. It’s a modest way to join with others across the nation to urge government leaders to support an ambitious global agreement to dramatically reduce global warming.

    This is an invitation to change everything.

    When Bill McKibben published “A Call to Arms: An Invitation to Demand Action on Climate Change” in the June 5th edition of Rolling Stone, he wrote this confident sentence under the title:

    When world leaders gather in New York this fall to confront climate change, tens of thousands of people (and maybe you) will be there to demand they take action before it’s too late.

    McKibben credits most of the world’s leaders with doing what most of us have done – the easy things – but they haven’t set the world on a new course. For example, President Barack Obama pushed through more demanding mileage standards for cars, but he’s also opened huge areas of our land to oil drilling and coal mining, making the U.S. the world’s biggest petro producer.

    Here’s a portion of McKibben’s essay worth reading.

    Like other world leaders, Pres. Obama tried, but not nearly hard enough. Consider what he told The New Yorker in an interview earlier this year: “At the end of the day, we’re part of a long-running story. We just try to get our paragraph right.” And “I think we are fortunate at the moment that we do not face a crisis of the scale and scope that Lincoln or FDR faced.”

    We do, though; we face a crisis as great as any president has ever encountered. Here’s how his paragraph looks so far: Since he took office, summer sea ice in the Arctic has mostly disappeared, and at the South Pole, scientists in May made clear that the process of massive melt is now fully under way, with 10 feet of sea-level rise in the offing. Scientists have discovered the depth of changes in ocean chemistry: that seawater is 30 percent more acidic than just four decades ago, and it’s already causing trouble for creatures at the bottom of the marine food chain. America has weathered the hottest year in its history, 2012, which saw a drought so deep that the corn harvest largely failed. At the moment, one of the biggest states in Obama’s union, California, is caught in a drought deeper than any time since Europeans arrived. Hell, a few blocks south of the U.N. buildings, Hurricane Sandy turned the Lower East Side of New York into a branch of the East River.

    And that’s just the United States. The world’s scientists earlier this spring issued a 32-volume report explaining exactly how much worse it’s going to get, which is, to summarize, a lot worse even than they’d thought before. It’s not that the scientists are alarmists – it’s that the science is alarming. Here’s how one Princeton scientist summarized the situation for reporters: “We’re all sitting ducks.”

    The gap between “We’re all sitting ducks” and “We do not face a crisis” is the gap between halfhearted action and the all-out effort that might make a difference. It’s the gap between changing light bulbs and changing the system that’s powering our destruction.

    For the rest of the article, go here.

    statue of liberty in rising tideMcKibben claims people who work for environmental justice, labor unions, people in faith groups, students, and middle class white folks are all united in this cry to change everything. There are examples in history when large numbers of people took to the streets and they succeeded in changing the course of history.

    Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club writes“This isn’t  just about getting a bunch of people to New York to march for an hour then go home. This is about making sure that the tipping point in the fight to halt climate disruption tips in the favor of the average citizen and clean energy prosperity, and that the world’s leaders see that the support to do so has reached a level that can no longer be ignored.”

    So take heart.  If you can’t be in NYC, join the Davis climate movement on September 21. Go to www.yolanoclimateaction.org for updates on how to be part of the local action.

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