15 January 2014
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on 2014 Investor Summit on Climate Risk

 


Warning that carbon pollution was increasing at a faster rate than the clean energy needed to stop it, United Nations and financial experts today implored Governments and businesses alike to invest in cleaner energy and technologies.


Climate change and extreme weather brought on by fossil fuel use not only had dire consequences for the health of the planet; it posed a major long-term threat to the stability of institutional investment funds containing the pensions, life insurance and savings of billions of ordinary people, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said during a Headquarters news conference.


“Ignorance of climate change’s impact on investment portfolios is no longer an excuse.  We need to stand up now and make the necessary shifts in capital,” she said.


Ms. Figueres is at Headquarters in New York for the 2014 Investor Summit on Climate Risk, which brings together more than 550 global financial leaders to discuss ways to close the gap in clean energy investment.  According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, last year, global investment in low-carbon clean energy and energy efficiency technologies was $281 billion — down 12 per cent from 2012 — and far short of what was needed.


To keep global temperature rise to under 2°C — the level deemed vital by scientists to avoid a global climate catastrophe — some $36 trillion, or $1 trillion annually, was needed in clean energy investment by 2050, according to a 2012 report of the International Energy Agency.


“Putting a focus on the obstacles and the opportunities to getting to that 1 clean trillion a year is crucial,” said Mindy Lubber, President of Ceres, a United States-based non-profit organization that mobilizes business and investor leadership on climate change.


Mass investment was achievable as low-carbon renewable energy and technologies, such as wind and solar power, were already available and economically viable, she said.  A price on carbon was also vital, and sales of green bonds, which surged this year, showed great promise.


Michael Liebreich, Chief Executive Officer of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, agreed, noting that sales by development banks, projects and companies of green bonds had reached a record $14 billion in 2013.  While overall growth in clean energy was down in Europe and the United States last year, investment was up by 20 per cent in Japan and was growing in many developing countries in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Central America.  Extraordinary growth had been posted by major clean energy market players like electric car maker Tesla Motors and Google, which announced this week it would buy thermostat manufacturer Nest Labs.


Echoing concerns over the danger of not addressing the economic consequences of climate change, Thomas DiNapoli, New York State Comptroller, who manages that state’s $160.7 billion pension fund and oversees its employee retirement system, said that for the state’s fund and others like it to be sustainable, climate change risk must be addressed in a straightforward manner.


Asked why clean energy investment was down in the United States and Europe, Mr. Liebreich said growth patterns in themselves were complex and that both areas were ahead of other countries and regions because they had invested in clean energy early on.


As to when the first Government pledges in clean energy investment would be announced and whether the private sector would make up for the expected shortfall in funding, Ms. Figueres said she expected they would begin during the Secretary-General’s Climate Summit scheduled for 2014 and continue into the first part of 2015.  Such Government pledges would be a good first step, but they must be expanded to achieve the goal of zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.


On how to address policymakers who negated the presence and impact of climate change, Ms. Luber said that that debate was over.  Nearly all peer review studies had shown that the science was clear:  climate change existed.  Ms. Figueres added that climate change deniers were not of real concern.  The green economy, spurred by viable clean energy opportunities, was moving forward at the local and national level.


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For information media • not an official record