Feature Article December 2009 / January 2010

Clean up with green investment

By the time you read this, Copenhagen and its relevance to Climate Change will have been forgotten. Memories of the Little Mermaid statue in the harbour and of the Danish capital as the home of Tuborg beer will have been restored.

Was the COP 15 UN Climate Change Conference Copenhagen a success? Did US President Barack Obama jet in as had been hoped?

What we do know is that, yet again, there was a fudge. The APEC Singapore meeting in November essentially confirmed fears that Copenhagen would be, at best, a two-legged compromise—a non-binding agreement to limit emissions some time in the future. The danger is that climate change may become a partner for the Doha Trade talks that have been stalled since July 2006. The key stumbling block: who will pay to correct trade-related distortions and unlock global trade in areas where many barriers still exist?

Rich countries want poor countries to bear the bulk of the costs, which is yet another example of do as we say not as we do! Never mind that it was the world of the rich that caused, and remains largely responsible for, the damage we face.

The world’s largest polluter, the US, is still dragging its feet, with denial triumphing undeterred over reality. When will Washington wake up and smell the coffee?

The situation is too urgent for continued prevarication. Unless global emissions peak by the end of the next decade, the chances of avoiding catastrophic climate change will be virtually extinguished.

But, can investors profit from climate change? Certainly. They can do so by investing directly in alternative energy, water treatment or recycling businesses, or even by investing in conventional mutual funds or the more tax-efficient Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) to gain access to global companies involved in all aspects of climate change and the benefits that a cleaner environment would bring us all. With financier George Soros earmarking $1 billion (¥89 billion) for investing in this sector, it could be just the right time for you, too.