On Jan. 15, more than 500 global financial leaders gathered at the United Nations for the 2014 Investor Summit on Climate Risk to discuss the growing urgency of climate change and highlight investor actions that are needed to mitigate escalating economic risks.

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, made it clear that the less action there is on climate change policy the greater the financial risk to investment portfolios.

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, told the assembly that “halting climate change is about investment.” In 2012, an International Energy Agency report stated that to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, $36 trillion needs to be invested in clean energy by 2050. That’s $1 trillion per year. In 2012, just $281 was billion invested.

Clearly the investment community is not responding to the crisis. Trumka let the assembly know that unions were doing their part by investing their pension funds in clean energy and energy retrofits.

Figueres’ remarks at a news conference were reminiscent of those made by many of the people who testified for fossil fuel divestment of the Maine Public Employees Retirement System on Jan. 9. She said it is the fiduciary responsibility of all investors to consider climate risk when making investments. “No one can claim ignorance anymore,” she said She added that funds should begin by identifying marginal investments, divest them and invest the capital in clean energy.

The Maine Legislature’s Joint Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs has called for the creation of a task force to study the environmental and societal factors that MainePERS should make when choosing investments. The risk of climate change must be one of those environmental and societal factors.

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