As we wrap up the year and reflect on our collective progress, we all have lots to celebrate. 2015 was indeed a milestone year for those of us working on issues of Climate Change. And it’s about time.
As we have heard from different news outlets all year, 2015 looks to be the warmest year to date on our planet, with the North Pole experiencing above freezing temperatures—ringing in at 33 degrees Fahrenheit today (warmer than our offices in Boulder, despite not receiving a second of sunlight). Around the globe people are feeling the effects of Climate Change as California grew drier, with extended droughts and devastating forest fires. China’s pollution became more hazardous for its citizens with several red-alert warnings throughout the year.
The good news is that it looks as though people are ready to take action to curb these devastating effects. This year we experienced several milestones as Google invested $300 million in solar energy, making it the largest investment ever for residential solar power. Meanwhile Bill Gates committed to doubling his investments in clean energy projects over the next five years, and Russia joined the U.S. in the international pledge to reduce carbon emissions.
In June, the White House organized and hosted its first Clean Energy Investment Summit, during which impact investors and large foundations were invited to share their commitments to impact investing, utilizing their endowment dollars to invest in clean energy projects and new sustainable technologies.
At the Summit, Vice President Joe Biden delivered an empowering and thoughtful keynote encouraging a public private partnership to address climate change by investing in climate solutions. He urged us to use our capacity to “change the spiral in the opposite direction.” He added, “It’s not only the morally right thing to do, it’s not only our interest in the national security, it’s a smart economic play.” This White House event resulted in over $4 billion in commitments from clean energy investors.
That same day, Pope Francis, showing unprecedented religious leadership, aligned himself with the environmental movement, calling for changes in lifestyles and energy consumption to avert the “unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem.” He continued his world tour declaring to the masses that it is our moral responsibility and obligation to address climate change.
In August, more good news for the environmental movement as President Obama and the EPA announced the Clean Power Plan – a historic and important step in reducing carbon pollution from power plants, showing the world that the United States is committed to leading global efforts to address climate change. And then in November we saw additional Government leadership for climate action when President Obama rejected the plans for the Keystone XL Pipeline.
One of the highlights of the year was the much-anticipated United Nations Conference on Climate Change in December where world leaders and climate experts gathered in Paris to discuss the state of our planet. Over 190 countries came together to sign the most ambitious climate change agreement in history. Many nations, including China, made bold commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
As an investor and portfolio manager committed to both social justice and environmental sustainability, I am thrilled to have witnessed such a record-breaking year for discussion of these intertwined climate issues as well as the significant commitments from various sectors to solve them. As Annie Leonard, Executive Director or Greenpeace noted, we have won “incredible victories this year...Together we have made enormous progress in defending our planet and her people."
And yet for us to remember 2015 as a milestone year in climate history, our government leaders, our local and global businesses and each of us need to put all of this talk into action.
May 2016 be the year where each of us takes steps toward reducing our emissions. May those of us with money to invest take steps to ensure our money is not invested in companies causing global warming or environmental degradation. A step further, may 2016 be the year we each decide to invest in people and companies working on the solutions we all need, and our planet requires.
Let’s be sure that 2016 is the year we take action, build traction, implement clean energy strategies, and really move our money into solutions-focused investments.