Newsletter: Towards Adaptation Standards

Four Twenty Seven's monthly newsletter highlights recent developments in climate adaptation and resilience. This month, we release a new report to help corporations and investors understand local adaptive capacity, share initiatives to standardize adaptation and highlight resources on adaptation finance.

In Focus: Assessing Local Adaptive Capacity 

427 Report: Helping Corporations and Investors Understand
Local Adaptive Capacity 

Building resilient communities and financial systems requires an understanding of climate risk exposure, but also of how prepared communities are to manage that risk. From flooded or damaged public infrastructure hindering employee and customer commutes to competition for water resources threatening business operations and urban heat reducing public health, the impacts of climate change on a community will impact the businesses and real estate investors based in that community.

Our newest report describes Four Twenty Seven's framework for assessing adaptive capacity in a way that’s actionable for corporations seeking to understand the risk and resilience of their own facilities and for investors assessing risk in their portfolios or screening potential investments. We create location-specific analysis by focusing on three pillars: 1) awareness, 2) economic and financial characteristics, and 3) the quality of adaptation planning and implementation. This helps the private sector understand their assets' risks and provides an entry-point for collaboration on local resilience-building. 
Read the Report
Towards Adaptation Standards
While climate mitigation has traditionally been the focus of efforts to address climate change, the past few years have seen an increased recognition of adaptation as a critical element of confronting climate change. As efforts grow to understand, quantify and catalyze adaptation investment there is a growing need for standardization and metrics around resilience investments.

EU Technical Expert Group on Sustainable Finance  

The European Commission's Action Plan on financing sustainable growth lays out a two year timeline for implementation, with a goal to create a taxonomy for climate adaptation finance by the end of 2019. To accomplish this goal, the EU has launched a Technical Expert Group (TEG) on Sustainable Finance and is calling for expert feedback on what actions qualify as adaptation and mitigation.
This will contribute to the ongoing effort to identify investments that build resilience in specific industries. The TEG recently released its preliminary report outlining its current thinking and explaining where it is soliciting feedback. The report shows the current lack of consensus around adaptation metrics and the need to standardize resilience definitions.

Expert Group on Resilient Bond Standards

A parallel initiative by the Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI) is focused on strategically incorporating adaptation into green bond standards. While green bonds have tended to focus on mitigation to date CBI launched an Adaptation and Resilience Expert Group (AREG) in November, which will develop Adaptation and Resilience Principles for bonds.
These principles will be released for public consultation in June 2019 and will lay the foundation for the development of sector-specific adaptation and resilience criteria. Founder & CEO, Emilie Mazzacurati, and Strategic Advisor, Josh Sawislak, are members of AREG.
Science Suffers in Government Shutdown
Four Twenty Seven analysts Josh Turner and Colin Gannon attended the American Meteorological Society's annual meeting last week, where the absence of hundreds of federal scientists was sorely felt. Numerous sessions were cancelled or poorly attended, and information sharing was lost in both directions. 
 

 
Most Americans may not feel the shutdown's impacts on a daily basis, but there are long-lasting implications far beyond the lack of conference attendance. While only those employees responsible for "essential services" continue to work with limited pay, data collection for long-term climate studies will be hindered, research on wildfire impacts will be delayed and hurricane model improvements and emergency training aren't progressing as they should. Some federal data sites are not currently accessible and the dearth of economic monitoring means that key data used by investors and policy-makers, like agricultural production numbers, are no longer being reported. 

Despite these obstacles, the private sector is persevering in its efforts to understand and address climate impacts. IBM announced that it will release the world's first hourly-updating, highest-resolution global weather forecasting model later this year and McKinsey just added 121 weather-data variables to its agriculture analytics tool, refining crop yield predictions. This year also promises to see continued growth in publicly hosted data sets, satellite data, and machine learning techniques for climate projections.
Resources for Adaptation Finance

Plugging the Climate Adaptation Gap with High Resilience Benefit Investments

In this report S&P Global Ratings  highlights both the funding gap and the multifaceted benefits of resilience projects. It outlines both challenges and benefits of quantifying benefits of adaptation projects and the barriers to adaptation, providing a small case study on the economic benefits of adapting to sea level rise.  Lastly, the brief report emphasizes the need for private investment to support limited public funding.

