Business Forum: Smart policy key to investment in the Keystone State

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The proposed national carbon pollution standards for power plants can set our nation and Pennsylvania on the path toward a more sustainable future while supporting economic growth. Investors and many businesses have been making tremendous strides toward a more sustainable energy industry.

However, the private sector needs government to do its job through policies that help fix the market failures that can make problems like climate change hard to solve. While some will undoubtedly portray these new standards as an "economic disaster," long-term investors and smart businesspeople don't buy these short-sighted, tired arguments. With smart policies, like the carbon pollution standards, we can accelerate the growth of clean energy industries here in Pennsylvania and around the country.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently released a carbon pollution standard for new power plants. As part of the president's Climate Action Plan, a standard for existing power plants will be released next year.

The standards will together answer repeated calls from the investment community for government action on climate change. My organization, Friends Fiduciary Corp., recently signed a letter with the support of nearly 50 investors managing $900 billion in assets, applauding the release of the new power plant standards and calling for pollution standards for existing power plants.

Businesses are also joining the growing call to action. This past spring, more than 600 businesses signed the Climate Declaration, which states, "Tackling climate change is one of America's greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century."

Friends Fiduciary, based in Philadelphia, manages investments of $280 million for more than 300 Quaker meetings, churches, schools and organizations across the country. Our mission is to deliver competitive investment returns to our investors while reflecting Quaker values. As investment professionals with a long-term focus, we know that what some describe as a trade-off between what is right and what gets the best returns is a false dichotomy.

Reducing pollution and growing the economy can go hand in hand. The outdated argument that policies aimed at cutting emissions somehow "kill jobs" and will send us back to the Stone Age simply doesn't add up. In fact, in 2010 Pennsylvania's "clean economy" was the fourth largest in the country, employing 118,000 workers.

Innovative Pennsylvania companies are now building components for wind turbines, solar panels, energy-efficient light bulbs and developing new lighting technologies. These companies are creating good paying jobs, contributing to our state economy, and are also helping to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

At the same time, there is little support for continued investments in carbon-intensive energy sources. A growing number of traditional investors don't see coal as a good investment, even without accounting for health related impacts.

Pennsylvania investors have recognized that cleaner energy is a good investment. Wind installations in the state nearly doubled last year. Despite having less sun than much of the country, Pennsylvania ranks ninth in the nation for installed solar capacity with 204 megawatts in the state -- enough to power 22,500 homes.

Even with these successes, much work remains. The carbon pollution standards provide the long-term framework required for sound business investments and will be a catalyst to growing our clean energy industry in the Keystone State. They are both needed and welcome.

Jeffery Perkins is the executive director of Friends Fiduciary Corp., which is based in Philadelphia and is a member of the Investor Network on Climate Risk.

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