Asset managers team up to pressure governments on climate change

A group of investors overseeing US$32 trillion in assets has signed a letter asking governments to phase out thermal coal, set a price on carbon emissions and end fossil-fuel subsidies.
A group of investors overseeing US$32 trillion in assets has signed a letter asking governments to phase out thermal coal, set a price on carbon emissions and end fossil-fuel subsidies.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - Institutional investors increasingly concerned about climate change have teamed up to ask governments to set tougher policies.

A group of 415 investors overseeing US$32 trillion (S$43.8 trillion) in assets has signed a letter asking governments to phase out thermal coal, set a price on carbon emissions and end fossil-fuel subsidies. The signatories, including Allianz SE, HSBC Global Asset Management and Schroders, are presenting it in conjunction with the COP24 global-climate conference in Poland.

The fund managers said climate change could cause economic damage that threatens their holdings, and that government policy was key to reducing risk. Schroders estimated that if no action is taken and the world warms by 4 deg C, that could cause US$23 trillion in global economic losses over the next 80 years.

"This is permanent economic damage three or four times the scale of the impacts of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, while continuing to escalate," the group said in a statement on Monday (Dec 10). "Much more needs to be done by governments to accelerate the low-carbon transition."

While letters don't usually lead to immediate change, the combined efforts of asset managers have already stirred the private sector. Last week, Royal Dutch Shell said it would set new public goals around cutting carbon emissions after months of pressure from some of the same investors who signed the new letter.

The investor group also wrote a briefing paper for policymakers that says governments need to update and strengthen their commitments to the Paris climate accord. Among the recommendations are that nations put a price on carbon - in effect a tax on greenhouse gas emissions - between US$38 and US$100 a tonne. Currently, three-quarters of emissions are covered by carbon prices of less than US$10 a tonne, the paper said.

The COP24 conference is in its second week and will end on Friday (Dec 14).