April 25, 2018 – 427 REPORT. Financial institutions, corporations, and governments increasingly strive to identify and respond to risks driven by physical climate impacts. Understanding the risks posed by climate change for facilities or infrastructure assets starts with conducting a risk assessment, which requires an understanding of the physical impacts of climate change. However, climate data in its raw form is difficult to integrate into enterprise risk management, financial risk modelling processes, and capital planning. This primer provides a brief introduction to climate models and data from a business or government perspective.
The first of several reports explaining the data and climate hazards analyzed in Four Twenty Seven’s equity risk scores and portfolio analytics, Using Climate Data unpacks the process through which raw climate data is transformed into usable metrics, such as future temperature projections, to help financial, corporate and government users productively incorporate climate-based analytics into their workflows. Beginning by explaining what a global climate model is, the report explains climate data’s format, computational choices to hedge uncertainty and resources for aggregated climate projections tailored to specific audiences.
We chat with our new Chief Development Officer, Frank Freitas, about his motivations to join Four Twenty Seven after almost 30 years in finance and fintech, and his vision for new products and markets in climate analytics.
Why did you decide to join Four Twenty Seven?
First and foremost, the fact that our firm provides data-driven analytics that quantify real issues facing our planet today is very attractive to me. I have spent my entire career in finance and, like others, have increasingly come to see the need for alignment of investment decisions with those that preserve the future of our planet. To me, Four Twenty Seven’s mission and vision exist at the center of this nexus.
When I encountered the Four Twenty Seven white paper on climate risk in equity markets, I was impressed by the level of thought-leadership embedded in the research, and by the high level of quantitative rigor applied to the development of its risk scores. The acceleration of climate’s influence on corporate performance are upon us, and investors are rapidly awakening to the risks that climate change brings to financial markets. Four Twenty Seven’s sophisticated climate data analytics are at the forefront of identifying the most exposed corporations and assets globally.
My career to date has been focused on the development of analytical solutions for institutional investors, ranging from multi-factor risk models at Barra (now MSCI) to the solutions we built in my previous company, Pluribus Labs, where we combined data science and natural language processing with quantitative modeling to distill a variety of unstructured data sources into investible signals.
In my subsequent conversations with Emilie and the Four Twenty Seven team, I quickly came to realize that Four Twenty Seven’s research methodology really resonated with me, and that the culture here is fabulous. It’s rare that you have an opportunity to do what you love and also provide solutions that impact the planet’s future — my role at Four Twenty Seven enables me to do just that!
How is technology spurring innovation in research around financial risk?
There are a number of drivers at play in this respect. First and perhaps most obviously, the availability of computing power at our fingertips makes data analysis on large data sets more available and more affordable than ever before. If you had told me when I started my career that I would be able to create an account on a cloud computing platform like Google’s GCP or Microsoft’s Azure and have massive amounts of compute power available within minutes, I wouldn’t have believed you! Four Twenty Seven’s ability to distill terabytes of climate data from an ensemble of models into actionable insights at the asset level is a great way to leverage this computing power.
Relatedly, the ubiquity of meaningful data, both unstructured and structured, also provides a much broader set of lenses through which to view the world. Financial research has always focused on the development of insights from any and all available data sources on companies, industries and economies. Today, an ever-increasing volume of data sources are accessible for analysis. For example, features extracted from satellite images of our planet can be used to arrive at estimates on a wide variety of metrics, ranging from crop yields to consumer brand sales changes. Similarly, observations gleaned from the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) can provide us with insights into weather trends and CO2 emissions at the sub-city level. Moving forward, opportunities afforded by organizations’ self-reporting of their climate risks and mitigation plans specifically related to climate change will provide additional data points for firms like ours to incorporate into our ground truth analysis of companies, industries and economies.
Couple these two trends with increasingly sophisticated machine learning and feature extraction techniques and you wind up with tremendous opportunities to develop insights into both the physical risks of climate change and the steps that companies are taking to mitigate these risks.
What are the priorities during your first year at Four Twenty Seven?
Emilie and the team have translated their broad and deep base of intellectual property into purpose-built solutions for a number of key market segments in the financial sector. These solutions enable asset owners and investors alike to understand their holdings’ exposure to the physical reality of climate change.
