Factsheet — Financial Climate Risk Regulation in the United Kingdom

July 29, 2019 – 427 FACTSHEET. The Bank of England’s views on climate risk provide an indication of how the broader financial sector will likely approach the issue. The Bank propels this conversation by framing issues and convening stakeholders around the challenges and uncertainties of climate risk. With the integration of climate change into its insurance stress tests, the Prudential Regulatory Authority (PRA) has shown that the Bank’s declarations are starting to influence regulatory requirements. Staying up-to-date on these developments will provide early indications of regulatory action to come. This factsheet on regulatory developments in the United Kingdom (UK) provides background on the Bank of England’s approach to climate risk, outlines key actions and highlights upcoming dates to remember.

The Bank of England has been on the forefront of acknowledging climate change as a material financial risk since before it was commonly discussed in the financial sector. Its Governor Mark Carney coined the term the “tragedy of the horizon” in 2015 referring to the economic risks of climate change. Since then, the Bank has become known for emphasizing climate change as an urgent threat to financial stability and financial regulation in the UK is beginning to reflect this stance. Paying close attention to developing perspectives at the Bank will help prepare financial actors for future regulatory changes to come. This factsheet, Financial Climate Risk Regulation in the United Kingdom, summarizes the UK’s stance on the financial risk of climate change, notes key declarations and highlights recent and upcoming action applicable to financial markets.

Key Takeaways

  • The PRA included scenarios for physical and transition climate risks in its “Scenario Specification, Guidelines and Instructions” for life insurance and general insurance stress tests released in June 2019.
  • In April 2019, Carney announced that banks and insurers will be “expected to embed fully the consideration of climate risks into governance frameworks, including at board level.” This was followed by a supervisory statement outlining these expectations and asking firms to have preliminary plans by Oct. 15 2019.
  • In May 2019, the PRA’s working group of insurance industry experts released a framework for assessing the impacts of physical climate change in the insurance sector and is seeking feedback by Nov. 22 2019.
  • The PRA and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) developed a Climate Financial Risk Forum, including banks, insurers, asset managers and other financial stakeholders, that will promote capacity building and knowledge sharing for responding to financial climate risks.

Read the Factsheet.

Read Four Twenty Seven’s other Factsheets on Financial Climate Risk Regulation.

Four Twenty Seven Receives Majority Investment from Moody’s Corporation

We’re excited to announce that Four Twenty Seven has received a majority investment from Moody’s Corporation.  The acquisition bolsters Four Twenty Seven’s mission to help investors and corporations integrate climate change risk into investment decisions.

Four Twenty Seven will continue to be headquartered in Berkeley, CA, operating under its existing brand, and will be an affiliate of Moody’s Investors Service.

“Four Twenty Seven’s climate risk analytics, combined with Moody’s global coverage and extensive analytical capabilities, provides an ideal path to help market participants integrate climate impacts into risk management and investment decisions,” said Emilie Mazzacurati, Founder and CEO of Four Twenty Seven.

Four Twenty Seven scores physical risks associated with climate-related factors and other environmental issues, including heat stress, water stress, extreme precipitation, hurricane and typhoons and sea level rise. Its scores and portfolio analytics feature extensive global coverage and quantify climate risk exposures across asset classes, with detailed data covering over 2,000 listed companies, one million global corporate facilities, 320 REITs, 3,000 US counties, and 196 countries. Four Twenty Seven’s data and indicators are used by asset owners, asset managers, banks, corporations and government agencies to understand and evaluate the potential climate risk they hold in their portfolios and activities.

The addition of Four Twenty Seven enhances Moody’s growing portfolio of risk assessment capabilities and underscores the company’s work to advance global standards for assessing environmental and climate risk factors. Four Twenty Seven will also strengthen Moody’s growing thought leadership and research on incorporating climate risk into economic modeling and credit ratings. The deal complements Moody’s recent acquisition of Vigeo Eiris, a leading provider of ESG research, data, and assessments.

“Four Twenty Seven has built a strong platform for quantifying climate-related exposures and producing actionable risk metrics, which are essential to understanding and informing climate risk and resilience measures,” said Myriam Durand, Global Head of Assessments at Moody’s Investors Service. “Moody’s is committed to offering global, transparent standards for assessing environmental risk, and the acquisition of Four Twenty Seven advances our objective of integrating climate analytics into our offerings.”

About Four Twenty Seven

Four Twenty Seven (427mt.com) is the leading provider of market intelligence on the impacts of climate change for financial markets. We tackle physical risk from the ground up by identifying the locations of corporate production and retail sites around the world and their vulnerability to climate change hazards such as sea level rise, droughts, floods and tropical storms, which pose an immediate threat to investment portfolios.

Four Twenty Seven’s ever-growing database includes over one million corporate sites and covers over 2000 publicly-traded companies. Four Twenty Seven also produces climate risk scores for Real Estate Investment Trusts, U.S. Munis and Sovereigns. We offer data products and software solutions  to access these unique data offerings, as well as reporting services, scenario analysis and real asset portfolio risk assessments .

Four Twenty Seven has won multiple award for its innovative work on climate risk and resilience and our work has been featured by Bloomberg, Reuters, NPR and the Financial Times. Four Twenty Seven was founded in 2012 and is headquartered in Berkeley, California with offices in Washington, DC, Paris, France, and soon, Tokyo, Japan

Download the Press Release.

Four Twenty Seven Wins Alternative Investment Award

JULY 8, 2019 – LONDON, UK – Four Twenty Seven receives Wealth & Finance Magazine’s Alternative Investment Award for Best in Climate-Related Economic Risk Reporting 2019. 

