Ecofys: Obama climate policy crucial for CO2 reduction

24 January 2013

After his re-election, Obama told Time Magazine that his daughters inspired him to think long term, particularly about issues of climate change. During the opening speech which kicked off his second term, he promised that climate change will be one of the key priorities. Yet policy experts are pessimistic and say that the chances that significant climate action will actually happen are slim.

Sector approach

The main issue lies in the large polarization of the American Congress - the Republicans have a majority in the House of Representatives (lower house) yet Obama’s Democrats have a majority in the Senate (upper house). As a result, Obama will face difficulty approving and implementing far-fetched climate legislation. According to Niklas Höhne, Director of energy and climate policy at Ecofys, Obama will have to focus on a sector-by-sector approach. “From my point of view, being an observer from Europe, I think it's more likely that a sector-by-sector approach is implemented than a national climate policy” says the Ecofys consultant to NBC News. Obama is for example likely to stand a good change in the automotive industry, where he could stimulate fuel-efficient vehicles, or the energy sector, where he could tighten environmental regulations to increase clean energy production. Yet on a country-level the implementation of a national climate policy or ambitious anti-global warming agenda would fail due to high internal resistance.

Ecofys - CO2

International climate targets

Höhne also warns for the negative effect US policy can have on global climate change ambitions. The lack of consistency in US policy has over the past jeopardized international climate change negotiations. ‘Why should small countries aim for ambitious CO2 reductions if the world’s largest polluter is not contributing evenly is a commonly heard political complaint. "The international climate negotiations really depend on the US. bringing something forward" he says. "If the US doesn't bring something forward that is considered by most players as something new and something ambitious, then the new international climate treaty which will be signed in 2015 will not be ambitious". 



Private equity firms ramp up sustainability focus

19 April 2019

In line with business leaders across the industrial gamut, private equity firms are increasingly on board with sustainability projects. According to a new study, the investment arms for major funds are implementing a number of strategies aimed at supporting sustainable economic development in line with global goals.

While the business world has finally begun to acknowledge the danger of climate change, effective action plans remain difficult to achieve. The Paris Agreement has stipulated a clear target for the decades leading up to 2100, although massively reducing emissions while not crashing the economy could be a tall order.

Businesses that are able to acquire capital can use it to boost productivity and output, thereby creating a virtuous cycle of development. However, some businesses are better able to utilise resources than others, both in terms of their relative productivity, as well as the value of the respective outcomes relative to costs (including environmental harms). Financing can therefore provide an avenue to select businesses that are aligned with various global sustainability goals, while shunning those that drive little or unsustainable social value creation.

Top moves made by investment arms towards responsible investment

Profit has for the longest time been the central criterion for investment decisions. Yet profit at any cost is increasingly seen as creating considerable social harms, while often delivering only marginal value. As a result, the private equity sector, which was initially sluggish to change its ways with regards to sustainability, has started to see the topic as an opportunity as much as a challenge.

A new study from PwC has explored how far sustainability goals have become part of the wider investment strategy for private equity (PE) firms. The report is based on analysis of a survey of 162 firms and includes responses from 145 general partners and 38 limited partners.

Maturing sustainability

Top-line results show that responsible investment has become an issue for 91% of respondents. For 81% of respondents, ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) was a board matter at least once a year, while 60% said that they already have implemented measures to address human rights issues. Two-thirds have identified and prioritised Sustainable Development goals that are relevant to their investment segments.

Change in concern and action on climate-related topics over time

While there is increasing concern around key issues, from human rights protections to environmental and biodiversity protection, the study finds there are mismatches between concern and action. For instance, concern among investment vehicles around climate change has increased since 2016.

In terms of risks to the PE firm itself, concern has increased from 46% of respondents in 2016 to 58% in the latest survey. However, the number who have taken action remains far below those concerned, at 9% in 2016 and 20% in 2019. Given the relatively broader scope of investment opportunities, portfolio companies face higher risks – and more concern – from PE professionals, at 83% in the latest survey. However, action is less than half of those concerned, at 31%.

Changing climate

In terms of the climate footprint of the portfolio companies, 77% of respondents state concern in the latest survey. 28% of respondents are taking action through the implementation of measures to mitigate their concerns.

Concern and action taken on ESG issues

In terms of the more pressing issues for emerging responsible investment or ESG issues, governance concern of portfolio companies comes in at number one (92% of respondents), while 60% have taken action on it. Firms have focused on improving awareness – setting up policies and a range of training modules for their professionals around responsible investment decision making. Cybersecurity takes the number two spot, with 89% concerned and 41% implementing strategies to mitigate risks.

Climate risks take the number three spot in terms of concern for portfolio companies (83%), but falls behind in terms of action (31%). Health and safety track records are a key concern at 80% of businesses, with 49% implementing action. Gender imbalance within PE firms themselves ranks at 78%, which is being dealt with by 31%. A recent survey from Oliver Wyman showed that there is gender balance at 13% of GP teams in developed countries.

Biodiversity is also an increasingly pertinent topic, with risks from pollution and chemical use increasingly driving wider systematic risks around environmental outcomes. It featured at number eight on the ranking of most likely global risks for the coming decade, with its impact at number six. As it stands, biodiversity is noted as an issue at 57% of firms, with 15% implementing action.