Our goals for this year are to continue tuning our existing offerings through engagement with our clients and to position the firm for its next phase of growth. Thanks to entities like the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), market participants are increasingly aware of the need to incorporate climate risk analytics into their investment process, and we will continue to evangelize this message in our own interactions with the investment community. We are currently in fundraising mode and will use proceeds from our capital raise to support plans to leverage our proprietary facility database to quantify the relationship between weather and company performance. In addition, we intend to on-board additional data sources to inform our analytics and add desktop visualization tools to our client offerings. This promises to be a busy year!
427 ANALYSIS – The physical impacts of climate change drive millions of dollars of losses for corporations every year, as experienced by Honda and Toyota during the 2011 floods in Thailand. Investors equipped with data on corporate production facilities and climate projections can manage their risk exposure more effectively and reduce downside risk.
Risk is one of the most widely understood and discussed components of the investment management process today. Informed tradeoffs of risk and return are fundamental to modern investment practices across asset classes and investment styles. And yet, an important dimension of risk – physical risk from companies’ exposure to climate volatility – has yet to find its way into the mainstream investment process.
Monsoons Damage Automobile Manufacturers
Climate change’s influence on economies, sectors and companies is an increasingly important factor in identifying and balancing the tradeoffs between risk and return. For example, the heavy monsoon season that led to severe flooding across Thailand in late June 2011 through December, inundated 30,000 square kilometers1 and caused widespread economic damage. Automobile manufacturers such as Toyota and Honda were particularly affected by suspended operations and supply chain disruptions, which led to reduced production internationally and affected global sales and profitability long after the rains stopped.
As shown in Figure 1, both companies possess a diversified set of production facilities in the area affected by the flooding, including stamping facilities and sub-component manufacturers, which do not only service downstream processes in Thailand but in other production centers as well. These same facilities all score high for extreme rainfall in our global corporate facility database, signaling high vulnerability to flood risk for Honda and Toyota – a risk that will only worsen in the future.
Sea Level Rise in Japan
Investors must also anticipate forward-looking risks – what will climate change bring, and which companies are most affected? Understanding and preparing for volatility in returns requires an in-depth awareness of a company’s facilities and the climate risks which those facilities face. Given their global footprint, many businesses are exposed to diverse hazards such as extreme heat, water stress, cyclones and sea level rise, in addition to extreme precipitation. Thus, the factors we include to model a company’s physical risk to climate change include the sector characteristics, operational needs and the regional conditions where facilities are located. While flood damage and manufacturing delays in Thailand damaged Honda and Toyota, Figure 2. shows these companies are also exposed to sea level rise at hundreds of facilities in their home market of Japan.
Assessing Companies’ Exposure to Climate Risk
Our data interweaves climate analytics with financial markets data to provide a robust view of companies’ risks and identify those that are less likely to experience financial losses due to increasingly frequent extreme weather events. Facility-level assessment of these risks is an intensely data-driven exercise that requires the combination of terabytes of data from climate models with information on complex company structures. We translate this analysis into a clear result to inform financial strategy. Armed with this understanding, investors and corporations alike can achieve a new and more valuable balance of risk and return.
Four Twenty Seven’s ever-growing database now includes close to one million corporate sites and covers over 1800 publicly-traded companies. We offer equity risk scoring and real asset screening services to help investors and corporations leverage this data.
March 21, 2018 – 427 ANALYSIS. The first year of reporting under Art. 173 in France saw limited uptake of disclosures of physical risk and opportunities. Our review of disclosures from 50 asset owners in France shows only a quarter of respondents included substantial analysis and metrics on their exposure to physical impacts of climate change. We find insurance companies AXA and Generali provided the most detailed analysis for property portfolio, while FRR and ERAFP were the only pension funds to provide an initial assessment of physical risk exposure in their equity and fixed income portfolios.
Art. 173: the world’s first legal requirement to disclose climate risk
Article 173 of the French Law on Energy Transition and Green Growth passed August 2015 requires major institutional investors and asset management companies to explain how they take Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria into account in their risk management and investment policies. These institutions are also asked to report on the impacts of both physical risks and ‘transition’ risks caused by climate change on their activities and assets.
