New York Climate Summit: Labour Marches and Business Makes Pledges

The New York Times Editorial Board pronounced its verdict on the U.N. Climate Summit – focussing on the People’s March rather than the official meetings, and noting “a palpable conviction that tackling climate change could be an opportunity, and not a burden”.

The article notes that cooperation between the U.S. and China could create the conditions for a breakthrough agreement in 2015, “But what might really do the trick – if Climate Week is any guide – is the emergence of a growing bottom-up movement for change”. In an article in Truthout, Abby Scher summarizes the support for the People’s March by national unions in the U.S., including Service Employees (SEIU) and Communication Workers of America, as well as the New York state and city unions and the community-labour alliances which have taken root in New York since Hurricane Sandy.

The business community made headlines with its reports and announcements over the Climate Summit week: a Global Investor Statement by nearly 350 global institutional investors representing over $24 trillion in assets, calling for stable, reliable and economically meaningful carbon pricing and a phase-out of fossil fuels; the Carbon Tracker Initiative published a report for investors to measure their risk exposure and start directing capital away from high cost, high carbon projects; the new We Mean Business coalition released The Climate has Changed report; and iconic companies like Kellogg’s, Nestle, Apple, and IKEA and others released their own statements supporting climate change action.

CalPERS, the largest public pension fund in the U.S., pledged to measure and publicly disclose the carbon footprint of its $300 billion investment portfolio, and the California State Teachers Retirement System announced that it will increase its clean energy and technology investments from $1.4 billion to $3.7 billion over the next five years. And according to a New York Times summary of business initiatives: “The major Indonesian palm oil processors, including Cargill, issued a separate declaration on Tuesday pledging a crackdown on deforestation, and asking the Indonesian government to adopt stronger laws. Forest Heroes, an environmental group, called the declaration “a watershed moment in the history of both Indonesia and global agriculture. We should not underestimate the significance of what is happening”.

And for an interesting, more neutral point of view: consider the special report Climate Protection as a World Citizen Movement, presented to the German Federal Government on the occasion of the UN Climate Summit in New York. The German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) recommends a dual strategy for international climate policy: governments should negotiate the global phasing-out of fossil CO2 emissions at the Paris meetings in 2015, while civil society initiatives, including those of trade unions and religious organizations, should be supported and encouraged.

LINKS:

“A Group Shout on Climate Change” Editorial in the New York Times (September 27) is at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/28/opinion/sunday/a-group-shout-on-climate-change.html?emc=edit_th_20140928&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=67440933&_r=0. In contrast, see also “Moving Forward after the People’s Climate March” in Canadian Dimension at: https://canadiandimension.com/articles/view/moving-forward-after-the-peoples-climate-march

“At Least Some Unions Step Up for Big Climate March!” by Abby Scher in Truthout at: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/26137-at-least-some-unions-step-up-for-big-climate-march, with a list of the unions who officially endorsed the People March at: http://peoplesclimate.org/organizedlabor/. See also the BlueGreen Alliance statement at: http://www.bluegreenalliance.org/news/latest/members-of-labor-environmental-partnership-front-and-center-in-peoples-climate-march

For Business documents, see Global Investor Statement is at: http://investorsonclimatechange.org/; Carbon Supply Cost Curves: Evaluating Financial Risk to Oil Capital Expenditures is at the Carbon Tracker Initiative at: http://www.carbontracker.org/report/carbon-supply-cost-curves-evaluating-financial-risk-to-oil-capital-expenditures/; We Mean Business website is at: http://www.wemeanbusinesscoalition.org/, with The Climate has Changed at: http://www.wemeanbusinesscoalition.org/stories. CalPERS statement is at: http://www.calpers.ca.gov/index.jsp?bc=/about/newsroom/news/montreal-carbon-pledge.xml; California Teachers Retirement System press release is at: http://www.calstrs.com/news-release/calstrs-commits-increase-clean-energy-and-technology-investments; “Companies take the Baton in Climate Change Efforts” in the New York Times at: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/09/24/business/energy-environment/passing-the-baton-in-climate-change-efforts.html?_r=3

Climate Protection as a World Citizen Movement by the German Advisory Council on Global Change is at: http://www.wbgu.de/fileadmin/templates/dateien/veroeffentlichungen/sondergutachten/sn2014/wbgu_sg2014_en.pdf

Investment in Fossil Fuel Companies is on Shaky Ground – and that Includes Pension Funds

In a report released on March 26, authors Marc Lee and Brock Ellis warn of a possible “carbon bubble”, akin to the high tech or housing bubbles that have rocked financial markets in the past. The study finds that at least 78% of Canada’s proven oil, bitumen, gas, and coal reserves must remain in the ground in order to keep global temperature rise under 2 degrees C. This stranded, unburnable fossil fuel is part of the carbon liability of oil and gas companies, and has not been adequately recognized and accounted for by financial analysts. Because the Toronto Stock Exchange is highly weighted towards the fossil fuel sector (with 405 oil and gas companies and a total market capitalization of over $379 billion on the TSX in 2011), the authors argue that this failure to account for these climate risks means that large amounts of invested capital are vulnerable – including the pension assets of working Canadians. They also point out the intergenerational inequity implied in ignoring the interests of younger workers in pension fund management. They propose a series of measures to deflate the carbon bubble and green Canada’s investment markets as part of an orderly transition to a clean energy economy.  

Unburnable Carbon, a report by the Carbon Tracker Initiative, discusses the implications of these stranded carbon assets for world and U.K. financial markets. A 2013 update will be available in late April.

Meanwhile, the U.S. campaign for divestment of fossil fuel investments, spearheaded by Bill McKibben and 350.org, is gathering momentum in Canada. See the website ofhttp://gofossilfree.ca/ to follow the campaign to lobby universities to divest themselves of any investments related to fossil fuel companies.

LINKS

Canada’s Carbon Liabilities: The Implications of Stranded Fossil Fuel Assets for Financial Markets and Pension Funds is available at:  http://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/National%20Office/2013/03/Canadas%20Carbon%20Liabilities.pdf

Unburnable Carbon
 (2012, and forthcoming 2013 update) is available at the Carbon Tracker website at :http://www.carbontracker.org/carbonbubble

“Global warming’s terrifying new math” by Bill McKibben in Rolling Stone, July 2012 at: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719