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April 21, 2015

Waterloo Lutheran Seminary and more than 50 other faith-based institutional investors — with more than $2 billion in assets under management combined — have signed an open letter urging the federal government to establish a national policy to put a price on carbon emissions.

Finance Minister Joe Oliver, who is scheduled to deliver his budget on April 21, was sent the open letter urging the federal government to “establish mechanisms to set a clear, reliable and effective price for the carbon emissions with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and limiting catastrophic climate change.”

The letter, sent to Oliver last week and made public today, was drafted and delivered by the Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE), a financial industry organization that helps members assert their values when investing their funds.

Rev. Dr. David Pfrimmer, principal-dean of the Waterloo-based seminary, said adding his signature to the letter is part of practising the school’s religious values.

“Creation is not ours to exploit as we want,” he said. “Creation is entrusted to us to care for as God wants.”

It is also a case of fairness, Pfrimmer added.

“We ask companies to fairly bear the cost to creation and to communities,” he said. “They can’t just push those off on other people to bear the burden. Carbon pricing helps companies fairly account for the costs to everyone.”

But urging the federal government to devise an implement a national carbon pricing program doesn’t only expresses the seminary’s care for creation or its sense of fairness — it is also part of good financial stewardship, Pfrimmer said.

Investors need to know the long-term risks that threaten specific companies, or industries, before investors can make informed decisions about where to place their money.

“Carbon pricing is very good in mitigating risk and maximizing long-term returns — which is really what long-term investing is all about,” Pfrimmer said.

The Evangelical Lutheran Foundation of Eastern Canada (ELFEC) — a Kitchener-based manager of investment portfolios held by the seminary, the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, as well as nearly 20 congregations — also signed the ecumenical letter.

“It comes out of our commitment to responsible investment — investing according to our values and collective conscience,” said Jeff Pym, ELFEC’s executive director. “And paying attention to how companies operate leads to lower risks and as good as, or better, returns in the long run.”

SHARE supports local and provincial efforts to curb carbon emissions, but investors with companies that operate across the country would like a “consistent, reliable and efficient national approach,” said Peter Chapman, the association’s executive director. “As investors we’re looking for solutions as elegant, straightforward and simple as possible.”

The Pension Plan for Clergy and Lay Workers of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada has also signed the open letter.

The letter and complete list of signatories can be viewed on SHARE’s website.


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