The law applies to French companies, meaning that French subsidiaries of large financial groups are potentially subject to requirements that do not apply to their parent companies. Its implementing decree invites these organizations to establish scenarios and models to take into account climate risks impacts on the value of their portfolios.
Article 173 covers publicly traded companies, banks and credit providers, asset managers and institutional investors (insurers, pension or mutual funds and sovereign wealth funds). In addition, asset managers managing funds above 500 M€ and institutional investors with balance sheets above 500 M€ are subject to extended climate change-related reporting obligations, including both physical impacts of climate change and transition risks (impact of the transition to a low-carbon economy).
The inclusion of physical impacts of climate change in financial risk analysis is in line with the industry-led Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) recommendations report, released in July 2017.
What did financial institutions report?
We conducted a desktop analysis of the 2017 reports (applying to 2016 portfolios) to understand how financial institutions responded to the requirements laid out by Art. 173 in the first compliance year. We reviewed 50 asset owners in France, including public pension funds, sovereign wealth fund and insurance companies, with an aggregate €5.5 trillion euro ($6.8tn) under management. Our analysis included all the public entities covered by the Article 173, as well as private insurers with asset under management above €2bn. Insurance companies play a particularly important role as asset owners in France, where individual savings are massively invested in life insurance savings products. French pension funds, on the other hand, are relatively small due to France’s pay-as-you-go retirement system.
We were able to find Art. 173 reports for 36 out of 50 organizations. It is possible that, in spite of our best efforts, we failed to locate reports. However, Art. 173 has a ‘comply or explain’ provision which also makes it acceptable not to publish a report if one can justify climate change is not a material risk.
Among the Art. 173 reports, we found 29 from insurance companies and seven from public entities. Among them, 20 organizations (40%) discussed only their carbon footprint and/or their exposure to energy transition risk, without including physical risk disclosures.
A small group of organizations (8%) mentioned physical risk as a topic they were exploring but not yet able to report on. Most of them emphasized the lack of tools and models as a major impediment to reporting physical risk.
All in all, we found 12 financial institutions (24%) of the institutions under review made an explicit attempt to disclose their exposure to physical climate risk.
We broke down this latter group in three categories. Eight companies (16%) provided an analysis of the physical risks threatening either their operations or property portfolios (for insurance), ranging in scope from a few buildings to €15bn worth of assets in the case of AXA. Most of the reports contain limited details on methodology and findings.
Two companies (4%) performed what we call a “top-down” analysis, working with investment advisor Mercer to perform a multi-asset class, sector-level analysis of climate risk using Mercer’s proprietary climate risk model, which blends transition and physical risk. Finally, two high profile investors, pension fund ERAFP and sovereign wealth fund FRR, included an initial assessment of climate risk in their equity and fixed income portfolios, at the asset level.
Table 1 presents a detailed breakdown of how those organizations take physical climate risks into account:
Case Studies: How do Investors Report on Physical Risk?
The best student in this 2016 reporting vintage is AXA France. AXA received the “International Award on Investor Climate-Related Disclosures” from the French Ministry for the Environment, for analyzing 15 billion euro of assets (real estate and infrastructures). The analysis takes into account most frequent European natural disasters and the geographical location of each individual asset as well as the destruction rate of their building materials. They found out that, over 30 years, the accumulated loss would aggregate to 24 million euro. The insurance company also reported that if a centennial storm was to occur, the portfolio would be impacted by a 15.2 million euro loss. While AXA provides some of the most detailed analysis, it also noted that “this new kind of analysis needs to be improved in order to take into account more natural disasters and other portfolios”.
The following graphs demonstrate the physical risk exposure to windstorms for the analyzed infrastructures. On the left, the graph displays the annual average destruction rate, which is linked to the average loss generated by windstorms every year (0.8M€ on average). The map on the right shows the destruction rates due to a 100-year event, with an estimated loss of 15.2M€.
