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Conference to investigate climate investing

| Monday, September 28, 2015

On Tuesday, the Mendoza College of Business will host various companies and speakers at McKenna Hall for a conference titled, “Climate Investing: Transition to a Low-Carbon World.”

Leo Burke, director of the Global Commons Initiative at Mendoza and director of the conference, said he hopes to discuss the investing opportunities in greener technologies and the impact those investments can make.

“Of all the energy produced today, 85 percent is coming from fossil fuels,” Burke said. “We need to significantly slow that down or make a change. In order to do that, we need to invest money: invest money in renewable technologies, invest money in microgrids, invest money in new infractures of all kinds … it all takes money. This impact investing is an important tool or an important approach we can use to make that transition.”

The conference will take place all day Tuesday and Wednesday with an opening prayer from University President Fr. John Jenkins. The panels will discuss “Climate and Carbon,” “Investment Perspectives,” “Industry Policy and Perspectives,” “Global Perspectives” and “New Opportunities and a New Generation,” as well as keynote addresses.  

Burke said he received massive support and influence for this conference from his interactions with panelists and the Vatican recently discussing environmental issues.

“It was very much [an inspiration],” Burke said. “The Pope’s encyclical gave a wind in the back, so to speak, for the conference and his visit to the United States … reemphasizing the need for caring for the earth. All of this makes this time for the conference very timely.”

Vince Cushing, chief technology officer (CTO) of the conference’s largest sponsor, energy company QCoefficient, said he wants the conference to go beyond discussion and incite action.

“I know a lot of people with a lot of good opinions and good policies,” Cushing said. “But when it comes to [people] executing and doing things, I don’t really have a really long list. So I thought this would be a great opportunity to see people from Notre Dame accomplish something, not just talk about it.

“Politicians talk about [the environment] all the time and everybody talks about how it’s important to clean up the environment, even the Pope does that. What we’re short on is people who turn that around, execute on that and accomplish something, not letting the rest of our lives be worse off.”

Speaker Joyce Coffee, managing director of the ND-GAIN project, another co-sponsor of the conference, said the conference will raise awareness to the climate-investing opportunities in assisting those most susceptible the harmful effects of climate change

“Our data shows that people in rural countries are at least ten times more likely to experience an climate change impact than those in wealthy countries at any given year,” Coffee said. “The new innovative place for climate investing is adaptation. Those companies that seek out these opportunities have amazing collateral benefits, bringing people out of poverty, … decreasing the bottom line, decreasing global conflict. All of these are enhanced by investments that should be furthered by the corporations sponsoring the conference.”

Burke said his greatest hope for this conference is that it will be a part of lasting change.

“No conference is going to be the end-all-be-all by itself,” Burke said. “This conference is a stone in a wall that contains other stones that enable something that could be erected. I have great faith that when talented people come together … with the wish to make change that something new can happen.”

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