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US investors pledge $10 bln for renewable energy

US institutional investors pledged at a UN summit on Thursday to invest $10 billion over two years in technologies that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to pressure companies to disclose their risks associated with climate change.

The plan “reflects the many investment opportunities that exist today to put a dent in global warming pollution, build profits and benefit the global economy,” said Mindy Lubber, the president of Ceres, a coalition of investors and environmental leaders, and director of the Investor Network on Climate Risk. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the largest US pension fund, and the state treasurers or comptrollers of 11 US states and other players agreed at the investor summit on climate risk to invest the money in green technologies like solar and wind power. The INCR has been joined by a growing number of investors as the United States, the only major industrialized country, that has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse gas emissions by an average 5% from 1990 levels by 2012, has become increasingly isolated on climate change policy. The group also urges companies to divulge such emissions and warns them that climate change could hurt them through shareholder activism.

Florida’s chief financial officer, Alex Sink, was one of the new players to embrace the green investments. Florida’s Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican, pledged last year to cut carbon emissions. Sink told reporters that some companies in Florida, a low-lying state at risk from flooding induced by climate change, were happy the state was joining the efforts. “Others were stunned and didn’t know how to react.” John Sweeney, the president of the AFL-CIO, a federation of unions, told the summit that some of the $5 trillion of union workers’ retirement funds should be invested in ways that help fight climate change. “These deferred wages of working people are the capital that can fuel the energy economy of the future,” he said.

Some analysts have said green technologies like solar power, ethanol and biodiesel are forming an investment bubble that could soon pop. Lubber said it was up to individual investors to make the right choices in green investing. “Calpers has some of the best money managers out there,” she said. “Without question they are calculating those kinds of consequences.” (Reuters)