Source (Award on Investor Climate-related Disclosures, AXA Group, October 2016: https://cdn.axa.com/www-axa-com%2Fcb46e9f7-8b1d-4418-a8a7-a68fba088db8_axa_investor_climate_report.pdf)
Generali France also provided a complete and detailed evaluation of the potential impact of physical risks on their property assets. They analyzed 112 assets, mainly in the Paris Area, accounting for 60% of their owned assets. Generali took into account two kinds of physical risks, flood and drought, to rate their assets from “high” to “very low” risk. Regarding drought, 3 assets enter the medium-risk category. As only 12 assets have been analyzed (Paris and the overseas departments being excluded), this risk is important as it accounts for 25% of their analysis. On the other hand, 10 out of 112 buildings owned by Generali France are exposed to a high risk of flood. They are mainly located in the Paris Area and would be heavily affected by a Seine flood.
To sum up, both AXA and Generali reports are valuable examples of emerging best practices as they show the willingness of those organizations to take physical risks into account in their reporting practice. However, their analyses would benefit from being extended to a broader portfolio and to other natural events.
In November 2017 the French pension fund, “Fonds de Réserve pour les Retraites” (FRR), released a report addressing Article 173 requirements. Four Twenty Seven performed the analysis, and applied its proprietary methodology to measure the types and levels of climate risk embedded in FRR holdings. Portfolio exposure was evaluated according to their respective industry and sector. The analysis produced a sector risk score based on three indicators:
This hotspot analysis gave FRR tools to get an initial understanding of its portfolios’ exposure. It highlighted strongly exposed sectors such as Materials and Consumer Staples, due to their dependency on natural resources, and Pharmaceuticals and Electronics hardware, due to their complex and global supply chains. Conversely, the results brought out the low exposure of service-based industries such as Media and Telecommunication.
Reporting on physical climate risk is a challenging task for financial institutions – many organizations lack the tools, models and data to perform a comprehensive assessment of their portfolios, whether they’re composed of real assets or equities. As TCFD reporting becomes standard for financial institutions and corporations, pressure will increase to report on physical risk. We expect fast changes in disclosures in this regard, starting as early as the 2018 reporting season.
This analysis was written with support from Thomas Poloniato.
Four Twenty Seven’s ever-growing database now includes close to one million corporate sites and covers over 1800 publicly-traded companies. We offer equity risk scoring and real asset screening services to help investors and corporations leverage this data.
The year 2017 will stay on the record as one of the most expensive years to date for climate and weather disaster events. The U.S. experienced 16 weather and climate disasters that caused over $1 billion in damages, tying the record year of 2011 for the most billion-dollar disasters. From summer through the fall, wildfires in various parts of California led to fatalities, destruction of entire communities, and damage costs of $18 billion, with economic consequences that will continue to impact the region. These events have highlighted that climate change has already begun to and will continue to impact local communities and businesses, and that local economies will benefit from more coordinated resilience planning.
Communities across the U.S. are taking steps to identify their climate change risks and enhance their resilience to changing climate conditions. Many local governments have assessed their vulnerabilities and are developing resilience plans with support from local stakeholders. However, a key set of stakeholders are often not at the table: businesses. Collaboration between local governments and the business community on climate change resilience remains limited. As local and regional climate change planning continues, it becomes increasingly important for local governments to engage with businesses, both large and small, on these issues.
The success of businesses and communities is intertwined
Many larger companies recognize the impacts of climate change on their operations, including risks to physical assets, disruptions to supply chains, and impacts on their workforce. In fact, some businesses, like Google, are examining how to develop company resilience strategies that address changing climate conditions. Businesses are also dependent on public infrastructure and local government services, and climate risks on these “outside the fence” components are much harder for businesses to evaluate. In fact, a number of companies have highlighted these uncertainties as a major barrier in addressing adaptation.
Local governments are dependent on the private sector in many ways. Businesses are essential to the economic health and growth of communities. Business interruptions can affect the quality of life for residents, disrupt the local economy, and reduce tax revenues. The costs of Hurricane Harvey are still being evaluated, but preliminary estimates suggest that lost economic output from this storm was in the range of $9 billion to $11 billion, including $540 million for goods-producing industries and $141 million for oil and gas industries. The October 2017 wildfires in California’s wine country are estimated to have caused economic losses between $6 and $8 billion dollars due to property damage and business interruptions alone, with $789 million in commercial property claims. These costs do not include the potential losses to the wine industry for many years to come.