Wealth & Finance Magazine recognized Four Twenty Seven among the winners of their 2019 Alternative Investment Awards. For six years these awards have acknowledged firms and individuals that positively shape the industry’s growth. “Historically considered an undervalued industry, the alternative investment has grown over the past few years. Behind this prominent growth and success, are the leading lights whose innovation, dedication and inventive ways has delivered some award-worthy results,” Wealth & Finance writes.

The Best in Climate-Related Economic Risk Reporting award highlights Four Twenty Seven’s climate risk scores for listed instruments and on-demand scoring of real assets, that assess financial firm’s exposure to physical climate risk and inform risk reporting. Our analysis leverages best-in-class climate data at the most granular level and scores assets on their exposure to physical climate impacts based on their precise geographic location. Investors use this data to drive investment strategies, forward-looking risk management and TCFD/risk disclosures.

AIA Video: Stripping Down Climate Risk

Why do climate risks matter for real assets and how can we invest in a more resilient future? There is a growing need to ensure that infrastructure assets and real estate are built to withstand the increasingly severe weather events we experience in a changing climate. Four Twenty Seven Strategic Advisor, Josh Sawislak, discusses how different types of uncertainty will influence physical climate impacts and transition risk outcomes, and how asset design can consider these impacts. Innovating in climate resilience is essential to reduce risk management costs, but it also provides economic opportunities around job creation and product development.

Four Twenty Seven offers real asset screenings and data on climate risk in real estate to inform climate risk mitigation and investments in resilience. Read our paper on Climate Risk, Real Estate, and the Bottom Line or our blogs on scenario analysis for physical climate risk to learn more about these topics.

Newsletter: Bank of England Publishes First Stress Test for Climate Risks

Four Twenty Seven's monthly newsletter highlights recent developments on climate risk and resilience. This month we feature developments in scenario analysis for physical risks, highlight the European Union's guidance on climate risk disclosure and share the latest on financial climate risk and the need for resilience.

In Focus: Scenario Analysis for Physical Risk

Bank of England Publishes First Climate Risk Stress Test

Yesterday the Bank of England released specifications for integrating climate risk scenarios into its insurance industry's biennial stress tests. This "exploratory" exercise is an enormous step towards catalyzing a growing understanding of possible impacts of transition and physical climate risks on financial assets.

The guidance lays out potential impacts by providing sector-specific percentages of potential loss under three scenarios by sector and by region. These quantitative financial impact assumptions are not a projection but a starting point for the insurance industry to explore potential impacts of climate change on their portfolios.

The Bank of England leveraged Four Twenty Seven's analytics on climate risk exposure in equity and real estate markets to inform its assumptions about which sectors will experience the largest impacts. We explain how data on risk exposure in equities can be leveraged for this type of analysis in our new blog series on scenario analysis.

The Bank of England also recently released a practitioner's guide for assessing the financial impacts of physical climate change, to help the insurance sector address climate risks.

Blog Series: Scenario Analysis for Physical Climate Risk

Our new blog series provides our reflections on how corporations and financial institutions can integrate physical climate risk into scenario analysis. Scenario analysis for physical risk is fundamentally different from transition risk. Corporations and investors increasingly recognize the need to integrate physical risk into scenario analysis but are looking for guidance and best practices on how to proceed.

Our first blog focuses on the foundations, demonstrating how characteristics of climate science affect how climate data can be used to inform scenario analysis. We argue that because physical risks over the next 10-20 years are largely independent from policy decisions and emission pathways, investors would be better served by scenario analysis that focuses on the inherent uncertainty of projected impacts, independent from assumptions on GHG emission scenarios. 

The next blog focuses on Equity Markets, with concrete examples of how available data can inform financial stakeholders ready to start putting scenario analysis into action. We look at data on climate risk exposure by sector to explore how climate risk analytics can inform early developments of stress test assumptions, as done by the Bank of England.  
Read the Blogs
EU Technical Expert Group
Releases Guidance
Yesterday the European Commission released its final guidance on integrating climate change into corporate disclosuresThis guidance applies to 6,000 companies, banks and insurers in Europe and maps to the TCFD recommendations. The guidance includes key recommendations from Advancing TCFD Guidance for Physical Risks and Opportunities, published by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and GCECA last year, for which Four Twenty Seven was a lead author. 
The EU also released the Technical Expert Group (TEG) report on a taxonomy for activities that contribute to climate adaptation and mitigation. The taxonomy aims to help investors and policymakers understand which economic activities contribute to the transition to a low-carbon economy, through both mitigation and resilience. It outlines qualitative screening criteria to identify adaptation of economic activities and adaptation by economic activities, providing activity-specific examples for a range of sectors. The proposed taxonomy is still under legislative review.
Second TCFD Status Report
While more firms are releasing TCFD disclosures, investors call for an increase in informative disclosure of the financial impact of climate risks. The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) released its second progress report earlier this month, emphasizing that the quality of risk disclosures must continue to improve as firms build their understanding and capacity to address climate risks. 91% of surveyed firms said they plan to at least partially implement the TCFD recommendations, but only 67% plan to complete implementation within the next three years. This progress must be accompanied by continued knowledge sharing and research on financial risk pathways for climate impacts, meaningful exposure data and best practices for reporting.

