By Will Bugler
In a move that was branded “disappointing” by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), the UK government has resisted calls to make it compulsory for large companies to report their exposure to climate risks. The move leaves the UK lagging behind France, which passed a law mandating climate risk reporting for big business in 2015.
Companies are facing increasing pressure from investors and shareholders to report their climate risk exposure, which is likely to have a significant bearing on future performance. The UK Government’s decision to rely on voluntary reporting instead was presented in its response to the EAC’s report on green finance – which had urged the government force businesses to disclose their climate exposure.
“It is disappointing that the Government has not used this opportunity to follow France in making it mandatory for large companies and asset owners to report their exposure to climate change risks and opportunities.” Said EAC Chair Mary Creagh MP.
The governments decision is at odds with the prevailing sentiment of investors. The Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) has built considerable momentum behind the need to disclose climate information as part of companies’ financial reporting. Over five hundred companies have publicly expressed their support for the TCFD’s recommendations.
Major banks are also taking steps to understand climate risks. Sixteen of the world’s leading banks, the UN Environment Finance Initiative, and Acclimatise recently published new methodologies to help banks understand how the physical risks and opportunities of a changing climate might affect their loan portfolios.
“The physical impacts of climate change may pose a risk to banks’ loan portfolios.” said Acclimatise’s Chief Technical Officer, Dr Richenda Connell. “Once banks understand the scale of the risks, this will be a milestone that will encourage other corporates to take climate risk management seriously. Building resilience to physical climate impacts also presents banks with investment opportunities. Those that understand this best will have a competitive advantage.”
More needs to be done to encourage businesses to understand and respond to climate risks and opportunities. Recent research from the Asset Owners Disclosure Project, shows that while awareness is rising about climate change, almost ninety percent of assets managed by the world’s largest public pension funds have not been subjected to a climate risk assessment.
In the UK, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has admitted that there is little understanding amongst trustees on the scale of fiduciary duties that are related to climate and environmental risks.