Why Copenhagen will have lasting effects for investors

Despite some disappointment, companies which provide sustainable energy solutions will do well out of the summit, says Nicola Donnelly of Wheb Asset Management

As world leaders returned from Copenhagen, having been unable to agree and implement a meaningful agreement on climate change, the disappointment in the environmental community was palpable.

The media greeted the Copenhagen Accord as a damp squib because it merely agreed what had already been acknowledged: that the temperature rise should be kept below 2 degC and adaptive measures need to be taken. However, this will be reviewed and possibly changed to 1.5 degC in 2015, and some other small but significant steps have been taken.

Developed countries will submit their 2020 targets for inclusion in the appendix of the accord by the end of January. Developing countries will also submit their plans for slowing the growth of emissions and other mitigating actions to the Accord. They will report their progress every two years.

In addition, Redd, a carbon offseting scheme to prevent deforestation in developing countries, has been immediately established. Funds of $30bn per year until 2012, rising to $100bn by 2020, will be made available by developed countries to help the process.

In the meantime, many other nations, including Brazil, Indonesia, Japan, Russia and South Korea, have raised their national commitments and the pressure for global action, although possibly not a global deal, will build through 2010.

So the impact of Copenhagen should not be judged on the past few weeks alone, but on what has been achieved in terms of both national legislation and low carbon industrial strategy.

Another world is possible and is on its way. Companies that have positioned themselves to provide solutions to the challenges of sustainable energy use and generation are in a sense already reaping the benefits of Copenhagen. In the US, the Department of Energy recently announced the recipients of the first $620m to be spent on the smart grid and energy storage, and the UK has unveiled its own longer-term £9bn plan for smart meters and a smart grid. Itron and Badger Meter, two companies we invest in at Wheb, produce smart meters, which allow utility companies to understand customer energy usage better and ensure energy is used more efficiently.

Churchill said: "The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." Charity trustees should be asking their managers what they are doing to reposition their portfolios to outperform in a low carbon world.

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