Even as TCFD reporting increases, quantitative assessment of physical risk exposure lags behind. Explore physical climate risk reporting by French firms in our analysis of physical risk in Article 173 reports and stay tuned for Four Twenty Seven's forthcoming analysis on physical risk disclosure in TCFD reports.
Investors Factor Climate Risk into Decisions
The past month has seen a flurry of news around the business risks of climate change and the financial sector response. CDP's annual climate change report estimates that 215 companies could incur around $1 trillion in climate-related costs if they don't prepare for these impacts. Companies expect these costs to begin accumulating in around five years. While some are not yet acting, others are, such as Japanese Hitachi Ltd preparing for increased rainfall in Southeast Asia and Brazilian Bank, Banco Santander, considering how increased water stress may damage borrowers' ability to repay loans. 

Alison Martin of Zurich Insurance Group told a meeting of CFOs that physical risks such as drought, extreme heat and flooding will be "incredibly meaningful." She emphasizes that the first step in integrating climate change into planning is for a company to understand its risk exposure. Meanwhile investors say they are increasingly factoring physical climate risk into their decision-making to minimize their risk and increase returns. Four Twenty Seven's on-demand scoring of real assets and analysis of asset-level risk in equity portfolios enables both corporations and investors to understand their exposure and strategically address physical climate risks.
Devastating Impacts Call for Preparation

Catastrophic Midwest Flooding Has Rippling Impacts

At the end of May only 58% and 29% of the U.S. corn and soy crops had been planted respectively. After persistent flooding beginning in Mid-March, inundated fields delayed planting. This means that some farmers will miss the planting window, which closes in June due to the heat and dryness of later summer months.
Those crops that do get planted will have to overcome soggy soil conditions and will remain at the peril of the summer's weather. It's already clear that this will be a below average crop yield, which translates into  more expensive corn in cattle feed and higher prices in grocery stores.

The Climate Connection

While the Mississippi River continues to swell, extreme precipitation has recently hit Houston and the Southeast with damaging floods. The past 12 months have been the wettest on record for the U.S. The national average of 37.7 inches since last June is 7.7 inches above average. 
A weak El Niño likely contributed to increased rainfall, but climate change also plays a role as warmer air holds more water. This month also saw record high temperatures in the western U.S., caused by a bulging jet stream making warm air flow south to north. While this does happen naturally, it may be happening more often due to warming ocean waters. This jet stream activity also contributes to other extreme events like the Midwest flooding.

The Need to Rethink Preparedness

From floods and heat waves to fires and hurricanes, federal recovery efforts for extreme events have cost almost half a trillion dollars since 2005. As disasters become more common and costs increase, there is an urgent need to invest in resilience proactively rather than spending billions on recovery. Last fall's Disaster Recovery Reform Act made an
important step by allowing FEMA to use a small portion of its disaster relief funding for risk mitigation ahead of disasters. However, this is the start of what must be a systemic shift in addressing extreme events. “If we don’t want to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on recovering for disaster, we need to spend tens of billions [on resilience],” Four Twenty Seven Strategic Advisor, Josh Sawislak, told Bloomberg.

"There is a silver lining to our climate challenges — economic growth. Americans are very good at innovating and building and we can leverage our need to be more resilient by growing the economy with good resilient and sustainable jobs," Sawislak wrote.
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Scenario Analysis for Physical Climate Risk: Equity Markets

In this second installment of our blog series of scenario analysis, we focus on how investors can start exploring impacts on portfolios of listed equities/fixed income with existing climate risk analytics. The series provides our current reflections on how corporations and financial institutions can integrate physical climate risk into scenario analysis. The first installment, on foundations, focuses on important characteristics of climate science that affect how climate data can be used to inform scenario analysis for economic and financial risk. A forthcoming post will discuss scenario analysis at the asset level for real asset investments and corporate facilities.

Scenario Analysis Serves Different Purposes

Scenario analysis serves different purposes for real asset investors and for equity or fixed income investors. When looking at a single real asset, scenario analysis can be used to inform very concrete decisions regarding the asset, working directly with the asset operator: whether and what flood protections to put in place, insurance requirements, anticipated impacts on operational costs from water and energy consumption, etc.

In contrast, for an equity or fixed income portfolio, investors’ influence on the resilience of the underlying asset (e.g. a corporation or a sovereign entity) is much more limited. In a previous publication we discussed the importance of shareholder engagement with corporations as a key channel for investors to help raise awareness of rising risks from climate change, and encourage companies to invest in responsible corporate adaptation measures. Investors, however, would be hard pressed to run scenario analysis on individual portfolio companies themselves, and disclosures from corporations on scenario analysis remain weak and fragmented.

Meanwhile, prudential authorities in Europe have been signalling expectations that insurers and banks perform scenario analysis on their portfolio to examine potential impacts of climate change, to understand how different climate-driven outcomes might prevent the insurers and lenders from meeting their financial obligations. Most recently, in April, the Bank of England Prudential Regulatory Authority (PRA) released a proposed set of specifications for scenario analysis that includes some simplified assumptions on climate impacts on financial portfolios.

In this piece we examine how available climate risk analytics can be leveraged to inform early attempts at developing stress test assumptions and simulate potential outcomes on investment portfolios aligned with the relative exposure of corporations by sectors and by regions.

Climate Risk Analytics for Equities/Fixed Income

We leverage our data on corporate physical risk exposure to determine what assumptions can be made in this type of early stress test. In this piece, we analyze the climate risk scores for 1730 of the largest companies in MSCI All Country World Index (ACWI). This physical risk assessment is based on the exposure of the underlying database of about a million facilities globally.

We score each company on three components of physical climate risk: Operations Risk, Supply Chain Risk and Market Risk.

