January 2014 – ECOLOGY – United Nations Investment in clean energy is faltering at the same time the UN and others say it needs to quadruple to avoid the catastrophic impacts of climate change. New figures released at the UN last week show that global clean-energy investment dropped by 12 per cent in 2013, the second consecutive year it declined. The Bloomberg New Energy Finance numbers show $254 billion US in investment last year, far below the $1 trillion a year average that the International Energy Agency estimates is needed to avoid a climate crisis. “This is incredibly important. The time is now,” said Lisa Carnoy, the head of global capital markets for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Carnoy was among some 550 financial executives who attended an investor summit on climate risk recently at the UN, organized with the investor and environmental coalition Ceres. The overriding message was a call for more green investment. “There is a massive difference between how much is being invested in clean energy today and where we need to be,” said Jack Ehnes, the CEO of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, the nation’s second-largest public pension fund. U.S. green-energy investment dropped last year by more than 8 per cent, said Michael Liebreich, the CEO of Bloomberg New Energy Finance. He said the glut of cheap natural gas from fracking in the United States had made it more difficult to attract investment and that the news media had focused far more on clean technology failures than on successes, which helped drive policies in Congress.
The big clean-energy drop was in Europe, he said, where such investment slumped by more than 40 per cent last year. Europe’s financial problems played a role, Liebreich said, as governments cut subsidies for clean energy projects. Even China’s investment in clean energy fell, for the first time in more than a decade. But not all the news for clean tech is bad, Liebreich said. One reason for the drop in global investment is good for green technology: There’s been a dramatic reduction in the cost of solar energy systems, so less investment is needed to produce them. More of them are being installed all the time, he said. Another positive is a rising value of clean energy stocks, he said. Some countries increased green investment, particularly Japan. That country invested 55 per cent more last year as it struggles to move away from nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, in which three reactors melted and radioactive material leaked after a devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011. But the global $254 billion US in clean energy investment is far from the pace the International Energy Agency said was needed to fight climate change. The agency estimates that $36 trillion in investment will be needed through 2050 to meet climate goals. –The SPEC