NC Experts: Invest Sustainably to Protect Retirement from Climate Risks

RALEIGH, N.C. – Climate change could pose major risks to retirement investments, according to one expert who says looking for sustainable investment options could help buffer your nest egg.

Over the past decade, said James McMahon, chief executive of The Climate Service, an Asheville-based climate-risk analytics company, growing numbers of institutions and businesses have divested from fossil fuels – and yet, the average investor has not.

“For an average investor, I think we tend to invest in the funds that our employers make available to us,” he said, “so I think the first thing to do is to look for investment products that take sustainability into account.”

As an example of what to watch for, sea-level rise and soil erosion threaten the state’s coastal homes and real estate, and researchers have predicted North Carolina will see around a 50% increase in drought severity by 2050.

It’s up to individual investors to look for sustainable options, according to Michelle Garey, a portfolio manager at Bank OZK in Shelby. She said most investment funds aren’t designed to guard investors from climate-change risks, and they don’t follow “ESG,” a set of standards investors use to determine whether a potential investment is environmentally and socially responsible.

“So if you’re just a regular employee working for a large corporation,” she said, “the 401(k) plan most likely, at this point in time, does not incorporate the ESG criteria.”

ESG stands for “environmental, social and governance.”

Garey predicted that as more companies move away from fossil fuels and toward renewable-energy technologies, those areas will be a silver lining for investors “focusing on utility companies, for instance, that have strict goals about reducing their carbon footprint.”

Earlier this month, it was reported that shareholders in BlackRock, Inc., the world’s largest asset manager, have lost billions of dollars due to the firm’s heavy investments in oil, gas and coal companies.

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