Investment Strategy

How can I invest for climate change?

Dec 1, 2022

Discover how investors can adapt their portfolios to slow, stabilize and potentially reverse the effects of climate change.

Sustainable Investing Research Team

The effects of climate change—such as extreme storms, heat, drought and rising seas—are being felt in every region of the world. These consequences also come with a number of compounding effects, like increased water and food scarcity, diminished biodiversity and damage to lives and property from catastrophic weather events. 

To date, most climate investing has gone to building out renewable energy generation and storage. Adaptation, by contrast, has been underfunded. Looking at the sources of emissions (Exhibit 1), it is clear that reducing energy emissions is not enoughAlong with emissions reduction across all sectors, carbon removal and the retrofitting of physical assets for some inevitable climate change are also needed. 

Exhibit 1: Sources of global greenhouse gas emissions

Energy production and general industry are major sources of the greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change, but other sources also need reduction. Source: International Energy Agency, data as of 2022. Data is sourced from the IEA Energy Data Centre, global power system operators, statistical releases from national administrations, and recent data from the IEA Market Report series that covers coal, oil, natural gas, renewables, electricity and energy efficiency.
This chart details the sources of global greenhouse gas emissions. Power production consistently ranks as the highest polluting sector, followed by industry, transport and buildings.

As the world works towards securing a net-zero future, reduction, removal and retrofitting offer potential opportunities for investors looking to build a climate resilient portfolio. Along with investments to decarbonize the energy supply, here is a set of approaches that employ all three Rs—greenhouse gas reduction, removal and retrofitting—to adapt to climate change.

The three Rs of climate investing: Reduce, remove and retrofit

These three approaches to climate investing give investors different ways to incorporate traditional and emerging technologies into their overall strategy.
 (EXHIBIT 2).

Exhibit 2: Climate investing approaches and how they work

Investors can participate in the three Rs and the opportunities they present Source: J.P. Morgan Asset Management; information as of December 2021.
This chart details three approaches to climate investing—reduce, remove and retrofit—and how they work. Reduce is made up of three categories: energy supply decarbonization, energy demand reduction and process transformation. Removal consists of natural carbon sequestration and mechanical carbon removal. Retrofit contains water efficiency/enhancement, food/agriculture reinvention and adapting the existing environment.

Reduce: To date, most climate investing has focused on decarbonization of the energy supply. There are also less well-known opportunities to reduce energy demand and to transform other (nonenergy) carbon-intensive processes.

  • Decarbonization of the energy supply can be accomplished by accelerating renewable energy generation and storage. The deployment of these technologies can be further incentivized through regulation such as market-based Renewable Portfolio Standards for utilities, which increase the amount of clean energy.
  • Reductions in energy demand may decrease emissions in the near term as power grids transition to renewable sources. This also reduces operating costs, making reductions economically desirable beyond climate considerations.
  • Transforming carbon-intensive processes is also needed—for example, introducing lower carbon versions of cement formulation; finding raw materials that can substitute for those derived from oil and gas (like plastics or fertilizer); and improving resource efficiency more broadly to reduce demand for virgin raw materials, catalyze more recycling and encourage a circular economy.

Remove: Carbon removal offers an alternative for industries or processes where carbon-neutral substitutes are not yet available. This involves removing excess greenhouse gases from the atmosphere naturally or mechanically. Greenhouse gases can even be removed from the ocean, which absorbs CO2.1

  • Nature-based carbon removal: Carbon is naturally sequestered in trees, plants, soils and plankton—which creates a number of investment opportunities. The mature forestry industry currently provides investible timber products.2 Nonprofits, governments and private funders have supported the development of other nature-based removal projects (such as soils, kelp or mangroves), but standards for verifying carbon removal are still evolving.
  • Mechanical carbon removal: Technology to lock carbon underground or within new materials is under development. In 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy announced the Carbon Negative Shot, a formal call for carbon removal innovations with the goal of reducing the cost of removal below $100 USD per ton of carbon or its equivalent (tCO2e).3 The Biden-Harris administration has since announced up to $1.2 billion USD in funding for direct air capture demonstrations in Texas and Louisiana. Both projects are expected to remove more than two million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere each year and create thousands of jobs.4

Retrofit: The World Bank estimates that up to $500 billion USD will be needed each year until 2050 to globally adapt to climate change.5 Adapting to inevitable climate change comes with upfront costs, but it may offer potential benefits from avoided damages:6

  • Water efficiency: Regional droughts, changes in precipitation patterns and over-pumping of wells necessitates new innovations that increase water supply. In 2022, droughts alone caused $77 billion USD in damages across the world.7 Graywater recycling—which reuses water from baths, sinks or other appliances—and purifying water through biomimetic membranes are just a few solutions that can improve efficiency. 
  • Reinventing food and agriculture: Global population growth and changing consumer habits will raise food demand by 2050.8 At the same time, resource scarcity—from water to arable land—is placing stress on agricultural productivity. The agriculture industry will need to adapt to changing climate conditions to feed a greater number of people. This can include vertical farming or plant-based meat and dairy alternatives.
  • The built environment: Investments are needed to protect existing infrastructure against damage from climate extremes. Buildings and infrastructure need to be built or retrofit to withstand the climate of the future, in addition to climate change that has already happened.

Where do we go from here?

The three Rs present a diverse number of opportunities to get involved with climate investing. Some of these opportunities are spearheaded by start-ups seeking venture funding for innovations involving a higher risk of technological failure but potentially higher returns. More mature options like energy production have longer track records with lower return profiles. This gives investors options to consider as they build a more resilient portfolio that addresses the effects of climate change while potentially generating returns.

We can help

The wide spectrum of climate-related investments presents a unique opportunity. Contact your J.P. Morgan team to learn about potential investment opportunities that align with your goals.

 

 

1 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, A Research Strategy for Ocean-based Carbon Dioxide Removal and Sequestration Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2021.

2 EY, "Forestry Funds: The Emerging Star of Alternative Investments," April 2023.

3 The Carbon Negative Shot, unveiled in November 2021, is the U.S. government’s first major effort in carbon dioxide removal, based at the Department of Energy Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management. It calls for innovation in the expanding field as a key facet of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

4U.S. Department of Energy, “Biden-Harris Administration Announces Up To $1.2 Billion For Nation’s First Direct Air Capture Demonstrations in Texas and Louisiana,” August 11, 2023.

5United Nations, “Finance & Justice,” 2023

6 Arame Tall, Sarah Lynagh, Candela Blanco Vecchi et al., “Enabling Private Investment in Climate Adaptation and Resilience: Current Status, Barriers to Investment and Blueprint for Action,” World Bank, March 2, 2021.

7 Yale Climate Connection, “Dozens of billion-dollar weather disasters hit Earth in 2022,” January 2023.

8 U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, “Scenarios of Global Food Consumption: Implications for Agriculture,” September 2023

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