By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch
Friday marked the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s announcement that he was pulling the U.S. out of the global Paris Agreement , and environmental groups are clamoring for others to step up and plug the gap.
A coalition formed shortly after Trump’s announcement to encourage as many participants as possible from the private and public sectors to commit to a “We Are Still In” pledge now has more than 2,750 signatories, according to the sustainability-focused nonprofit Ceres.
The pledge is to stick with the primary goal of limiting the global temperature rise to below 2 degrees annually by reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. That goal is crucial as insurers have warned that anything higher would make the world uninsurable. Signatories come from all 50 states of the U.S. and include business leaders, university presidents, faith and tribal leaders, and cultural institutions, representing 127 million Americans and $6.2 trillion of economic power.
“The number of private-sector leaders who have stepped into the breach is impressive, substantial and promising, and what states and cities are doing will go a long way toward meeting the goals,” said Mindy Lubber, chief executive of Ceres. “That said, the U.S. not being part of a global treaty that is absolutely essential to get to a below-2-degree world is beyond unfortunate.
“As much as voluntary commitments are great and extremely compelling, the fact is we need not just thousands but many more moving all at once to get where we need to go.”
The good news is the participation of major banks and investors, who have been leaders in committing to such actions as clean-energy investments and to divesting fossil-fuel-related securities. In the last few years, banks have committed $850 billion to clean-energy investments, said Lubber, while investors including public pension funds have placed billions more in low-carbon funds.
New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, for example, said in January he was doubling to $4 billion the allocation of the state’s Common Retirement Fund to its low-emissions-equities index. The fund, which provides benefits for the state’s police and firefighters, was the first public pension fund in the U.S. to create such an index, which excludes or reduces holdings in the worst carbon emitters and favors low emitters. The move raised the current value of the fund’s sustainable investments to more than $7 billion, said DiNapoli.
“Our investment decisions and our shareholder engagements are a caution to corporations: If they’re not helping build a decarbonized future, they may get left behind,” said DiNapoli.
That same month, the New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, as trustee of the city’s public pension funds, announced the goal of divesting from fossil-fuel reserve owners within five years . The move would mark the first such effort by a major U.S. public pension plan. The city has five pension funds, which hold about $5 billion in securities linked to more than 190 fossil-fuel companies.
The financial future of the city’s public-sector retirees is linked to the sustainability of the planet, said Stringer: “Our announcement sends a message to the world that a brighter economy rests on being green.”
At the same time, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio filed a lawsuit against the five biggest listed fossil-fuel companies predicated on their estimated contributions to global warming.
“The city will be seeking damages from BP /zigman2/quotes/207305210/composite BP -1.30% , Chevron /zigman2/quotes/205871374/composite CVX -1.30% , ConocoPhillips /zigman2/quotes/207605056/composite COP -2.47% , Exxon Mobil /zigman2/quotes/204455864/composite XOM -1.13% and Royal Dutch Shell /zigman2/quotes/206428183/delayed UK:RDSA +0.23% for the billions of dollars the city will spend to protect New Yorkers from the effects of climate change,” he said.