By Will Bugler
The UK government has today put forward new reforms that would force large pensions schemes to show exactly how they are managing the risks of climate change. The Department for Work and Pensions tabled an amendment to the Pension Schemes Bill today to mandate for disclosure against the recommendations of the Financial Stability Board’s Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosure.
The decision will add more impetus to the efforts of the financial services sector to understand and manage its climate risk exposure. “Financial institutions must take responsibility for their impact on the planet and the money they manage on our behalf, so we’re delighted that the UK government is taking steps to implement TCFD on a mandatory basis.” said Fergus Moffatt, head of UK policy at ShareAction a UK charity that campaigns for responsible investing. “The level of disclosure required under these laws will make it plain to see which pension schemes are really walking the talk on tackling the climate crisis and the risks it poses to our savings. As the UK hosts COP26 this year, all eyes will be on the current government to ensure this ambition reaches all areas of finance.”
The UK’s largest 25 pension schemes have over £560 billion invested. In 2018 the Environmental Audit Committee published responses it received from the UK’s 25 largest pension funds detailing the funds’ approach to climate change risk and whether it is – or is not – incorporated into their investment decision-making. 12 of the 25 schemes were listed as “more engaged” meaning that they are taking steps to assess and minimise their exposure to the physical and transition risks posed by climate change. Pension funds in this group support TCFD and most have committed to – or are considering – reporting in line with recommendations on climate-related financial disclosures.
However, 12 schemes also said that they had “no plans” to report against the TCFD recommendations. Today’s announcement will mean that all funds will have to engage with climate risk and work to understand their exposure. Acclimatise has been working closely with banks and other corporates in the financial services sector to develop tools and methodologies to assess physical climate risk to investments and loan portfolios.
The announcement will have implications for the entire financial services sector, showing a willingness from the government to take action if engagement on climate change is perceived to be lagging. It also sends a clear signal to corporates in other sectors, that investors will be expecting them to be able to report to them on their climate risk exposure, with loans and credit ratings likely to become contingent on taking action to manage climate risks.
Acclimatise have partnered with IIGCC and Chronos Sustainability to develop guidance for institutional investors on how they integrate the risks and opportunities presented by the physical risks of climate change in their investment research and decision-making processes. The guidance, titled ‘Understanding Physical Risks,’ will be launched in mid-March 2020. Acclimatise will lead a webinar to launch the guidance, stay tuned for more details.