Anyone who thinks the business world doesn't believe in acting on climate change should check out what's happening at the United Nations today. Some 450 global investors who control tens of trillion in assets are gathering for the Investor Summit on Climate Risk and Energy Solutions.
These major financial players see opportunity in clean energy and efficiency. Take it from Alan Salzman, CEO of Silicon Valley-based VantagePoint Capital Partners.
Worldwide, clean energy investment has hit $1 trillion since 2004, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The U.S. solar industry grew more in the third quarter of 2011 than in all of 2009. And top investors are finding ways to price the risks of climate change, while developing financial mechanisms that encourage efficiency.
Investors have helped convince the Securities and Exchange Commission that corporations should disclose material climate-related risks. Last year, they introduced more than 125 shareholder resolutions pushing companies to improve their climate change strategies. And the 2011 Global Investor Statement on Climate Change was signed by the largest group ever to stress the urgent need for governments to scale up low-carbon investment and incentives.
Despite these efforts, the global carbon footprint continues to grow. The climate continues to change, and signs of a warming world are everywhere, from rising sea levels to severe weather.
Scientists warn that we are racing against the clock. But special interests are pouring billions into climate change denial, political campaigns, and junk science, trying to drive a wedge between scientific reality and worldwide action.
The institutional investors gathered at the UN today show that there is an alternative path. They see both risk and opportunity in a changing climate. They see mitigating risk and taking advantage of opportunity as bottom-line imperatives. And they are acting accordingly.
Today these investors are hearing new data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance that shows a record $260 billion in total clean energy investment in 2011, up 5 percent from $247 billion in 2010 and five times the total attained only seven years ago.
They are also hearing that renewable portfolio standards in 29 U.S. states represent a $400 billion investment opportunity, and that GE's ecomagination business is growing at twice the rate of the rest of the company. They will also find out about new energy efficiency financing strategies that are creating tens of thousand of new jobs in the Northeast, Florida, and California -- while saving companies billions of dollars in energy costs.
Major corporations and institutional investors alike are committing billions of dollars to efficiency and clean energy technology. No matter what our highly partisan political system does -- or fails to do -- investors know they cannot afford to wait. The smart money is already getting to work.