Opportunities and returns in green investments

 

The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has called for an end to new coal plants and fossil fuel exploration, and he urged governments, investors and businesses to focus their efforts on achieving a low carbon future, following the publication of the UN report on climate change.

Will investors heed the UN secretary general's call? And are there opportunities for investors in this space?

Patrick Lawless, Managing Director of Gresham House Ireland, which specialises in alternative and sustainable investments, said the report is stark and emphatic. He said the industry has been doing a lot, but it needs to do more.

"Mercer have said that 50% of institutional investors are considering climate change up from 14% on the previous year, so the trend is good.

"The opportunities in the sector are obviously things like forestry, battery storage and sustainable infrastructure, but also in Gresham House we focus on our public equity funds and the impact that they are having as well."

The Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) opportunity in asset management continues to grow. Bloomberg reports that global ESG assets are on track to exceed $53 trillion by 2025, which represents more than a third of the $140.5 trillion in projected total assets under management.

Investors are getting returns on their invesments, Mr Lawless said.

"Yes, absolutely. If you take forestry, Gresham has over €2 billion of assets in this asset class who planted 9 million trees in the last year - which is the equivalent of taking 720,000 cars from the road - and it is still giving a return of 5-6% per annum.

"Likewise, in our battery storage - this is where energy is produced from solar and wind and stored when the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow, and we are targetting a return of 8% from those investments," he said. "So just because you are going green doesn't mean you are having to forfeit any returns."

As the report on climate change was published, the world's biggest oil producer, Aramco, reported a surge in profits of nearly 300% and it's stock price rose by 0.3% as a result.

However, Mr Lawless said we shouldn't conflate the short-term with the long-term. "The short-term is that there has been shortage supplies because of Covid and oil prices have risen sharply and obviously their profits have risen sharply on the back of that.

"But the long-term is that we are in a crisis with regards to gasification, and we will still need to look at the long lasting implications of what that means. I think we need to take a longer term view on this."