This time last year, it was hard to see a bright future for green technologies as the U.S. inaugurated a president who champions coal and dismisses climate change. But America is not the world, and nothing trumps good economics. Green investments had a banner year in 2017, outperforming most other sectors.
Here are the top-performing global green funds that are available in Canada as well (all data taken from Morningstar.ca on Dec 31, 2017):
- Global X Lithium & Battery Tech ETF (LIT) +63.36%
- The Organics ETF (ORG) +41.20%
- PowerShares Cleantech Portfolio (PZD) +30.26%
- PowerShares Global Clean Energy Portfolio (PBD) +27.76%
- Guggenheim Global Water Portfolio (CGW) +26.63%
While the U.S. federal government stepped back on climate change leadership, other countries stepped in to fill the void. Both China and India announced major plans to curb carbon emissions. The global response to the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord was encouraging. Sometimes it takes a direct threat to unite the international community, and it certainly feels like the rest of the world is steadfast in the determination to shift towards a low-carbon economy.
The green debt market is hot, with a record $155 billion in green bonds issued in 2017 to fund sustainable infrastructure projects around the world. Interestingly, the largest issuer was Fanny Mae who raised almost $25 billion in green mortgage-backed securities. Who would have ever imagined that mortgage-backed securities could be green? They were considered ‘toxic’ during the 2008 meltdown, so it is somewhat ironic that they are now hailed as ‘virtuous’ as they finance energy efficiency upgrades and green building construction. Any way you cut it, these are billion-dollar investments that will earn financial returns while reducing carbon emissions.
One of the most obvious signals of the growing green economy is that large corporations such as Apple and Google are making tremendous investments in renewable energy. In the meantime, the auto sector plays ‘follow the Tesla’ with electric vehicle announcements. Expect to see more and more electric vehicles models from all the major car companies (now we just need to ensure Canadian dealers stock them). And don’t forget the trucks! Pepsi, Walmart, UPS, and Loblaws have all pre-ordered Tesla electric semi-trucks. Market signals are all pointing towards electric fleets that are cheaper, cleaner, and better for everyone in the long-term.
We still have a long way to go if we are to meet the Paris Accord targets and avoid worst-case climate scenarios. But it’s promising to see higher demand and lower prices for green technologies tilt the playing field in favour of a low-carbon economy. Clean technologies are competing well and should continue to grow much faster than their dirty counterparts, regardless of who sits in the White House.
Tim Nash, The Sustainable Economist, is an expert on socially responsible, green, and impact investments. He’s the founder of Good Investing, an investment coaching service that teaches people how to invest their own money according to their own values. Tim Nash and The Atmospheric Fund are both members of the Responsible Investment Association of Canada.