Responding to Economic Climate Risk in Australia

June 25, 2018 – 427 REPORT. Regulatory pressure and financial damage are necessitating an increase in physical climate risk disclosure in Australia. In exercising their own due diligence and assessing the exposure to physical climate risks in their portfolios, investors arm themselves with valuable information on corporate risk exposure which they can leverage to engage with companies around resilience. This report explores the connection between climate hazards and financial risks and shares examples of corporate adaptation and investor engagement to build resilience.

The global tide of interest in the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) has hit the shores of Australian financial markets, steered by regulators concerned about the systemic risk climate change poses to the economy. In 2017 Australian Prudential Regulation Authority’s Geoff Summerhayes was the first Australian regulator to formally endorse the TCFD. “Some climate risks are distinctly ‘financial’ in nature. Many of these risks are foreseeable, material and actionable now,” he said. This sentiment was echoed by John Price of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission in 2018 and reflects growing regulatory concern over climate risk disclosure internationally, as shown by Article 173 of France’s Law on Energy Transition and Green Growth and the 2018 European Commission Action Plan.

This Four Twenty Seven Report, Responding to Economic Climate Risk in Australia, explores the drivers of financial risk in Australia and discusses approaches to addressing this risk. The nation’s dominant industries are particularly threatened by the prevalent climate hazards. For investors, understanding a company’s risk to climate change is an essential first step to mitigating portfolio risk, but must be followed by corporate engagement to build resilience. Institutional investors are increasingly leveraging shareholder resolutions and direct engagement to prompt companies to disclose their climate risks and adapt.

Key Findings

  • Australia’s “Angry Summer” of extreme weather in 2013 cost the economy $8 billion and was followed by another summer of extremes in 2016-2017.
  • Construction, mining and manufacturing constitute almost 20 percent of Australia’s economy and are highly vulnerable to heat stress and water stress, which threaten large swaths of the nation.
  • Boral Limited and Rio Tinto are both Materials companies exposed to water and heat stress in their operations, but they have different risk scores stemming from differing vulnerabilities in their markets and supply chains.
  • Engagement on climate is relatively new for Australian shareholders, but is gaining momentum, with institutional asset managers voting on several climate risk disclosure resolutions in 2018.
  • Investors can address physical climate risk by reviewing their asset allocations, disclosing their own risks, investing in new opportunities and engaging with corporations.

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Engaging with Corporates to Build Adaptive Capacity

June 5, 2018 – 427 REPORT. Shareholder engagement is a critical tool to build resilience in investment portfolios. Investors can help raise awareness of rising risks from climate change, and encourage companies to invest in responsible corporate adaptation measures. We identify top targets for shareholder engagement on physical climate risks and provide data-driven strategies for choosing companies and approaching engagement. Our report includes sample questions as an entry point for investors’ conversations about climate risk and resilience with corporations.

Shareholder engagement on climate change has grown tremendously in recent years. Over 270 investors, managing almost $30 trillion collectively, have committed to engage with the largest greenhouse gas emitters through the Climate Action 100+. In addition to their ongoing efforts to engage and encourage companies to reduce emissions, investors are becoming aware of the financial risks from extreme weather and climate change. Climate change increases downside risks: a negative repricing of assets is already being seen where climate impacts are most obvious, such as coastal areas of Miami. As climate change can negatively impact company valuations, investors must strive to bolster governance and adaptive capacity to help companies build resilience.

This Four Twenty Seven report, From Risk to Resilience – Engaging with Corporates to Build Adaptive Capacity, explains the value of engagement, for both corporations and investors and describes data and case studies to drive engagement strategies. While news coverage of extreme weather events can clue investors in to which corporations may be experiencing climate-driven financial damage, new data can empower investors to identify systemic climate risk factors and proactively engage companies likely to experience impacts in the future. Reactive engagement strategies based on news stories can also use data to more thoroughly explore corporations highlighted in the news, by examining other hazards that may pose harm to their operations.

The report also identifies the Top 10 companies with the highest exposure to physical climate risk in the Climate Action 100+ and calls for investors to leverage their engagement on emissions to also address urgent issues around climate impacts and building resilience.

Once they identify companies, shareholders can use a variety of questions to gain a deeper understanding of companies’ vulnerability to climate hazards and their governance and planning processes, or adaptive capacity, to build resilience to such impacts. The report provides sample questions for different components of climate risk, including Operations Risk, Market Risk and Supply Chain Risk, as well as Adaptive Capacity.

