Late last year, when Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported the trillionth dollar was invested in clean energy since it began counting in 2004, it suggested this was proof “that the world wasn’t waiting for a climate deal.” Now, with a new Bloomberg report showing the U.S. led a surge in 2011 that brought clean-energy investment to a record $260 billion, sustainable-minded investors are echoing the view – with some caveats – according to the advocacy organization Ceres.
According to Bloomberg, investment in the clean energy sector was up 5 percent last year over 2010, and was almost five times the $53.6 billion recorded in 2004. In fact, in 2011, the U.S. alone beat that 2004 global total, with investment rising 35 percent to $55.9 billion. Meanwhile, China saw investment rise just 1 percent to $47.4 billion, making the U.S. the world leader for the first time since 2008.
Big investors who gathered for the Investor Summit on Climate Risk & Energy Solutions at the United Nations took a bow, and vowed to do better. Ceres said the 450 investors “controlling tens of trillions from four continents” signed onto a an action plan calling for “greater private investment in low-carbon technologies and tougher scrutiny of climate risks across their portfolios.” They also announced new guidelines that are aimed at pushing companies to move beyond disclosure and toward action on climate.
“Investors are acutely aware of climate impacts on the global economy and corporate bottom lines,” Jack Ehnes, CEO of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), the nation’s second largest public pension fund managing $146 billion in assets, said in the Ceres statement. “As a matter of fiduciary duty, we must elevate our attention and action on this huge issue. That means improving our own practices and making sure companies we own are doing the same.”