Local governments have a strong interest in ensuring that businesses are resilient and remain operational as the climate continues to change. Companies will also benefit from engaging with the public sector on community resilience to enhance their business continuity plans and support their employees. In addition to better protecting their employees and operations, this type of collaboration will help businesses better understand community needs.
Businesses can assist local governments with expertise and solutions
Larger businesses often already understand local risks because of internal risk management processes. Risk management and emergency management plans, along with drills and training exercises with employees, help businesses prepare for extreme events. Local governments can coordinate with businesses on risk management, including participating in drills and trainings, to build and maintain community resilience.
Local governments can also use larger companies’ expertise and data on risk. Businesses may be monitoring information that could be relevant to local resilience planning. For example, utilities often track potential risks to their assets, such as those related to storms (e.g., wind, precipitation, flooding), wildfire, and temperature impacts on energy demand. This information can be helpful to local decision-makers in both emergency management and long-term resilience planning.
The private sector also offers opportunities in services and solutions. Businesses are often interested in developing and improving technologies, engineering approaches, technical assistance, and opportunities to connect with their communities. For example, Airbnb offered disaster relief to people impacted by the California wildfires, connecting displaced residents to available housing. The company also worked with the City of San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management to share their lessons learned from Superstorm Sandy. Airbnb is also partnering with various local governments to help communities prepare for and recover from disasters. Local governments’ suggestions for climate change solutions and services can help businesses tailor their products to best serve the community.
In addition, financing for implementing community resilience can often be a challenge for local governments. The private sector can offer financing solutions to help fund climate change resilience. For example, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is investing $1 million over five years through their Better Together Resilient Communities grant program to support local climate resilience initiatives in California.
Local governments can share data and information with businesses
Some local governments have undertaken vulnerability assessments and climate change scenario planning for their regions. The data and results from these studies can be shared with businesses to help them understand what assumptions are being used by local governments, and whether their scenarios align, which will be increasingly important to ensure regional coordination as conditions change.
While larger companies may undertake scenario planning and vulnerability assessments, most small businesses do not. However, small businesses can also benefit from data and information sharing. Small companies do not often have the expertise or resources to adequately assess climate change risks and undertake resilience planning. Local governments can share information with small businesses to help them better understand their potential risks and prepare for extreme events. In California, Valley Vision has developed the Capital Region Business Resiliency Initiative to help engage the small business community in resilience planning. This effort helps small businesses engage with local stakeholders to understand potential risks and provides resources to help these businesses plan for disaster resilience.
Local governments can engage with businesses through existing networks or by creating new processes to assist with engagement
Local governments can engage with both small and large businesses through networks and organizations for the private sector, like local chambers of commerce, trade associations, and other business networking groups. For example, the City of Annapolis has engaged the Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Annapolis Partnership in its Weather It Together initiative, which is focused on adapting the historic community to minimize the risks associated with flooding. Through this effort, local businesses are part of the planning process to help the community become more resilient. The City of Cambridge, Massachusetts has also engaged businesses in long-term planning efforts like the Cambridge Compact and the city’s Climate Change Preparedness & Resilience Plan. Establishing public-private partnerships focused on climate resilience will also help to facilitate conversations and collaboration between these two sectors.
Local governments may already engage with businesses individually, but it can be helpful to set up an ongoing process for involving the private sector in resilience planning. For example, business representatives can participate in local planning and advisory committees, contributing their perspectives and identifying any key issues for the business community. Effectively engaging the business community will often require targeted outreach and potentially different strategies, as businesses may not be aware of ongoing stakeholder processes or may not realize their relevance to company needs. Some communities have incorporated businesses into resilience planning through regional climate collaboratives. Several regional climate collaboratives in California focus on engaging different stakeholder groups, including businesses, to further climate change planning. For example, the Sierra Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Partnership was founded by the Sierra Business Council and has various business members, including ski resorts and forestry companies.