Key Takeaways

• The impacts of a changing climate pose significant downside risk for companies; a risk bound to increase as the climate continues to degrade.
• At present, investors are likely to become aware of exposure to financial damages from extreme weather events only after they have occurred. Disclosure is limited but gaining traction.
• Corporate engagement is a tool to encourage companies to deploy capital and technical assistance to build resilience in their operations and supply chains.
• Investors can select target companies reactively based on prior incidents or pro-actively identify firms that would benefit from resilience plans.
• Investors should question companies on their exposure to physical climate risks via their operations, supply chain and market, as well as how they are building resilience to these risks through risk management and responsible corporate adaptation strategies.

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Assessing Exposure to Climate Risk in U.S. Municipalities

May 22, 2018 – 427 REPORT. Cities and counties are bearing the costs of the sixteen billion-dollar disasters in the United States in 2017, raising concerns over the resilience of municipalities to the impacts of climate change and associated financial shocks. Credit rating agencies are increasingly integrating physical climate risk into their municipal rating criteria; however, they lack concrete metrics that compare and assess which municipalities are exposed to climate impacts. Four Twenty Seven’s new local climate risk scores provide comparable, forward-looking data to fill this gap. This report discusses our approach to measuring exposure to climate hazards and highlights cities and counties most exposed to the impacts of climate change.

Following Hurricane Harvey, Moody’s downgraded Port Arthur from A1 to A2 due to its “weak liquidity position that is exposed to additional financial obligations from the recent hurricane damage, that are above and beyond the city’s regular scope of operations.” (Moody’s). This follows the recent trend of rating agencies increasingly considering climate change and past extreme weather events in their evaluations of U.S. cities. While this consideration is an important step, their evaluations could be better informed by incorporating forward-looking comparable data on the climate risks that impact these municipalities.

Featuring Four Twenty Seven’s new local level exposure scores, our report Assessing Exposure to Climate Change in U.S. Munis, shares key findings from our scoring of all 3,142 U.S. counties and the 761 cities over 50,000 in population. The research results are based on Four Twenty Seven’s market-leading expertise in five major climate categories, including cyclones/hurricanes, sea level rise, extreme rainfall, heat stress, and water stress. “This new dataset provides a comprehensive suite of risk scores to better inform rating and pricing decisions,” says Emilie Mazzacurati, Founder & CEO. “We believe that our analytics will be very helpful for all market participants, including muni bond investors, local governments, and ratings agencies.”

This report highlights specific cities and counties most exposed to each climate hazard and also discusses regional trends and economic sensitivities that may exacerbate a muni’s vulnerability.  “Climate risk is increasingly a part of our credit analysis for municipal issuers across the country,” said Andrew Teras, senior analyst at Breckinridge Capital Advisors. “The climate risk scores developed by Four Twenty Seven provide a comparable way to evaluate climate exposure and will give us another factor for assessing our investment universe.”

Key Findings

  • Sea Level Rise: The mid-Atlantic, particularly New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida, has the highest exposure to coastal flooding in the United States, with the Bay Area and Pacific Northwest also highly exposed in several of their coastal cities and counties.
  • Cyclones/Hurricanes: The majority of cyclone risk in the United States is concentrated in the Southeast, given its geographic proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and the tropical Atlantic Ocean. The coastal Mid-Atlantic and Northeast are also exposed to cyclones, but they tend to be less frequent than in the Southeast and somewhat weaker on average after interacting with land or cooler ocean waters.
  • Extreme Rainfall: The Midwest is particularly exposed to heightened flood risk due to changing rainfall patterns. Recent advancements in attribution science show extreme rainfall to be the main driver of recent floods rather than 20th century agricultural practices, as was largely believed to be the case until recently.
  • Heat Stress: The highest heat stress scores tend to be centered in the Southeast and Midwest, concentrated in Missouri and western Illinois and fanning out to the Great Plains, Mississippi River Basin, and Florida.
  • Water Stress: Key watersheds for agricultural production such as the Central Valley aquifer system in California and the Ogallala Aquifer in the Great Plains are highly exposed to water stress. The agriculturally-dominated areas of Bakersfield, Delano, and Visalia, CA along the Central Valley Aquifer are among the ten cities most exposed to water stress. Similarly, municipalities along the Ogallala Aquifer in the Great Plains also rely heavily on agriculture and are among the most exposed to water stress.

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Download the press release.