Businesses and investors pressing for green policy

NEW YORK — Hundreds of corporations, insurance companies and pension funds are calling on world leaders gathering for a U.N. summit on climate change this week to attack the problem by making it more costly for businesses and ordinary people to pollute.

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NEW YORK — Hundreds of corporations, insurance companies and pension funds are calling on world leaders gathering for a U.N. summit on climate change this week to attack the problem by making it more costly for businesses and ordinary people to pollute.

The idea, long advocated by policymakers, economists and environmental activists, is that the world can’t hope to slow the heating of the planet until its cost is incorporated into the everyday activities that contribute to it, such as using gas- or coal-generated electricity, driving a car, shipping a package or flying around the globe.

Business leaders representing trillions of dollars in revenue and retirement savings say they worry that global warming threatens the long-term value of their investments, and they want world leaders to adopt policies that would provide a financial incentive to people to clean up their act.

That could include a tax on carbon emissions, a cap or some other mechanism.

“There’s a market failure that needs to be fixed,” said Anne Simpson, senior portfolio manager and director of global governance at the $300 billion California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the largest public pension fund in the U.S.

Despite a broad consensus that something needs to be done, it has been impossible so far for global leaders to agree on how to implement what amounts to a price on pollution, because energy is so important for economic growth.

“It may be easier to get large businesses to agree that something should be done than to get them to coalesce around specific policy measures,” said Michael Levi, senior fellow for energy and the environment at the Council on Foreign Relations.

At Tuesday’s U.N. summit, 120 world leaders will try to summon some of the considerable political will required if a new climate treaty is to be reached at international negotiations next year in Paris. The one-day summit is part of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s push to help world leaders to reach a goal they set in 2009: prevent Earth’s temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit from where it is now.

On Sunday, scientists announced that the world set another record last year for the amount of carbon pollution spewed into the atmosphere.

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Ahead of the summit, business leaders such as Apple’s Tim Cook renewed or expanded pledges to help the planet by running their businesses more efficiently, investing in renewable energy or pulling their investments from fossil fuel companies.

Last week, CalPERS and other big asset-holders such as the insurance and financial firms Allianz, BlackRock and AXA Group called for a “meaningful” price on carbon emissions. The World Bank said Monday that 73 countries and more than 1,000 companies have expressed their support for a price on carbon.

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