Financing Climate Futures: Rethinking Infrastructure

This report outlines a vision for a realigned financial system, prepared for long-term climate risks and opportunities.  The OECD, World Bank and UN Environment explain the dire need to disclose climate-related financial information in infrastructure projects and to invest in low-emission, resilient infrastructure that is both prepared for a changing climate and able to catalyze economic growth. 

Money for Resilient Infrastructure

The ebook Money for Resilient Infrastructure: How to Finance America's Climate Changed Future, explains recent developments in the financial sector's understanding of climate-related risks and highlights the growing demand for resilient infrastructure. Joyce Coffee outlines infrastructure finance options, investment instruments and strategies for obtaining resilience financing. 
Emilie Mazzacurati Named Top 100 in Finance
The Top 100 Magazine includes Founder and CEO, Emilie Mazzacurati, in the 2018 Top 100 People in Finance. 

“I’m honored to be recognized by The Top 100 Magazine,” says Emilie.  “We’re pushing the boundaries of how the financial world thinks about climate change, and appreciate the recognition on how our work helps drive the conversation on climate risk.” The Top 100 Magazine writes that while climate data "may seem like a fairly novel niche within the financial sector, the demand for this data has grown exponentially over the past two years... [Four Twenty Seven's] analysis leverages best-in-class climate data at the most granular level, and scores assets based on their precise geographic location. This provides the financial industry with the most comprehensive overview of investment outcomes related to present and future climate changes."

Upcoming Events

Join the Four Twenty Seven team at these upcoming events:

  • January 23 – From Sciences Po to the Economic Risk of Climate Change, San Francisco, CA: Hear Founder & CEO, Emilie Mazzacurati, speak at this Sciences Po American Foundation event at 6:30pm. Use discount code 427 for a $10 ticket.
  • February 12 – Investing for Impact, New York, NY: Emilie Mazzacurati will present on adaptation as an impact investment opportunity at this annual convening hosted by The Economist.
  • March 20-22 – Climate Leadership Conference, Baltimore, MD: Emilie Mazzacurati will speak about the evolving landscape of climate risk disclosure.
  • April 10-12 – RI Asia Japan, Tokyo, Japan: Chief Development Officer, Frank Freitas, will present on climate analytics for investors and Emilie Mazzacurati will also join this convening.
  • April 13-16  – APA National Planning Conference, San Francisco, CA: Director of Advisory Services, Yoon Kim, and Director of Analytics, Nik Steinberg, will speak on a panel called, "Beyond Vulnerability: Innovative Adaptation Planning."
  • April 23-25 – National Adaptation Forum, Madison, WI: Editor, Natalie Ambrosio, will present on local adaptive capacity from a private sector perspective. 
  • April 29 - May 1  – Ceres Conference 2019, San Francisco, CA: The Four Twenty Seven team will join investors and corporations at this annual gathering.
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Assessing Local Adaptive Capacity to Understand Corporate and Financial Climate Risks

January 15, 2019 – 427 REPORT. Building resilient communities and financial systems requires an understanding of climate risk exposure, but also of how prepared communities are to manage that risk. Understanding  the adaptive capacity, or ability to prepare for change and leverage opportunities, of the surrounding area can help businesses and investors determine how exposure to climate risk is likely to impact their assets and what the most strategic responses may be. This report outlines Four Twenty Seven’s framework for creating location-specific actionable assessments of adaptive capacity to inform business and investment decisions and catalyze resilience-building. 

Every investment, from real assets to corporate initiatives, is inextricably connected to its surrounding community. From flooded or damaged public infrastructure hindering employee and customer commutes to competition for water resources threatening business operations and urban heat reducing public health, the impacts of climate change on a community will impact the businesses and real estate investors based in that community. Thus, evaluating how acute and chronic physical climate hazards will affect local communities and communities’ responses enables investors and corporations to assess the full extent of the risks they face.

This report, Assessing Local Adaptive Capacity to Understand Corporate and Financial Climate Risks, outlines Four Twenty Seven’s framework for capturing a city’s adaptive capacity in a way that’s actionable for corporations seeking to understand the risk and resilience of their own facilities and for investors assessing risk in their portfolios or screening potential investments. The framework focuses on three main pillars: 1) awareness, 2) economic and financial characteristics, and 3) the quality of adaptation planning and implementation. It is informed by social sciences research, recent work by credit rating agencies, and our experience working directly with cities and investors.

