US investors dangle $3-trillion clean energy investment news
26 February 2009

A group of 35 investors with over $3 trillion in assets today called on Congressional leaders to pass strong legislation to advance a clean energy, low-carbon economy and US competitiveness.

In a letter delivered to House and Senate leaders and the Obama Administration, the investors have specifically called for adoption of a strong national Energy Efficiency Resource Standard; a national Renewable Portfolio Standard (also called a Renewable Electricity Standard); a mandatory national climate policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide; and a low-carbon fuel standard and other transportation policies to lower oil use and greenhouse gas emissions.

Coordinated by Ceres and its Investor Network on Climate Risk, the letter was signed by leading pension funds such as the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS); large asset managers, including Black Rock and Deutsche Asset Management; nine state treasurers; three state/city comptrollers; two labor pension funds – SEIU Master Trust and UNITE HERE – as well as other investors.

The letter states that strong energy and climate action is 'essential' for long-term economic prosperity and that the costs of inaction could be 'economically debilitating.'

''We are convinced that building our nation's low-carbon energy infrastructure is an important part of the solution to our current economic crisis. Delaying action on these policies will deny US families and businesses access to low-cost clean power, reduce our nation's energy security and require more stringent, costly solutions to address climate change in the future,'' the letter stated.

''The value of aggressive, national action to fight climate change and remake our energy and transportation sectors cannot be overstated,'' said California state treasurer Bill Lockyer, a board member of the nation's two largest public pension funds, CalPERS and CalSTRS, with approximately $300 billion in combined assets.

''The benefits will extend far beyond the environment.  If we succeed, we will secure long-term security and prosperity for our economy, our businesses, and our workers and families, and in the bargain save taxpayers and consumers billions and billions of dollars,''  he added.

''The policies outlined in the letter would allow us to invest our clients' assets with appropriate cognisance of the continuing risks – and exciting opportunities – that will result from physical, regulatory and technological change spurred by a changing climate and the policy response,'' said Alex Popplewell, global co-head of responsible investment at Black Rock, which manages $1.3 trillion in assets.

''2009 will be a year of intense investor focus on the architecture of global agreements on climate change policy. We see it as essential that the United States play a full and urgent part in both clarifying its domestic approach to this complex issue and contributing to the successful conclusion of international agreements,'' he added.

''Strong national climate and energy legislation will send clear market signals to the business community - creating new industries, putting people back to work, and helping move American companies to the forefront of global competitiveness on clean energy,'' said Mindy S Lubber, president of Ceres and the director of the Investor Network on Climate Risk, an alliance of 77 investors with approximately $7 trillion in assets. 

''An energy efficiency resource standard is a critical component of such legislation and is equally as important as a renewable energy standard,'' she added.

Calling energy efficiency and conservation the ''fastest, easiest, and cheapest ways to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the bottom line of companies,'' the letter urged passage of a national Energy Efficiency Resource Standard that would set national energy savings targets and save utility customers up to $144 billion by 2020, as estimated by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

''Energy efficiency is the cheapest form of power we can produce and it is time for national policy to step in and tell electric utility companies that they need to shift their business practices to deliver a lot more of it,'' the letter stated.

The letter said much would depend on sending the right signal to the markets that greenhouse gas emissions will carry a price.

''National climate legislation acting in harmony with the market will facilitate greater investment in clean technologies and other climate change solutions and will enable the US to not only compete globally, but to lead,'' it said.

To facilitate rapid deployment of existing and emerging technologies, the letter urges Congress to enact a strong national renewable portfolio standard (also referred to as a renewable electricity standard), a policy already in place in 29 states.

In order to extend clean energy policies to the transportation sector, the letter urged legislators to adopt a national low-carbon fuel standard and to support expansion of public transit and legislation to promote the reduction of vehicle miles traveled. It also sought adoption of performance-based incentives to stimulate the development of new technologies and higher fuel economy standards.

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US investors dangle $3-trillion clean energy investment