Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Corporate Investors and Climate Change at the UN

By Mike Tolochko

"Global Private Investments and Climate Change"
UN Headquarters, NY Trusteeship Council Chamber
June 9, 2008

The opening remarks were made by the President of the UN General Assembly, H.E. Srgjam Kerim. Kerim is from the Republic of Macedonia where he served as foreign minister. Prior to that he was an official in the Yugoslavian government. Presidents of the General Assembly have a one-year term.

He said that this official meeting of delegates has come after the General Assembly Thematic debate on Climate change in February of 2008; and the Investors Summit on Climate Risk held at the UN in the same month.

He said, "I decided to convene today's meeting on how climate change adaptation, mitigation and technologies are and will be financed by private investors. Allow me to emphasize the word 'private' here." And, private it was.

I don't question the sincerity of the UN and the General Assembly president to find some way to reverse the Climate change crisis the world is facing, on the contrary, for example, last year's Annual NGO Climate Change Conference made some significant advances.

But, this half-day meeting of world capitalists had a certain ring to it that would have had the Marx brothers, Karl and Groucho having a good laugh. Karl Marx citing chapter and verse of his collected works on the predictability of these kinds capitalist calamities and the ensuing handringing meetings. And, Groucho putting the cast of characters into their deserved comic outfits and dialogues.

And, if Mel Brooks were in the room, he would have been inspired to produce a sequel to his great Broadway show and film, "the Producer."

Watching the proceedings you could imagine the cartoon illustration with these "Investors" feasting on the billions that governments, peoples' taxes, will be offering to solve the problems that they created in the first place. They have some good examples: the Military Industrial Complex and the Defense Budget; the Medical Industrial Complex with the Medicare system; and, the Wall Street Bankers breathing hard to get a hold of our social security. This might be coined the Climate/Change Industrial Complex. You can almost forecast the corporate and even hear the corporate liberal argument for privatizing a portion of our social security to be used to finance the reversal of climate change. This latter gambet just might out do the others.

Corporate Keynoters

The keynote speech was delivered by Mindy Lubber, Director of Investment Network on Climate Risk for Ceres Corporation a major biofuels corporation. She is clearly a major corporate player in the Climate Change corporate world. She said that there were more and more "savvy investors" getting involved.

The main panel was chaired by, of course, a Wall Street Journal reporter, Jeffrey Ball. He repeated what Kerim stated as his fact which then became the "facts" of this discussion that government can't solve the problem of global warming. Therefore, private investment companies must be solicited to invest and manage the investment in climate change initiatives.

So, we then heard from Pierre Lagrauge, co-founder and Managing Director of GLG Partners LP described as one of the largest Hedge Funds in the world. He works out of Belgium and London. True to his role, he looked to be not more than 40 years old. While hedge funds are quick turnaround profiteers, he said that they are looking at the bigger picture these days.

Oliver Bate the Chief Operating Office of Allianz SE spoke about this insurance company's commitment to helping during national tragedies. Allianz seems to be a major international issuance carrier. I am sure there are many victims of natural disasters who were not helped by insurers like Allianz. The arrogance dropped of each and every word.

Jack Rivkin of Lehman Bros openly bragged about his company's work in this field. He cited the Lehman Brothers Climate Change Council as proof positive. He said that a member of the Roosevelt family was on this council. No one seemed too impressed with the environmental record of the Roosevelts.

Rivkin posed the problem as being between investing in coal-fired plants as against Wind Power. He supported the use of markets to determine the price of conversations, but others said that is not so easy.

The panel had a UN functionary who is VP of Climate Change Capital, James Cameron; and Martin Kuscus, Chairperson of the Board of trustees for the South African Government Employee Pension fund. The latter official's comments and reason for his participation, as stated by Ball, was to show how important it was to get these kinds of employer/employee funds to invest in Climate change initiatives.

In the follow up discussion, Ball asks panelists to comment on which strategy would work: Cap and Trade policies or setting a price of Carbon production? Everyone agreed that it would be impossible to set a standard price of carbon. The question wasn't answered.

He then asked for panelists to state one country that they thought could make a difference if it took a strong stand both in policy and in actual practice. Rivkin said China and said that it was making good progress in the field of green house gases. No panelist said that the US was doing what it should be doing.


While the session was totally involved in encouraging and pushing the profit world of investment to find ways to make money for their investors while at the same time reversing Global Warming, at least one country did step forward to lead the way. And, that was Denmark.

Kerim thanked the government of Denmark for helping to finance and organize this session. The government of Denmark is recognized as the most advanced country in the world in this regard.

In 2009, the UN will be having a major meeting on Climate Change in Denmark.

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