427 Methodology Chart
Figure 1. 427 indicators for physical climate risk exposure in corporations (equities/fixed income)
  • A company’s Operations Risk is based on its facility-level exposure to hurricanes & typhoons, sea level rise, floods, extreme heat and water stress. The analysis also considers the sensitivity of different types of facilities. For example, manufacturing plants with their high energy demands are more sensitive to extreme heat than offices.
  • Supply Chain Risk is based on the risk in countries that export commodities that the company depends on and a company’s reliance on climate-sensitive resources such as water, land and energy, based on its industry.
  • Market Risk is based on where a company’s sales are generated and how its industry has historically been impacted by weather variability.

Scores are normalized, with 0 being the least exposed and 100 being the most exposed. (For more details, please refer to our previous report Physical Climate Risk in Equity Portfolios as well as our Solutions page)

In line with considerations of relevant time horizons and of impacts being locked in over the climatic short term (detailed in Part 1), our standard equity risk score data considers projected climate impacts in the 2030-2040 time period under a single RCP scenario, RCP 8.5 (the worst case scenario, also known as business as usual), but leverages several climate models.

From Climate Hazard Exposure to Financial Impacts

Studies of how physical climate hazards translate into financial impacts at the company level are scarce. While a growing body of research explores the complex relationships between climate hazards and economic impacts, which vary by sector and by region, academic research on the relationship between climate events and corporate/stock performance, at scale, is still limited. Our approach focuses on leveraging what can be estimated in a robust, data-driven way: relative exposure of companies to climate hazards.

Our analysis of global corporations shows the relative exposure of industries to climate related risks across all three dimensions: operations risk, market risk and supply chain risk (Table 1). This table shows the sectors with the highest exposure, including manufacturing, infrastructure (utility, energy, transportation), and industries with high dependency on natural resources (food, apparel).

Table 1. Industries most exposed to physical climate risks . Source: Four Twenty Seven.

Services, not shown in the table, are not only less exposed, they’re also far less sensitive to changes in climatic conditions, with the exception of the financial sector, which holds the risk of all the other sectors in its investment, lending or insurance portfolios. Note that real estate is not included in this analysis, but data on regional exposure in that sector can be found in our white paper on climate risk in real estate.

These differentiated impacts by sectors can lay the foundations for a stress test, as industry risk levels can be used to set initial assumptions on sector-wide impacts. Following the example set out by the Bank of England’s PRA, for example, investors could assume that sectors with high exposure might see a 10% or 20% drop in value, whereas sectors with medium exposure would see half of that impact. These assumptions are not intended to substitute for financial impact modeling, but provide a shortcut to test how a portfolio might perform under climate-driven duress.

Drivers of Exposure to Physical Climate Risk

While some sectors overlap with those examined in scenario analysis exercises for transition risk, such as utilities and energy, other sectors with high exposure are not typically included in scenario analysis, like tech manufacturing or pharmaceuticals. Understanding the nuances of the risk pathways in each sector and their relative exposure to different hazards is critical to refining assumptions and developing models that can quantify value-at-risk by sector with some accuracy.

Manufacturing companies in the tech sector rely on complex value chains that can be interrupted by extreme weather events, particularly in Asia, which is a region highly exposed to typhoons and extreme precipitation. They also often produce expensive and water sensitive products using costly machinery and can incur costs and damages from extreme events on site.  Pharmaceuticals are particularly exposed because of the prevalence of their manufacturing in water-stressed regions (India, California) and regions highly exposed to hurricanes & typhoons. For example, damaged manufacturing sites in Puerto Rico had rippling impacts on pharmaceutical operations globally during Hurricane Maria in 2017. Pharmaceuticals is also one of the groups with the most weight in the MSCI ACWI, making this exposure particularly significant (Fig 2).

Figure 2. The average company risk score by GICS Industry Group, with Operations Risk on the y-axis and Market & Supply Chain Risk on the x-axis. Red represents those industries with the highest exposure, green represents those with the lowest exposure and the size of the bubble signifies an industry’s weight in the MSCI ACWI.  Source: Four Twenty Seven.

In the utility sector, the nature of the exposure is very different from that observed in transition risk analysis: carbon neutral power generation can be as exposed as thermal generation – for example due to water stress or floods for hydro facilities. In addition, utilities rely on expensive equipment, such as cables, poles, fuel storage and pipes that are often exposed to severe weather and sensitive to extreme conditions. Their operations are also resource-intensive, relying heavily on energy and water for cooling. They can experience operations disruptions during peak energy demands or due to equipment damage during storms.

The exposure of the automobiles & components sector has been illustrated by recent flooding in Japan. Automobile companies rely on manufacturing processes and machinery that can be interrupted due to flooding or hurricane damage, but their reliance on employee labor also makes these companies vulnerable to the wider regional impacts of extreme events. For example, during Japan’s extreme flooding in July 2018, Mazda was forced to halt operations at some of its facilities that were not physically damaged themselves, because its employees could not travel safely to work.

Conclusion

Climate change calls for a better understanding of impacts of physical hazards on financial markets, which remains a topic largely unexplored. Yet as regulators push insurers and banks towards the integration of climate scenarios into stress testing, robust, data-driven views on the relative exposure of sectors or regions provide a helpful foundation from which to explore the potential impacts on equity and fixed income portfolios.

Over time, better data will become available as academic and industry providers develop models that capture the nuances of climate impacts on different industries and geographies, but also as companies make a concerted effort to disclose better data on their past and anticipated financial exposure to extreme weather and climate-related events.

