By Simon Jessop
LONDON (Reuters) - Global investors managing $32 trillion (£25.17 trillion) in assets have called on governments to accelerate steps to combat climate change, as policymakers meet for talks at a United Nations conference in Poland.
A total of 415 investors from across the world including UBS Asset Management <UBSG.S> and Aberdeen Standard Investments <SLA.L> signed the 2018 Global Investor Statement to Governments on Climate Change demanding urgent action.
"The global shift to clean energy is underway, but much more needs to be done by governments to accelerate the low carbon transition and to improve the resilience of our economy, society and the financial system to climate risks," the statement said.
The intervention is the single largest on the topic to date, the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change said, as talks continue in the Polish city of Katowice to agree how to slow global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius.
That goal was agreed at a 2015 meeting in Paris, but investors said national governments were being too slow in enacting the policies needed to help the world transition to a low-carbon economy.
Failure to act could lead to permanent economic damage three or four times the scale of the impact of the financial crisis, British asset manager Schroders <SDR.L> said.
As well as ramping up the involvement of the private sector, governments needed to commit to improving climate-related financial reporting, a move that would help investors better assess the risk and allocate capital to the right companies.
"The reality is that the long-term nature of the challenge has, in our view, met a zombie-like response by many," said Chris Newton, Executive Director Responsible Investment, IFM Investors.
"This is a recipe for disaster as the impacts of climate change can be sudden, severe and catastrophic."
Among specific policy requests, the group called for governments to phase out thermal coal, put a "meaningful" price on carbon emissions and gradually get rid of subsidies for fossil fuels.
Under the presidency of Donald Trump, the U.S. government will pull out of the Paris deal and has looked to talk up the country's coal industry, policies Thomas DiNapoli of the New York State Common Retirement Fund called "misguided".
"Global efforts to address the very real threat climate risk presents to the economy, financial markets and investment returns are ongoing... (we) remain committed to supporting the Paris Agreement's climate goals.
"The transition to a low carbon economy presents numerous opportunities to create value and investors who ignore the changing world do so at their own peril," said DiNapoli, whose fund manages $207 billion in assets.
(Reporting by Simon Jessop; Editing by Janet Lawrence)