UN summit urged to end all coal burning and introduce substantial taxes on emissions
Mon 10 Dec 2018 00.01 GMT
Global investors managing $32tn issued a stark warning to governments at the UN climate summit on Monday, demanding urgent cuts in carbon emissions and the phasing out of all coal burning. Without these, the world faces a financial crash several times worse than the 2008 crisis, they said.
The investors include some of the world’s biggest pension funds, insurers and asset managers and marks the largest such intervention to date. They say fossil fuel subsidies must end and substantial taxes on carbon be introduced.
Ministers arrive at the UN climate summit in Katowice, Poland, on Monday for its crucial second week, when the negotiations on turning the vision of the Paris agreement into reality reach a critical point, with finance for fighting global warming a key area of dispute.
“The long-term nature of the challenge has, in our view, met a zombie-like response by many,” said Chris Newton, of IFM Investors which manages $80bn and is one of the 415 groups that has signed the Global Investor Statement. “This is a recipe for disaster as the impacts of climate change can be sudden, severe and catastrophic.”
Investment firm Schroders said there could be $23tn of global economic losses a year in the long term without rapid action. This permanent economic damage would be almost four times the scale of the impact of the 2008 global financial crisis. Standard and Poor’s rating agency also warned leaders: “Climate change has already started to alter the functioning of our world.”
Thomas DiNapoli, of the $207bn New York State Common Retirement Fund, another signatory, said taking action on global warming not only avoided damage but could boost jobs and growth. “The low-carbon economy presents numerous opportunities and investors who ignore the changing world do so at their own peril.”
Lord Nicholas Stern, of the London School of Economics said: “The low-carbon economy is the growth story of the 21st century and it is inclusive growth. Without that story, we would not have got the 2015 Paris agreement, but the story has grown stronger and stronger and is really compelling now.”
The US Trump administration will hold its only event at the UN summit on Monday and is expected to promote “clean coal”. But Stern said Trump’s suggestion that action on climate change was a jobs killer was “dead wrong”. Stern said: “You don’t create jobs for the 21st century by trying to whistle up jobs from the 19th century.”
A key demand of the Global Investor Statement is to phase out coal-fired power stations across the world. Peter Damgaard Jensen, the CEO of Danish pension fund PKA, said: “Investors, including PKA, are moving out of coal in their droves given its devastating effects on the climate and public health, compounded by its poor financial performance.”