UN urges investors to align portfolios with Paris climate deal

Hajia Amina Mohammed

Greater ambition to divest from fossil fuel investments and consistent climate action is needed from the global investor community to accelerate the move towards a low-carbon economy and a climate-resilient future, top UN officials said at a major investor summit in New York recently.

More than 450 investor, company and capital market leaders convened at the Investor Summit on Climate Risk to map out the next steps for increased action on climate change.

“While we see divestment from fossil fuel assets at more than USD 5 trillion, last year, the global community invested another USD 825 billion in fossil fuel use. Once again, your voice and the actions you take will speed the pace with which countries improve the consistency and alignment of their approach,” said United Nations Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed.

Stressing the significance of the Paris Climate Change Agreement as a vehicle for transformation, Ms. Mohammed said the agreement provided a roadmap for ambitious and cooperative global action, bringing various stakeholders together and generating momentum to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Bold action is now needed by policy makers, regulators and the market to ensure that the Paris Agreement goals are realized and to address the growing barriers to sustainable development.

“Divesting from carbon intensive assets and aligning with the goals of the Paris Agreement is a complex realignment. Your voices need to be clear with regulators, central bankers, finance ministers, board rooms and C-suites for the gathering momentum to continue to gather pace and to become a truly global phenomenon,” she said.

United Nations Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa also underlined the importance of investors in accelerating the flow of finance for global climate action.

“Governments need to know that the financial element to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement is going to be delivered. It cannot only be public money. There is a major role for investors to play,” she said.

In parallel to the key role of national governments, local governments and cities and provinces in reducing carbon emissions, stronger climate action is required by the private sector and investors to achieve the central goal of the Paris Agreement, which is to limit the rise of global average temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

In a move to guide investors worldwide to increase investments in low-carbon technologies, a diverse group of investors and seven partner organizations –Asia Investor Group on Climate Change, CDP, Ceres, Investor Group on Climate Change, Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, Principles for Responsible Investment and UNEP Finance Initiative – joined hands to launch the Investor Agenda at the Summit.

The agenda is designed for the global investor community to accelerate and scale up the actions that are critical to tackling climate change and achieving the Paris Agreement goals. It will identify actions that investors can take in four key areas: Investment, Corporate Engagement, Investment Disclosure and Policy Advocacy.

Other concrete announcements made at the Summit added to the growing momentum of global investors taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the transition to a low-carbon economy. For example, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced a USD 2 billion increase to the New York State Common Retirement Fund’s low emissions equities index at the Investor Summit on Climate Risk in New York, raising the fund’s sustainable investment portfolio to USD 7 billion.

The Fund –  the third largest public pension fund in the US with estimated assets of over USD 200 billion – has an index that excludes or reduces holdings in the worst carbon emitters and shifts investments to lower emitting corporations.

The latest announcement is aimed at boosting investments in to companies that are working towards lowering their global greenhouse gas emissions.

Recently, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer said the City would take steps to divest its pension funds from fossil fuels. La Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), Canada’s second largest pension fund, also committed to increasing its low-carbon investments by 50per cent by 2020, representing more than USD 8 billion in new investment. And, in Europe, AXA, the world’s largest insurer, set a target to reach USD 14.7 billion in low-carbon investments by 2020.

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