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Extinction Rebellion climate activists hold a banner in Lincoln's Inn Fields in London before a march organized to coincide with the end of the COP26 climate summit on November 13, 2021. (Photo: Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty Images)

Even These Capitalists Controlling $39 Trillion in Assets Know Fossil Fuel Era Must End

Governments must "enact policies the world needs to avert the worst of the climate crisis and... investors need to usher in a new era of economic prosperity built around a just, sustainable, clean energy economy," said a coalition of investor groups.

Julia Conley

Acting on behalf of both their "fiduciary duty" and the need to protect the planet from climate catastrophe, more than 500 international investor groups managing $39 trillion on Tuesday called on governments to "raise their ambition" at the global climate conference in November, and focus on urgently implementing specific policies to end fossil fuel production.

"We know that more ambitious action on climate is needed, a fact compounded by increasing geopolitical tension and the devastation caused by intensifying extreme weather events."

The pro-climate action coalition the Investor Agenda, which includes major financial institutions from around the world, released its 13th annual "Global Investor Statement to Governments on the Climate Crisis" two months before world leaders are set to meet in Cairo at the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27).

Signed by 532 investor groups—but none of the top three U.S. index fund managers, BlackRock, State Street, and Vanguard—the statement reiterates warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the International Energy Agency (IEA), both of which have clearly stated that fossil fuel extraction must be rapidly phased out in order to limit global heating to 1.5ºC above pre-industrial temperatures.

Last year's climate change summit, COP26, resulted in formal commitments from world policymakers which, if fully implemented, "would reduce the projected level of global warming from 2.7°C to somewhere between 2.1°C and 2.4°C," said the Investor Agenda. "This is a significant acceleration of action, but much more is needed."

The coalition called on governments to enhance and strengthen their emissions targets for 2030 ahead of the conference, implementing domestic policies including:

  • Guaranteeing long-term resilience and energy security by rapidly scaling up the deployment of low-carbon energy systems, electrification, flexibility, and storage;
  • Implementing robust carbon pricing mechanisms, rising over time;
  • Setting deadlines to phase out thermal coal power and fossil fuel subsidies, and establishing plans and targets to peak and then phase out the use of other fossil fuels, in line with credible 1.5ºC pathways;
  • Developing transparent just transition plans involving affected individuals, workers, and communities; and
  • Establishing new or more ambitious commitments to end all deforestation globally.

"Once again, investors are issuing a clear call to governments on the urgent need for public policy to reflect and support investor action," said David Atkin, CEO of Principles for Responsible Investment. "We know that more ambitious action on climate is needed, a fact compounded by increasing geopolitical tension and the devastation caused by intensifying extreme weather events."

Friends of the Earth Action called the statement the financial sector's "most ambitious appeal to officials yet."

The groups, including the Asia Investor Group on Climate Change, CDP, and Ceres, also called on governments to support the Global Methane Pledge to reduce emissions by at least 30% by 2030; to scale up climate finance for adaptation and resilience to meet the needs of the Global South; and to strengthen climate disclosures across the financial system.

The Investor Agenda emphasized that continued global investment in fossil fuel projects not only risks worsening the effects of the human-caused climate emergency, but it also must end to protect investors from financial risks associated with climate risks:

Full implementation of the Paris agreement will create significant investment opportunities in clean technologies, green infrastructure, and other assets, products, and services needed in this new economy. In turn, investors can use capital allocation and stewardship to support sustainable activities that generate jobs and economic growth, make a just transition from carbon-intensive activities, and increase resilience.

Investors are urgently seeking to manage their exposure to climate risks and increase the contribution that their investments make to the Paris agreement goals. Investors are taking action as it is not only permitted by law but is in many cases required to ensure their ability to generate returns in the long-term as a core fiduciary duty and benefit from the opportunities associated with the shift to a net-zero emissions economy.

"Investors from all over the world are asking governments to step up to the urgency of the moment and enact policies the world needs to avert the worst of the climate crisis and that investors need to usher in a new era of economic prosperity built around a just, sustainable, clean energy economy," said Mindy Lubber, CEO of Ceres and a member of the Investor Agenda steering committee.

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