Figure 2. After New York City subways were flooded during Hurricane Sandy, the New York MTA issued a catastrophe bond to obtain $200 million in insurance coverage, providing an important financial safety net for the city. Image from Wikimedia, by Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York used with a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

While a city’s adaptive capacity plays a key role in determining whether or not exposure to climate hazards will lead to damage and loss, cities are also likely to find that their resilience to climate impacts is an increasingly important factor in attracting business and financing, as adaptive capacity is more frequently integrated into credit ratings and screening processes. It is valuable for both cities to understand how investors are interpreting adaptive capacity and for investors to understand which factors of local adaptive capacity translate into increased resilience and reduced financial loss for their assets.

Key Takeaways

  • Corporate and real asset investments can be financially impacted by climate-driven weather events and chronic stresses, even with strong internal risk management systems in place, as climate events can affect the broader community and disrupt local infrastructure.
  • Adaptive capacity, the ability to adjust to potential damage and leverage opportunities, will influence how local jurisdictions and infrastructure are affected by climate-driven weather events.
  • Four Twenty Seven has developed a framework to assess the adaptive capacity of local jurisdictions to inform the private sector, examining a city’s awareness of climate impacts, economic characteristics, and adaptation planning efforts.
  • Understanding a local jurisdiction’s adaptive capacity provides opportunities to engage with decision-makers and relevant institutions to support local efforts to build resilience.

Download the report.

The California Heat Assessment Tool

As California’s climate warms, residents increasingly endure extreme heat events that adversely impact public health. This exacerbates existing risks and will bring new challenges for different regions in the state, threatening the efficacy of traditional intervention strategies. Current thresholds for heat alerts are based on temperatures that exceed historical statistical thresholds, rather than temperatures that cause public health impacts. These ‘health-neutral’ thresholds may underestimate the health risks for the most sensitive populations. The new California Heat Assessment Tool (CHAT) is based on research that establishes local, health-based thresholds for extreme heat that help public officials, health professionals and residents understand what changing conditions mean for them. CHAT is part of California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment, a state-mandated research program to assess climate change impacts in California, and was developed by Four Twenty Seven, Argos Analytics, the Public Health Institute and Habitat 7 with technical support from the California Department of Public Health.

Explore CHAT at cal-heat.org.  This online tool advances the understanding of what types of heat waves pose public health risks and examines how the frequency and severity of local heat waves are expected to change over time due to climate change.

Read a brief report, The California Heat Assessment Tool: Planning for the Health Impacts of Extreme Heat, that shares key findings from the research and summarizes the data analysis visualized in the tool.

Access the technical report detailing technical methodology and view other projects funded by the California Fourth Climate Change Assessment.

Access the users needs assessment for a detailed explanation of the literature review and interview process that defines the data gap the research team addressed.

Download the full press release.

Key Takeaways

  • Current climate change projections show that a typical California summer in 2100 may be 4-5° F warmer than today. Heat waves are also lasting longer, occurring later into the summer season and in areas less accustomed to heat waves.
  • Elderly or very young people, outdoor workers and individuals with preexisting health conditions or limited resources are most sensitive to the impacts of extreme heat and may be disproportionately affected. Some of these sensitive, or frontline, populations may experience adverse health impacts at temperatures 6-8° F lower than the general population.
  • Current thresholds for heat alerts are based on temperatures that exceed certain statistical thresholds, rather than temperatures that cause public health impacts. These health-neutral thresholds may underestimate the health risks for the most sensitive populations.
  • The online California Heat Assessment Tool (cal-heat.org) allows users to visualize projected changes in heat events that cause adverse health impacts, while also exploring data on social, health and environmental factors that contribute to heat vulnerability.

Public Health System Resilience Scorecard

Climate change will continue to adversely affect public health by threatening sanitation, altering the distribution of vector-borne disease, increasing the need for effective heat wave responses, introducing new mental health challenges and more. To help cities understand their vulnerability to these impacts and build resilience, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) developed a Public Health System Resilience Addendum for its Disaster Resilience Scorecard for cities.

The addendum includes 24 questions, defining a 0-5 scale for practitioners to quantify their responses (see example below). The questions cover the integration of public health with each of UNISDR’s Ten Essentials for Making Cities Resilient: disaster governance, disaster scenarios, finances, land use and building codes, ecosystem services, institutional capacity, societal capacity, infrastructure resilience, disaster response, and disaster recovery.

