Clean Energy Makes Big Strides, but Just How Sustainable is the Growth?

The event saw the release of two other reports of note for folks following investment trends in green business and clean tech:

Global investment consultant Mercer issued a new report showing how leading global investors, including the nation's largest public pension fund, CalPERS, are integrating climate change considerations into investment risk management and asset allocations. The report, "Through the Looking Glass: How Investors are Applying Results of the Climate Change Scenarios Study" comes on the heels of a Mercer report last year showing that climate change could contribute as much as 10 percent to portfolio risk over the next 20 years.

Deutsche Asset Management also released a new report, "2011: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly," describing generally mixed results on climate investments and policy in 2011 but projecting long-term growth in cleaner energy markets to continue. Positive trends included China and Germany's continued low-carbon leadership, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's issuance of new rules on hazardous air pollutants, Australia's new carbon legislation, and Japan's commitment to supporting the deployment of more renewable energy.

The report also highlights negative trends such as the weak performance of cleantech public equity stocks in 2011 and the expiration of several U.S. federal renewable energy incentive programs, including the "highly successful" Treasury Grant Program that expired Dec. 31, 2011. The report noted that the TGP program, in 2 1/2 years, leveraged nearly $23 billion in private sector investment for 22,000 projects in every state across a dozen clean energy industries.

Last but not least, a plug. If you, like me, have concluded that the "end of coal" is all but inevitable to prevent catastrophic climate change, check out this remarkable presentation -- which ended with a standing ovation -- by Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO at yesterday's summit.

Trumka, a former miner, spoke with passion about how the "end of coal" message is landing on the ground in blue-collar coal country, even as he acknowledged the dire need to address climate risks and build a low-carbon economy.

His message is cause to reflect on how labor's interests are often misunderstood and under-represented in climate policy discussions. Where coal miners see their jobs, housing values, and culture imperiled, it's no surprise that the politics of climate change become hard to swallow -- no matter how chaotic the climate change signals may be. The same labor issues vex the proposed XL Pipeline, about which Trumka says labor remains divided, and natural gas fracking as well.

Read the transcript here or watch his talk below, starting just before the 14-minute mark. It's well worth the 15-minute running time:


Wind turbine photo CC-licensed by Samuel Stocker.