Effectively preparing for climate change’s impacts requires that cities coordinate with many different stakeholders. Businesses, public agencies, community groups, and citizens are all important to the discussion on community resilience, as they will all be impacted by climate change and have important ideas to contribute. Engaging the private sector is an important way for local governments to improve community resilience, and will benefit both the public and private sector through information sharing, aligning needs and goals, and developing multi-sector networks.
Climate change poses multifaceted physical risks for infrastructure investors, affecting revenue, maintenance costs, asset value and liability. According to the New Climate Economy report, global demand for new infrastructure investment could be over US$90 trillion between 2015 and 2017. It is becoming increasingly clear that climate change must be considered in all infrastructure investment and construction.
Four Twenty Seven, in collaboration with our partners Acclimatise and Climate Finance Advisers, published a “Lenders’ Guide for Considering Climate Risk in Infrastructure Investments” to explain the ways in which physical climate risks might affect key financial aspects of prospective infrastructure investments.
The guide begins with a discussion of climate risk, acknowledging that climate change can also open opportunities such as improving resource efficiency, building resilience and developing new products. It provides a framework for questioning how revenues, costs, and assets can be linked to potential project vulnerability arising from climate hazards.
Revenues: Climate change can cause operational disruptions that lead to a decrease in business activities and thus decreased revenue. For example, higher temperatures alter airplanes’ aerodynamic performance and lead to a need for longer runways. In the face of consistently higher temperatures, airlines may seek airports with longer runways, shifting revenue from those that cannot provide the necessary facilities.
Costs/Expenditures: Extreme weather events can cause service disruptions, but can also damage infrastructure, requiring additional unplanned repair costs. For example, storms often lead to downed power lines which disrupts services but also necessitates that companies spend time and money to return the power lines to operating conditions.
Assets: Physical climate impacts can decrease value of tangible assets by damaging infrastructure and potentially shortening its lifetime. Intangible assets can be negatively impacted by damages to brand image and reputation through repeated service disruptions.
Liabilities: Climate change is likely to pose increasing liability risk as disclosure and preparation requirements become more widespread. As infrastructure is damaged and regulations evolve, companies may face increased insurance premiums and costs associated with retrofitting infrastructure and ensuring compliance.
Capital and Financing: As expenditures increase in the face of extreme weather events, debt is also likely to increase. Likewise, as operations and revenues are impacted and asset values decrease, capital raising may become more difficult.
The guide also draws attention to the potential opportunities emerging from resilience-oriented investments in infrastructure. There are both physical and financial strategies that can be leveraged to manage climate-related risks, such as replacing copper cables with more resilient fiber-optic ones and creating larger debt service and maintenance reserves.
The guide includes ten illustrative “snapshots” describing climate change considerations in the example sub-industries of Gas and Oil Transport and Storage; Power Transmission and Distribution; Wind-Based Power Distribution; Telecommunications; Data Centers; Commercial Real Estate; Healthcare; and Sport and Entertainment. Each snapshot includes a description of the sub-sector, an estimation of its global potential market, examples of observed impacts on specific assets, and potential financial impacts from six climate-related hazards: temperature, sea-level rise, precipitation & flood, storms, drought and water stress.
Commercial real-estate, for example, refers to properties used only for business purposes and includes office spaces, restaurants, hotels, stores, gas stations and others. By 2030 this market is expected to exceed US $1 trillion per annum compared to $450 billion per annum in 2012. Climate impacts for this sub-sector include hazard-specific risks and also include the general risk factor of climate-driven migration which drives shifts in supply and demand in the real estate market.
As heat waves increase in frequency, people will likely seek refuge in cool public buildings, leading to increasing property values for those places such as shopping malls that provide air-conditioned spaces for community members. Increasing frequency and intensity of storms may damage commercial infrastructure, leading to recovery costs and increased insurance costs. Real estate managers may have to make additional investments in water treatment facilities to ensure the viability of their assets in regions faced with decreased water availability. An example of the financial impacts of climate change on this sub-sector can be seen in Houston after Hurricane Harvey. After the hurricane hit Texas in August 2017, approximately 27% of Houston commercial real estate was impacted by flooding and these 12,000 properties were worth about US$55 billion.
For more guidance on investing for resilience, read the Planning and Investing for a Resilient California guidance document and the GARI Investor Guide to Physical Climate Risk and Resilience.