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Mon, Oct 12, 2009 - Page 10 News List

Soros to invest US$1bn in clean energy

ADVISORY ROLEThe financier is establishing the Climate Policy Initiative, which the group’s boss says will be an advisory service, policy developer and watchdog


Billionaire George Soros, looking to address the “political problem” of climate change, said he will invest US$1 billion in clean-energy technology and create an organization to advise policy makers on environmental issues.

Soros, the founder of hedge fund Soros Fund Management LLC, announced the investment in Copenhagen on Saturday at a meeting on climate change sponsored by Project Syndicate. The group is an international association made up of 430 newspapers from 150 countries.

“I want to apply rather stringent criteria to the investments,” said Soros in an e-mailed message. “They should be profitable but should also actually make a contribution to solving the problem.”

Soros, whose own wealth accounts for much of the approximately US$24 billion his New York-based money-management firm oversees, didn’t provide any details in his speech on the type or scope of investments he might make.

Soros, 79, also will establish the Climate Policy Initiative, a San Francisco-based organization to which he will donate US$10 million a year for 10 years.

“It will be part advisory service, part policy developer and part watchdog,” said Thomas Heller, who is heading the initiative.

Heller is a Stanford University Law School professor, whose areas of specialty are energy law and regulation and environmental law.

Its goal is to look after the public interest as policies and programs are created to address climate change. The group will work in the US, Europe, China, India and Brazil, he said.

“The problem of global warming is primarily a political problem at this point,” Soros said. “The science is beyond dispute, but how do we achieve the objectives we all know are necessary? That is a political problem.”

The organization will address subjects such as carbon-emissions trading.

Soros has said he prefers a greenhouse-gas tax because carbon emission-trading systems, which are used in Europe, can be manipulated by investors.

Some US legislators, energy companies and traders are campaigning for a so-called cap-and-trade system in the US. It would set limits for the release of carbon dioxide, which is blamed for global warming, and let companies trade emissions allowances. Such a system already operates in the EU, where permit prices have been erratic since it started in 2005.

“The system can be gamed; that’s why financial types like me like it — because there are financial opportunities,” Soros said at a London School of Economics seminar in July.

Soros’s philanthropic efforts to date have primarily focused on promoting free and open societies, and have included initiatives supporting education, free press and public health.

In August, Soros donated US$35 million to help needy children in New York state buy back-to-school supplies, and in May he made a US$50 million challenge grant to the Robin Hood Foundation, which helps fight poverty in New York City.

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