Investors pushing for methane emissions rules now worth $1.5 trillion

Ben N. Ratner

California public school teachers and religious charities. New York police officers and firefighters. A college endowment. What do all of these groups have in common?

They happen to be investors representing $1.5 trillion in assets under management for retirees and workers – and they’re calling for strong rules to limit harmful methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.

This level of outpouring – from diversified wealth managers with holdings in the oil and gas industry, to boot – represents investments worth five times the support such stakeholders expressed for methane rules last year.

A trend is emerging.

The investors, including the largest retirement funds in California and New York, issued a powerful statement in support of President Obama’s proposal to cut the greenhouse gas by 45 percent in a decade.

Methane is the primary ingredient in natural gas and also a powerful climate pollutant: For the first 20 years after being released it has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide and it’s responsible for 25 percent of the warming we’re facing today.

From their vantage point as long-term fiduciaries, the serious threat methane poses to climate stability compels these major investors to support action to cut emissions.

As they say in their letter, methane rules will help avoid near-term “infrastructure and economic harm that will weaken not only the companies we invest in, but the nation as a whole.”

Such market pressure is difficult to ignore.