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Four Twenty Seven’s data products and portfolio analytics support risk reporting and enable investors and businesses to understand their exposure to physical climate risks across asset classes.

Scenario Analysis for Physical Climate Risk: Foundations

The TCFD Status Report published early June 2019 reiterates the need for corporations and financial institutions to perform scenario analysis in a context of uncertainty over climate risk. It notes that while about 56% of companies use scenario analysis, only 33% perform scenario analysis for physical risk. Even fewer firms (43% of those using scenario analysis) disclose their assumptions and findings. The report contains useful case studies, but most focus on transition risk.

Yet a growing number of corporations and financial institutions recognize the need to integrate physical risk into scenario analysis and to develop resilience strategies that address imminent challenges from climate impacts. For example, the most recent IPCC report illustrating the impact of 1.5˚C increase in global temperatures on mean temperatures, extreme temperatures, extreme precipitation and sea levels shows that there will be significant implications for economies even with a 1.5˚C increase in global temperatures. This is still a best case scenario compared to impacts of 2˚C or 2.5˚C warming.

Scenario analysis for physical risk is fundamentally different from transition risk in its challenges and assumptions. This blog series provides our current reflections on how corporations and financial institutions can integrate physical climate risk into scenario analysis. This first blog presents the Foundations, focusing on important characteristics of climate science that affect how climate data can be used to inform scenario analysis for economic and financial risk. The next blog focuses on Equity Markets, with concrete examples of how available data can inform financial stakeholders ready to start putting scenario analysis into action. A forthcoming post will discuss scenario analysis at the asset level for real asset investments and corporate facilities.

Part 1: Foundations

The physical impacts of climate change encompass a range of direct and indirect hazards caused or exacerbated by the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Previous publications such as Advancing TFCD Guidance for Physical Risks and Opportunities, for which Four Twenty Seven was a lead author, provide background on these hazards as they pertain to corporate value chains and economic activities. Further information is also available in Cicero’s excellent report, Shades of Climate Risk. Categorizing climate risk for investors.

The Science: Uncertainties and Relevant Time Frames

Rapid developments in atmospheric and climate science over the past 30 years enable us to understand how these physical hazards will evolve over time due to climate change. Sophisticated global climate models project expected changes in key physical phenomena affected by greenhouse gas (GHG) concentration: heat, humidity, precipitation, ocean temperature, ocean acidification, etc. Like any other models, climate models have limitations in their accuracy and ability to correctly simulate complex and interrelated phenomena. However, it is worth noting that since 1973 models have been consistently successful in projecting within the range of warming that we have experienced in the past twenty years. More details on climate data and uncertainties from global climate models can be found in our report, Using Climate Data.

The Bad News: Impacts Are Locked In

Global climate models project different possible outcomes using scenarios called Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs). RCP scenarios capture differing GHG emissions trajectories based on a representation of plausible global policy outcomes, without specifying the details of the underlying policies that could generate this outcome. These scenarios show that GHG emissions generated over the coming decades will influence the severity of impacts in the long-term, but also that we are already committed to some impacts through 2100 and beyond.

This is particularly noticeable over the “short term.”  When looking at the next 10 to 20 years, projections for temperature and other physical hazards do not present significant differences under different emissions scenarios (Fig 1). This is due to the massive inertia of the Earth’s systems, and the life expectancy of the stock of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. To put it simply, significantly reducing GHG emissions is akin to applying the brakes on a rapidly moving truck. It won’t stop instantaneously. Even if we were to stop emitting GHG altogether, climate change would persist. In the words of the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC), climate change “represents a substantial multi-century commitment created by the past, present, and future emissions of CO2.”

Figure 1. Temperature increases under different GHG emissions scenarios in the near term. Source: IPCC, as published by Climate Lab Book.

This is by no mean an invitation to give up on reducing GHG emissions. Quite the opposite. Emission reductions are critical to curbing long term impacts and avoiding irreversible effects to our environment (Fig. 2). But for organizations looking at climate data and scenario analysis for risk management and strategy, with a focus on the coming decade(s), this is a critical fact to understand.

Figure 12.5 | Time series of global annual mean surface air temperature anomalies (relative to 1986–2005) from CMIP5 concentration-driven experiments. Projections are shown for each RCP for the multi-model mean (solid lines) and the 5 to 95% range (±1.64 standard deviation) across the distribution of individual models (shading). Discontinuities at 2100 are due to different numbers of models performing the extension runs beyond the 21st century and have no physical meaning. Only one ensemble member is used from each model and numbers in the figure indicate the number of different models contributing to the different time periods. No ranges are given for the RCP6.0 projections beyond 2100 as only two models are available.Source IPCC AR5: Collins, M., R. Knutti, J. Arblaster, J.-L. Dufresne, T. Fichefet, P. Friedlingstein, X. Gao, W.J. Gutowski, T. Johns, G. Krinner, M. Shongwe, C. Tebaldi, A.J. Weaver and M. Wehner, 2013: Long-term Climate Change: Projections, Commitments and Irreversibility. In: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, pp. 1029–1136, doi:10.1017/CBO9781107415324.024.
Figure 2. Temperature increases under different GHG emissions scenarios through 2300 from IPCC AR 5: Figure 12.5 | Time series of global annual mean surface air temperature anomalies (relative to 1986–2005) from CMIP5 concentration-driven experiments. Projections are shown for each RCP for the multi-model mean (solid lines) and the 5 to 95% range (±1.64 standard deviation) across the distribution of individual models (shading). Discontinuities at 2100 are due to different numbers of models performing the extension runs beyond the 21st century and have no physical meaning. Only one ensemble member is used from each model and numbers in the figure indicate the number of different models contributing to the different time periods. No ranges are given for the RCP6.0 projections beyond 2100 as only two models are available.
Aside from RCP-driven scenarios, there is, of course, a broad range of possible increases in temperature (and other climate hazards) even when looking at the 2030-2040 time frame. These plausible differences are not so much policy-driven as science-driven, demonstrating the different possible responses from the Earth’s systems to the existing stock of GHG.

These differences have significant implications for businesses and investors. For example, a model of sea level rise developed in 2018 incorporates accelerated rates of melting and recent advancements in modelling ice-cliff dynamics to capture extreme risk of coastal flooding. The model shows the Atlantic rising by 1.2m (3.9ft) by 2060 on the Florida coastline, which would equate to widespread flooding of coastal properties with potential domino effects on real estate prices across the state (Fig 3). The ‘intermediate’ scenario, however, most often used for planning, predicts only a 55cm (1.8ft) rise in water levels. While reducing GHG emissions does reduce the risk of more extreme sea level rise millennia into the future, year after year, scientists find that the Antarctic is warming faster than anybody predicted, and there is increasing concern that the process of ice sheet melt may be too far advanced to be stopped.

Figure 3. Building-level perspective of inundation in downtown Miami under 1m (3.3ft). Red buildings are those most likely to be impacted and blue areas are inundated. Source: NOAA Office for Coastal Management.

Thus, performing scenario analysis where the key variable is GHG emission reduction targets may not be an accurate representation of the range of possible outcomes for the near future. Rather, looking at high and low warming projections across a large set of models to understand the range of potential outcomes (independent of the underlying RCP scenario) is a better way to understand potential risk. In other words, physical risks over the next 10-20 years are largely independent from policy decisions and emission pathways, and a rapid, orderly, effective transition to a low-carbon economy could still come with massive physical impacts as these processes are already under way, fueled by the past 150 years of GHG emissions.

The Worse News: Tipping Points

Another challenge is that climate scientists are not currently able to model certain possible impacts from climate change, commonly known as “tipping points.” Tipping points is a catch-all term for a wide range of phenomena that may accelerate feedbacks due to climate change, though the timing or probability of their manifestation is currently not well understood. The phenomena are known as tipping points because past a certain threshold, they may not be reversible, even with a dramatic reduction in GHG emissions. Tipping points of most concern to the scientific community are presented in this report from the Environmental Defense Fund.

Some tipping points catalyze “feedback loops” which can worsen and dramatically accelerate climate change beyond human control. Such is the case, for example, with melting ice sheets, which would not only lead to catastrophic sea level rise, but would also further heat up the planet as the poles’ albedo (reflectivity) is reduced after the ice disappears. Thawing permafrost could lead to massive amounts of methane, a particularly powerful GHG, to be released from the frozen tundra into the atmosphere (in addition to many direct impacts for local communities, infrastructure  and ecosystems in the region).

Tipping points further reinforce uncertainty about severity and timing of these extreme impacts and the limitations of using RCP scenarios to understand the range of outcomes for physical risk.

Another source of uncertainty for physical climate impacts are knock-on effects, or ‘indirect hazards,’ from the primary expression of global warming (rising temperature and humidity), ranging from biodiversity losses and ecosystem collapses, human health impacts, impacts on crop yields, pests and soil, impacts on human society, increased violence, and rates of war and migration, etc. (Fig 4)

Figure 4. The likely risks to human and natural systems under several global warming scenarios, with dark purple representing high risks of severe impacts with limited reversibility and white indicating no attributable impacts. Source: IPCC, 2018

These indirect or second-order hazards are as relevant as first-order impacts to understand the implications of physical climate change on economic outcomes, but they’re not captured by RCP scenarios and many require stand-alone models that cannot easily be integrated into one clean set of scenarios.

Conclusion

Scenario analysis is often approached from the perspective of transition risk, where policy developments and GHG emission targets are the key drivers of risk pathways over the next 10 to 30 years. Physical risk, however, requires a different approach. Impacts over the coming decades are largely locked-in and are only marginally influenced by GHG emission pathways. In contrast, uncertainty looms large regarding how severe these physical hazards will be, and exploring a range of possible outcomes for physical risk, including looking at tail-risks, provides important insights for risk management and financial analysis.  In summary, the current state of scientific knowledge and the nature of the Earth’s atmospheric systems call for the developments of scenarios that are decoupled from transition/policy scenarios and instead focused on key scientific drivers of uncertainty and risks that may be experienced regardless of policy decisions over the short to medium term (2020-2040).

While efforts to develop easy-to-use tools for physical risk analysis are nascent, organizations can still extract important insights from climate data and leverage estimates of risk exposure across portfolios. Our next blog in this series provides examples of how financial institutions can leverage data on physical risk exposure in equities to inform some early scenario analysis in equity markets.

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Four Twenty Seven’s data products and portfolio analytics support risk reporting and enable investors and businesses to understand their exposure to physical climate risks across asset classes.

Disasters are Getting Worse and We Need a New Plan

I couldn’t seem to turn on the TV this week without being inundated with coverage of the ongoing floods and tornadoes in the Midwest. The dearth of other content is not just due the doldrums of the sports and political seasons — things are genuinely getting worse on the disaster front. Much worse.

The horrible scenes of twister damaged homes across the Midwest and continuing flooding along the entire Mississippi River merely displaced the stories on recovery efforts from the Hurricanes Maria, Irma, Harvey, Michael as well as the Camp Fire and other drought inflamed disasters in California and the Western U.S.

The Fourth National Climate Assessment predicts more frequent and severe storms, longer and more severe droughts, and the continued and likely accelerating rise of sea levels. All of this will only add to the challenges faced by states, counties and municipalities that are on the front lines of these disasters and to the taxpayers who foot the bill for the hundreds of billions in recovery and rebuilding costs.

The Government Accountability Office found that the increasing frequency and scale of disasters as well as the federal government’s role in funding recovery and flood and crop insurance, make climate disaster a high risk for federal fiscal exposure. GAO reported that the federal recovery efforts alone have cost nearly half a trillion dollars since 2005. To put that spending in context, it represents approximately $4,000 out of the pockets of every American family. Congress will either have to put our nation further into debt or shift the burden to our taxpayers. Addressing climate change is not only an environmental imperative, it’s critical to our nation’s economic security.

It is clear that we have learned a lot about how to respond to, and recover from, major disasters. In the past 40 years. federal agencies, state and local governments, and the extensive network of volunteer organizations such as the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity and the Cajun Navy deserve much credit for their growing ability to save lives and help rebuild communities.

It is also clear that just getting better at response and recovery will keep us on the defensive, always playing catch-up. More importantly, the focus and investment post-disaster does little to keep us safe in the first place. We have to retire the old approach that we can just come in after the storm or fire and rebuild — even if we rebuild stronger. Ask anyone who lost their home, business, community or especially a loved one to one of these disasters. They will tell you that as appreciative as they are for the world-class support from governments and volunteers, it’s small comfort for the trauma and years of personal recovery they face. We need to get ahead of the curve by investing in resilient communities and infrastructure so fewer families have to live in devastation.

Congress is beginning to address this. While some members seemed locked in a partisan fight that is keeping funding from storm and fire ravaged communities in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and California, Congress did add a program in the 2018 Disaster Recovery Reform Act that shines a ray of hope on efforts to be more proactive in disaster mitigation. The creation of a National Public Infrastructure Pre-Disaster Mitigation fund, which FEMA plans to implement through a new program called Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities allows FEMA to invest in communities before a disaster strikes. Research by the National Institute of Building Sciences found that just building to the current resilient building codes returns 11 times the cost of the initial investment. FEMA’s new program will allow several hundred million dollars in resilient investments to move forward each year without having to run the congressional appropriations gauntlet, but this is really just a small start.

FEMA’s new pre-disaster fund represents only six cents for every dollar spent on reactive recovery. We need to help communities rebuild, but we also need to be serious about investing to make our communities safe from the coming storms, fires, and other climate threats. While construction to current resilient building codes is the right answer for new construction, it doesn’t address the vast balance of structures built on codes that are old and don’t address the new science and technology of climate resilience. We need to invest in fixing or replacing our failing infrastructure and ensuring that all new construction is resilient to future risks — or we will face this problem all over again.

This doesn’t mean that the federal government alone shoulders the entire responsibility. A successful resilience strategy will only work if we bring both the public and the private sectors into the fight. Resilient building codes are one example, but we also need to value and incentivize resilient investments for everyone.

There is a silver lining to our climate challenges — economic growth. Americans are very good at innovating and building and we can leverage our need to be more resilient by growing the economy with good resilient and sustainable jobs. Some of these jobs are found in building, upgrading and maintaining our new and existing infrastructure to make it resilient to the increasing risks from a climate-impacted world.

Not only can we put Americans to work building our resilient future, we can take the lessons we learn in that effort and export it to the rest of the world. This is an approach that works for all Americans and provides a strong economic as well as environmental future for people in all parts of our nation and the world.

This is what we did to become world leaders in democracy, agriculture, manufacturing and technology in the previous centuries, and we can do it with climate in the 21st century. Climate change is real and addressing it is literally an opportunity we can’t afford to ignore.

This story was first published on The Hill.

Marketplace Tech: Politics Aside, Climate Data is a Growing Business

As climate change impacts worsen, the need for solutions to support adaptation grows. Founder & CEO, Emilie Mazzacurati, joined Molly Wood on Marketplace Tech to discuss climate risk analytics. The conversation covers the importance of understanding climate risk exposure and how companies leverage climate data to prepare for climate hazards. While recent findings on sea level rise and other climate impacts can be daunting, there is hope for adaptation that builds resilience across sectors.

For more on climate risk and resilience in the private sector, explore our climate risk analytics and read our reports on Climate Risk in Real Estate and Engaging with Corporates to Build Adaptive Capacity.

Newsletter: How Can Real Estate Investors Cope with Sea Level Rise?

Four Twenty Seven's monthly newsletter highlights recent developments on climate risk and resilience. This month we highlight recent research on sea level rise and feature NPR Marketplace's new podcast series on tech and adaptation.

In Focus: Sea Levels May Rise by 2 Meters

Recent Research Emphasizes the Complexity of Sea Level Rise

There is a statistically significant possibility of sea levels rising by 2m (6.5ft), under a 5˚C increase in temperatures, according to a study released on Monday. The researchers surveyed experts to establish a broader picture of potential sea level rise. While this extreme scenario may not be very likely, the rate of ice melt and its contribution to global sea level is a complicated phenomenon, with increased research leading to growing questions on the interacting feedback loops driving these changes. 

In fact, recent satellite data suggests that warming water is causing East Antarctica to melt more quickly than previously thought and a study released last week found that almost a quarter of West Antarctica's ice is thinning -- its largest glaciers are shrinking five times faster than in 1992.

This growing body of sciences unambiguously calls for better integration of climate data into financial decisions and underscores the need to accelerate adaptation efforts.

Sea Level Rise Has Cascading Economic Impacts

Sea level rise has cascading impacts, damaging physical assets but also reaching far beyond to mortgages, insurance prices and real estate markets. Homes exposed to sea level rise declined in value by about $465 million between 2005 and 2016 in Miami-Dade, FL and in Annapolis, MD "sunny day" flooding already reduces visits to the historic downtown district by 1.7%, costing businesses in the area.
The tangible impacts of sea level rise are already being felt and understanding these impacts enables governments, businesses and investors to manage asset-level and regional risk. Read more on real estate impacts in our new blog post and reach out to find out how our on-demand climate screening application supports real asset investors for due diligence and portfolio risk management.  

Risk and Resilience Along California's Coast

The first study to overlay the impacts of sea level rise, storm surge and erosion along California's coast finds this "dynamic" flooding could affect 600,000 people and $150 billion of property, equivalent to over 6% of the the state's GDP by 2100. The new San Francisco Bay Shoreline Adaptation Atlas proposes a science-based framework for identifying adaptation strategies. It focuses on nature-based solutions along the San Francisco Bay and was created by the San Francisco Estuary Institute and SPUR, the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association.
How We Survive - NPR Podcast
How does technology help us understand climate impacts and how can innovation in tech help drive adaptation? NPR Marketplace Tech's new podcast series, "How We Survive," features speakers leveraging technology for adaptation across sectors. The podcast includes a conversation with NASA's Annmarie Eldering, who shares the agency's new CO2 monitoring system attached to the International Space Station, that's "watching the planet breathe." Jay Koh of private equity firm, the Lightsmith Group, discusses the importance of adaptation finance, and Four Twenty Seven Founder and CEO, Emilie Mazzacurati, highlights the value of integrating climate data into businesses' and investors' strategies.
Upcoming Events on Climate Risk in Asia

Ceres Webinar: Are Asia's Pension Funds Ready for Climate Change?

In this webinar, speakers from the Asian Investor Group on Climate Change (AIGCC), China Water Risk, and Manulife Investment Management will share key findings from their recent report - Are Asia’s Pension Funds ready for Climate Change? Discussions will explore pension fund exposure to water and climate risks in Asia, including the economic impacts and trade flow and supply chain disruptions in the region. Register Here.
May 28, 2019 6pm PST / 9pm EST; May 29, 2019 9am HKT / 11am AEST
 

Institute of International Finance (IIF) Sustainable Finance Workshop

The IIF is hosting a sustainable finance workshop on disclosure, data and scenario analysis. The event will focus on leading practice in climate risk disclosure, including developments in TCFD and the IIF report on leading practices. Speakers include Satoshi Ikeda, Chief Sustainable Finance Officer, Japan FSA and Representative to the Central Banks and Supervisors Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS); and Keiko Honda, EVP and CEO, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), World Bank. To RSVP contact Raymond Aycock (raycock@iif.com or +1 202-857-3652). 
Wed. June 5th from 2:00-5:00pm, Tokyo. 
Upcoming Events

Join the Four Twenty Seven team at these events:

  • May 23EU / UC Berkeley Law - Climate Risk and Sustainable Finance in the EU and California, Berkeley, CA: Founder & CEO, Emilie Mazzacurati, joins an event featuring Mario Nava from the European Commission DG Finance, Betty Yee, California State Controller, and Dave Jones, Insurance Commissioner Emeritus, to discuss the future of sustainable finance. Emilie will join a panel to discuss trends in TCFD reporting and the way forward for the United States in climate risk disclosures. 
  • May 30 – Workshop on the California Heat Assessment Tool, Sacramento, CA: Director of Analytics, Nik Steinberg, and Editor, Natalie Ambrosio, will lead a workshop on the California Heat Assessment Tool for SafeCAT members. 
  • June 4 - 7 – Innovate4Climate, Singapore: Director of Advisory Services, Yoon Kim, will present on climate risk and resilient infrastructure in this event hosted by Temasek. 
  • June 6 - 8 – AIA Conference on Architecture 2019, Las Vegas, NV: Strategic Advisor, Josh Sawislak, will present on climate risk and real estate.
  • June 10 - 12 – US SIF Annual Conference, Minneapolis, MN: Senior Analyst, Lindsay Ross will attend.
  • June 11 - 12 – RI Europe, London, UK: Hear Emilie Mazzacurati present on scenario analysis for physical climate risk and meet with Director, Europe, Nathalie Borgeaud, at Four Twenty Seven's booth.
  • June 12 - 14 – Emergency Preparedness Training Workshop, Sacramento, CA: Nik Steinberg will present on the California Heat Assessment Tool.
  • June 19  – Columbia University and PRI Private Round Table, New York, NY: Emilie Mazzacurati will discuss scenario analysis for physical climate risk at this workshop.
  • June 19 - 21 – Columbia University - At What Point Managed Retreat? New York, NY: Lindsay Ross will attend.  
  • July 4 – Finance for Adaptation Solutions and Technologies Roundtable, London, UK: Emilie Mazzacurati will present on private sector solutions for climate resilience investments during London Climate Week.
  • July 4 Young Professionals Conference 2019, Lisbon, Portugal: Nathalie Borgeaud will present on climate risk in real estate.
  • July 17 - 19 – Oxford Climate Related Financial Risk Course, Oxford, UK: Nathalie Borgeaud will teach a session on measuring climate risk.
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