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Unfazed, Sustainable Investors After Paris Withdrawal

Travis Bubenik

According to the United National Environment Program investment in green energy was nearly double that of hydrocarbon energy last year. 

That's similar to 2015, which also saw a record breaking $281 billion in global green energy commitments. 

Perhaps these numbers are on the minds of investors in green energy and champions of sustainability who seemed largely unfazed, if not optimistic, about the future of these investments at the Economist's Sustainability Summit in Austin.  All in spite of last week's announcement from President Donald Trump that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement.

Jay Lipman co-founded Ethic, a startup that helps people shift their money into sustainable companies, and he says that last week's announcement acted as a sort of "call to arms" for his clients.

"They now see themselves as having no safety blanket," he says on a panel entitled "What Capital Wants."

They now see themselves as having no safety blanket - Jay Lipman

"The government is not going to step in and make sure the environment is ok, so people are now seeing a personal accountability that they never saw before," Lipman continues.

Cynthia Ringo with DBL Partners agrees and says more aren't panicked because the research shows that investing in sustainability makes money.

"The states and municipalities are still committed," says Ringo, referring to the 200 cities and more than 12 states that have committed to the Paris Agreement since the Trump's announcement. 

"Corporate America, for the most part, is still highly committed, and for really good business reasons as opposed to regulatory requirement," Ringo says.

John Podesta, former chair of Hillary Clinton's campaign, helped negotiate the climate deal under President Obama, and says corporations like Walmart --which announced it  wanted to be powered by 100 percent renewable energy -- wouldn't invest if it hurt the bottom line.

"If Walmart decides they are going to keep their commitment. I don't think they made it for President Obama, and I don't think they will take it back because of President Trump," says Podesta.

That's a strong signal, he says, that the world is moving in the right direction.

Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive