Smart money moves to renewables; all eyes on governments for next move

Intro

Momentum for climate action in the real world continues to lead the politics by a significant margin, with strong strides from top-tier financiers today again demonstrating to politicians that the smart money is absolutely on a renewable future. The Bank of England’s Mark Carney and the former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched a new global task force aimed at tracking climate-related risk for financial markets. Investors, insurers, banks and consumers will be able to access information under the plans, led by the Financial Stability Board – the G20 body that monitors the financial system. Other notable announcements came from ABP, a Dutch pension fund that will shift 25 per cent of their €100 billion portfolio towards renewables by 2020, and the New York Common Retirement Fund (CRF) – the third biggest pension fund in the United States – who will move $2 billion towards a low carbon find. As the private sector steps up to act for the people and the planet while watching their portfolios grow, this latest effort is yet another signal that the global economy is veering towards a low and no carbon future, squeezing out those who refuse to adapt and leaving them to deal with the consequences.

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Key Points

  • The private sector gets it: climate change is a major risk for investments. The climate risk taskforce  is just one example of the private sector stepping up because the financial risks associated with climate change are far too high for stakeholders. The rules of the game have changed for everyone, and even businesses, cities, and some of the world’s largest banks are making financial considerations based on climate science.
  • While the private sector has woken up to the risk of fossil fuels, governments must pick up the pace. Moving away from fossil fuels has become a core issue for financiers, with more than 500 institutions representing over $3.4 trillion in assets making some form of divestment commitment this year. The transition towards 100% renewable energy is ongoing and inevitable, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle in resolving the climate crisis.
  • Ending fossil fuel subsidies is a first step in speeding the renewable transition. Despite continued pledges by the world’s largest economies to end support for dirty energy, fossil fuel subsidies by the G7 and Australia still outweigh climate finance by 40 to 1. By reversing this balance, rich governments would show vulnerable nations that they were serious about helping them maximise ambition and build resilience against climate impacts. Combined with a strong Paris agreement signalling the end of the fossil fuel era, this will help further unlock ambition, offer long term certainty to investors and speed up the transition towards a 100 per cent renewable future.

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Key Quotes

  • “The establishment of this Task Force is an important step towards creating the transparency and consistent standards needed for investors and pension funds to understand the risks and opportunities within their portfolios as we transition to a low carbon economy” – Chris Cheetham, Global Chief Investment Officer, HSBC Global Asset Management Ltda.
  • “Few, if any, corporates have honestly assessed the implication of different climate change scenarios to the economy and their value chain. Yet the research suggests that unconstrained climate change poses a very real risk to long-term asset value and economic productivity and, as a result, to the ability of pension funds to meet future obligations. The FSBs establishment of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures is a very welcome and timely announcement.  The outputs of which will not only build on the achievements of other disclosure groups but, more importantly, enable financial markets to better understand how companies are financially exposed, whether positively or negatively, to political efforts to decarbonise the global economy as well as to the physical impacts of climate change already at work” – Richard Stathers, Head of Responsible Investment, Schroder Investment Management.
  • “Investors are increasingly aware of the material risks associated with climate change, which has been underscored by a number of policymakers, including Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, who has warned of the risks associated with stranded assets.  In the past, investors were content to let governments act; now, we are seeing a real shift, with investors being much more proactive and taking the lead in urging governments, policymakers and other stakeholders to take action on climate change” – Fiona Reynolds, Managing Director of the Principles for Responsible Investment.
  • “Climate-related disclosures are an important prerequisite for capital to cascade from higher risk, unsustainable investments towards those investments compatible with sustainability. The new Task Force has a vitally important role to play. Michael Bloomberg, who has built a successful business on ensuring the timely, accurate, and consistent provision of comparable information to markets, is surely one of the best possible people Mark Carney could have asked to chair this important process” – Ben Caldecott, Programme Director, University of Oxford’s Smith School.
  • “Access to high quality information can only help accelerate the reallocation of capital by investors in ways that will accelerate the low carbon transition. More consistent and reliable carbon disclosure will make it easier for investors to evaluate climate risk in their portfolios and understand where the opportunities in clean energy and other essential low carbon technology lie” – Stephanie Pfeifer, Chief Executive of IIGCC.
  • “Carbon Tracker welcomes further steps to progress the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures. A key challenge the Task Force faces will be to identity and agree reliable, independent information on ‘carbon bubble’ and ‘stranded assets’ risks, to help market participants manage their transition to a low carbon economy. We remain ready to support this process” – Mark Campanale, founder and executive director, Carbon Tracker.
  • “This is a hugely welcome initiative. It’s essential that businesses report their climate-risks clearly and consistently. One of the strongest messages coming out of COP21 is that business as usual is no longer an option. Whether or not we get an international agreement, the INDCs already on the table change the landscape of business and investment decisions dramatically. This increased focus by the FSB, and our own litigation programme designed to create a step-change in climate risk reporting, will drive investors’ capital away from businesses who are unable to demonstrate they are adapting to climate change to those that are. Those businesses that fail to adapt to the new normal will find it impossible to survive”- Alice Garton, Company and Financial Lawyer for ClientEarth.
  • “The Paris climate talks are haggling over $100billion of climate finance, but the real story is the trillions of dollars that are already switching away from fossil fuels towards low carbon assets. Better disclosure of climate and carbon exposure can speed up this transition” – Julian Poulter, CEO of Asset Owner Disclosure Project.
  • “The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) is a very welcome step – corporate disclosure of 2C transition plans are critical if we are to stay within this 2C ceiling.  And there also needs to be an equally hefty initiative to get investors to factor these disclosures into their valuation and stewardship decision–making processes” – Dr Raj Thamotheram, CEO, Preventable Surprises.
  • “Information is the life blood of the financial markets. Moves to develop climate-related disclosure metrics and standards through this new task force is a massive step forward in shifting the trillions to support a low carbon economy” – Ingrid Holmes, E3G.
  • “Mark Carney’s leadership and the FSB climate disclosure task force mark a critical step to ensure a transition to a zero carbon world that is as rapid and as stable as possible. Financial and corporate transparency, a 2 degrees stress test, carbon pricing, fiduciary responsibility; these and other essential elements of financial management require global consistency,regulation and oversight” – Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, ITUC.
  • “This is excellent news. The financial risks in climate change are becoming obvious. Better disclosure and consistent data will not only help investors prepare for the significant challenges ahead but will play a part in identifying the profitable mitigation opportunities which will emerge” – Simon Howard, Chief Executive of the UK Sustainable and Investment Finance Association (UKSIF).
  • “This initiative is timely and comes with the high-level leadership needed to reinforce the need for, and rebut attempts to roll-back, climate-related financial disclosures” – Seb Beloe, Head of Sustainability Research, WHEB Asset Management.
  • “The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD)  addresses an important shortcoming in current financial markets. Reliable and robust data on corporate climate goals and investment plans will enable financial markets to reflect climate reality in their investment and financing decisions. But the Task Force will also have to make it obligatory for investors to assess their own risk exposure against a 2 degrees scenario, or at least undertake first steps in that direction. The TCFD provides a great opportunity to redirect capital towards decarbonisation –  the G20 should establish the Task Force with the necessary robust mandate to do so” – Matthias Kopp, Head Finance & Energy Industry Unit, WWF Germany.
  • “This is an important milestone is recognising the wide ranging financial implications of climate change for all economies. Australia has a carbon intensive economy which is exposed to the regulatory, physical and market risks of climate change. Investors who are managing financial risk for the long term, need to be managing for climate change. Regulators need to have good visibility of the system-wide implications. Good carbon risk disclosure is the foundation of good risk management. As nations gather in Paris to agree a global commitment to tackling climate change, business needs to be able to demonstrate how they are positioning competitively for a two-degree economy. The time is right for a stocktake of current practice to better understand how we are managing carbon risk across the financial system and where the economic impacts sit. Many countries have begun introducing mandatory carbon risk reporting for business. More and more companies are voluntarily reporting on the carbon impacts across their portfolio through a variety of mechanisms. Institutional investors are actively engaging with companies to better understand how climate change will impact their returns” – Emma Herd, Chief Executive Officer of the Investor Group on Climate Change (IGCC)
  • “This is a very important development. It is clear that companies need to communicate to their shareholders, investors and the public that climate change represents a real risk.  At the same time, there’s much more to be done. The corporate world has to stop supporting trade groups like the American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who continue to promote disinformation about climate risk, stop lobbying against meaningful climate policies, and above all, stop investing in additional fossil fuel infrastructure” – Naomi Oreskes, Co-author of Merchants of Doubt, Professor of History of Science at Harvard
  • “There was positive movement on loss and damage—a redline issue for the vulnerable countries—which now has a bridging proposal set out that builds on a lot of the work done on the Warsaw mechanism. With the bridging proposals, the co-facilitators are bringing us beyond the point of just saying that ‘no text’ is an option. Some of the things in the loss and damage proposal are picking up the concerns of vulnerable countries, although it is still up for debate whether that is likely to remain in the final text. On many issues, there are still difficult political trades to be made in order to ensure that this deal doesn’t just end up as the lowest common denominator. The review on temperature target, which resulted in strong arguments for a 1.5 degree limit as a safer way to protect all communities,  ended up getting blocked from being sent to ministers, primarily by the Arab Group with Saudi Arabia leading. This is bad news, but the good news is that the ministers have a formal agenda that gives them the option to address this issue without the blocked report. So they still have option to affirm and adopt the 1.5 degree goal” – Sven Harmeling, CARE International
  • “We’re seeing negotiators take more openly political positions: that’s provoking sharper confrontations, but it’s also giving an understanding of where potential trade-offs might be. Last night, the EU recognized that the $100 billion in pre-2020 finance is a floor, and the they also, alongside the US and Japan, agreed that they will consider a collective contribution target for post-2020, if the donor pool increases. The US has made it clear that new contributors will not have the same level of responsibility—outlining a difference between the obligations of rich countries and the donations of those able to do so. Parties need to start compromising now—not at the 24th hour when everyone’s sleep-deprived and the clock has run down. There have been some confidence-building measures and there are definitely some potential landing zones for compromise, but there has not yet been enough movement for developing countries to be assured that they will get the financial support that they need for to adapt to climate change and reach strong long-term goals and reviews” – Kelly Dent, Oxfam.
  • “Right now the text is unworkable as it doesn’t include a clear commitment to provide finance to help vulnerable countries adapt to climate change. The uncertainty around that is eroding trust which will be needed when Ministers take over the negotiations on Monday. Rich and poor countries want to get a deal done. They are like teenagers at a school prom. They have been flirting with each other but we need developed countries to step forward and make the first move. The sooner we get finance on the table the more time we will have to craft a ratchet mechanism and work on language around decarbonisation. We’re at the halfway point of the summit, but in the push to get a decent deal we’re not yet halfway there. There’s a lot of heavy lifting still to be done when ministers arrive next week. At this point in Copenhagen we were nowhere, but here in Paris we’re in a much better position than we were six years ago. There is a constructive spirit and a determination among key players to get a deal. The tone was set at the beginning of these talks with the appearance of so many heads of government, bringing real political commitment to Paris.  But at the end of week one we still have no agreement on the key issues. Greenpeace believes that the reluctance to set a strong long-term goal is unacceptable, and shows how hypnotised negotiators are by the power of the fossil fuel industries. We’ll continue to fight for the essential goal of one hundred per cent renewable energy for all by 2050 – a call that the most vulnerable countries have made as a matter of survival.” – Mohamed Adow, Christian Aid’s Senior Climate Change Advisor
  • “We can meet the world’s energy demand with 100% clean renewable energy using existing technologies by 2050, and avoid many of the unthinkable effects of climate change. To do this, local and regional leaders like all of you must move quickly to enact policies that support a transition to low carbon transportation, energy efficient buildings, better waste management and renewable energy.” – Actor and UN ambassador Leonardo DiCaprio
  • “We’ve developed a master plan to power the city of Sydney with 100% renewable energy by 2030. We’re building this transition from the ground up, showing negotiators here in Paris that they can and must commit to 100% clean energy and an end to fossil fuels as soon as possible.” – Clover Moore, Mayor of Sydney

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