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Ban Ki-moon’s sustainable investment speech at the NYSE: full text

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UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon used a speech welcoming the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) to the Sustainable Stock Exchanges initiative to talk about sustainable investment. The full text can be found below.

I am pleased to be here at this world-famous institution.  There are few better places than this trading floor for appreciating the realities of global economic activity and investment trends.

The daily index of profit and loss is a measure of the hopes and plans of people from all walks of life – from the wealthiest investors to nurses and teachers looking forward to a comfortable retirement. Shocks here ripple across the world, with grave consequences for the most poor and vulnerable.

Click here to read The Guide to Sustainable Investment 2013

That is why I am so pleased to welcome NYSE Euronext to the United Nations Sustainable Stock Exchanges initiative. Together, we are exploring how exchanges can work with investors, regulators and companies to enhance corporate transparency, and ultimately performance, on environmental, social and corporate governance issues. The goal is to encourage responsible long-term approaches to investment. I commend your commitment to promoting these principles in the global marketplace.

I join you here today because I believe in working for more prosperous and inclusive societies, thriving markets and economies and a greener planet. We cannot achieve these goals without the participation of all. We all need to be shareholders in a sustainable future.

The private sector has a central role. It is essential for creating and diffusing the solutions our world needs. The United Nations is increasingly looking to the private sector to contribute to international development, fight poverty and inequality, create decent employment, especially for youth, and promote environmentally sustainable growth.

With fewer than 1000 days to the 2015 deadline for achieving the millennium development goals, I call on all of you to support this crucial effort to secure our future wellbeing. Investment must be sustainable – delivering value not just financially, but also in social, environmental and developmental terms.

Increasingly the global business community hears this message and is responding. Over the past decade, more than 7,500 companies have committed to the United Nations Global Compact. Our aim is to generate a critical mass of socially responsible investors, entrepreneurs and businesses prepared to uphold social and environmental principles, fight corruption, promote gender equality and reject economic exploitation.

I am pleased to see stock exchanges around the world working with investors, companies, regulators and other key stakeholders to encourage long-term thinking and integrate sustainability into investment and financial products.

Since I opened the first Sustainable Stock Exchanges meeting in 2009, eight exchanges have joined, with nearly 13,000 listed companies in developed and emerging markets. The addition of the world’s largest stock exchange to this group is a significant forward step, signalling the importance and relevance of sustainability to the private sector around the world.

But the world will need more exchanges, investors and companies to join forces with governments and civil society if we are to achieve a more equitable, prosperous and sustainable future. The financial crisis made this message abundantly clear.

Responsible and ethical business is essential for rebuilding trust in markets. But the sustainability of global markets goes far beyond governance issues. Sustainable development challenges – from climate change to poverty and inequality – are long-term systemic risks that demand the attention of all.

Increasingly, investors understand that embracing social, economic and environmental responsibility does not mean sacrificing investment returns. Indeed, it promises more stable portfolios.

That is why the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment now has more than 1,200 signatories who collectively manage over $34 trillion in assets. Each has committed to incorporate sustainability into their investment decision-making, ownership practices and engagement with companies.

I thank NYSE Euronext for committing to the Sustainable Stock Exchanges initiative and I urge stock exchanges around the world to follow your lead. Let us work together to fight poverty, embrace ethical business practices and promote social and environmental sustainability worldwide.

Shortly I will ring the bell to mark the close of another day’s trading. But in my mind, I will be ringing in the future – a future of responsibility for people and the planet, a future without poverty, discrimination and inequality.

By your actions today you have shown that that future can be ours. Thank you.

Further reading:

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon: ‘investment must be sustainable’

Stock exchanges announce commitment to sustainable investment

There is a disconnect between investment and the real world

We need investment to return to its ‘patient evolutionary path’

The Guide to Sustainable Investment 2013

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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