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Academics, investors and industry discuss climate change and fossil fuel assets



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Investors and industry representatives gathered during the recent ‘Our Common Future Under Climate Change’ conference in Paris for a special side event to consider the issue of investing in fossil fuels against a backdrop of a global drive to cut CO2 emissions.

The conference was the largest gathering of the scientific community ahead of this December’s UN climate negotiations in Paris, and the ‘Investing in a Time of Climate Change’ side event at the French Assemblée nationale on 9 July brought together a diverse array of participants, who discussed issues including the impact of climate change on financial assets and how the academic community can best contribute to ongoing investment debates.

Hosted by the Oxford Martin School’s Safe Carbon Investment Initiative, the 2 Degrees Investing Initiative and Mercer Investments, the event attracted an audience of over 100, who were welcomed by Arnaud Leroy, Secretary of the Assemblée nationale's Committee on Sustainable Development. The Oxford Martin School’s Director, Professor Ian Goldin, then introduced presentations by Professor Myles Allen, Co-Director of the Oxford Martin Safe Carbon Investment Initiative, Stanislas Dupré, Global Director of the 2 Degrees Investing Initiative, who spoke about the 2 Degrees Investing Framework, and Jane Ambachtsheer, Partner and Chair of Responsible Investment at Mercer Investments, who presented the firm’s new report, ‘Investing in a Time of Climate Change’.

A panel of experts consisting of Professor Ottmar Edenhofer (Co-Chair, IPCC Working Group III),  Joël Prohin (Head of Portfolio Management, Caisse des Dépôts), Gérard Moutet (Vice-President, Climate-Energy,Total) and Natalie Smith (ClientEarth), gave comments and discussed the issues with the presenters, before questions were taken from the audience.

The Oxford Martin Safe Carbon Initiative, launched last month, aims to create a set of principles for safe fossil fuel investment in a world in transition to net zero carbon emissions. Researchers at Oxford are working together with colleagues at Harvard and Columbia to draft the criteria, in consultation with the wider academic community, investors and fossil fuel industry stakeholders.

Professor Allen said: “What’s new is that this is coming out of the climate research community, working with investors and industry to make criteria that they can actually use.

“The Paris event was an initial testing of the mood of the investment community for what they want out of the climate research community on this issue. It’s given us more material that we will now work with as we progress towards a set of over-arching criteria. The fact that the event was open to both scientists and investors is all part of keeping the process open. It started a conversation which we hope will continue to the Paris COP in December, and beyond, between these communities.”

Professor Allen and his colleagues will meet next in September at Harvard, where underpinning criteria for final principles will be discussed and refined. The launch of a report containing final principles is expected to take place next summer.