By capturing all of the possible weak spots in the broader health system, the addendum is meant to be a tool for mainstreaming public health considerations into disaster risk reduction plans, rather than just serving as a one-time assessment.  Using this integrated approach can help city officials build resilience over time. Recent events like the power outage that led to eight deaths in a Florida nursing home after Hurricane Irma demonstrate the preventable nature of many public health disasters. Ensuring that critical facilities have backup power supplies and that potential hazards are effectively communicated are ways in which effective planning can mitigate loss. By understanding existing vulnerabilities and how these will worsen with climate change, officials can implement essential adaptation measures that will save lives.

Four Twenty Seven contributed to this addendum and has developed a methodology to assess climate risk exposure in U.S. cities and counties. We are continuing research on quantifying local resilience to climate impacts and supporting public health responses to climate change. The forthcoming California Heat Assessment Tool will provide public health officials with an interactive platform to understand the projected increase in extreme heat events in each California census tract, based on the sensitivity of the local populations. It will also show the distribution of frontline individuals, such as the elderly, to inform effective local heat responses. This free, user-friendly tool will be live in mid-August.

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.

Download the report.

Download the press release.

Newsletter: Advancing TCFD Guidance on Physical Climate Risk & Opportunities

 

 

Four Twenty Seven’s monthly newsletter highlights recent developments in climate adaptation and resilience. This month, don’t miss our update on upcoming EU regulations, our analysis on lessons learned from Art. 173 in France, and our conference calendar for the spring!

In Focus: Advancing TCFD Guidance on Physical Climate RIsk and Opportunities

An initiative from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Global Center for Excellence in Climate Adaptation

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Global Centre of Excellence on Climate Adaptation (GCECA) are hosting an event: “Advancing TCFD guidance on physical climate risk and opportunities,” which will be held on 31 May at the EBRD’s headquarters in London. This event will be a forum for senior representatives from the financial and business community to discuss and identify the way forward for the development of metrics for disclosing physical climate risk and opportunities, as well as pointers for integrating physical climate risk considerations in scenario-based decision making by businesses and financial institutions.

In preparation for this event, the EBRD has been hosting working groups focused on advancing and fleshing out the recommendations from the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure’s (TCFD) final recommendations released for the G20 summit last June. The TCFD recommended the inclusion of metrics on physical climate risk and opportunities in financial disclosures and called for further research and concrete guidance on what the appropriate metrics would be.

The conference will feature the findings from expert working groups that include representatives from Allianz, APG, AON, Bank of England, Barclays, BlackRock, Bloomberg, BNP Paribas, Citi, DNB, Deutsche Asset Management, Lightsmith Group, Lloyds, Meridiam Infrastructure, Moody’s, OECD, S&P Global, Shell, Siemens, Standard Chartered, USS and Zurich AM

Four Twenty Seven provides the technical secretariat for this initiative in partnership with Acclimatise. Learn more about the conference: “Advancing TCFD Guidance on Physical Climate Risk & Opportunities.” 

EU Moves Towards Regulation for Climate Risk Disclosure

EC Releases its Action Plan: Financing Sustainable Growth

Earlier this month the EU laid out a clear plan to move towards mandatory climate risk disclosure as part of a new set of regulations to finance sustainable growth and support the transition to a low-carbon economy. The European Commission’s Action Plan lays out a two year timeline for implementation, with a goal to create a taxonomy for climate adaptation finance by the end of 2019. These regulations from the EU will drive change into financial markets globally and set standards on reporting, disclosures and infrastructure resilience that will likely set the bar for the rest of the world.

The EC based the Action Plan on the High-Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance’s (HLEG) final recommendations for actions to drive the transition to a sustainable financial system. The HLEG was created by the EC in December 2016 to determine how the regulatory landscape should transform to support efforts towards the goals of the Paris agreement and  promote the financing of a sustainable, resource-efficient economy. As the group’s report was eagerly awaited as a blueprint for market transformation in Europe, the EC’s Action Plan is expected to propel that transformation forward while prompting international conversation.

Read the Analysis

Lessons Learned from Article 173 Reporting

How are French investors reporting physical risk?
A Four Twenty Seven analysis

The first year of reporting under Art. 173 in France saw limited uptake of disclosures of physical risk and opportunities. We reviewed disclosures from 50 asset owners in France and found that 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 portfolios, 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.

Read the Analysis

More good reads on climate risk disclosures:

Extreme Weather Hurts Corporations

Weather Affects Company Performance

Whether it’s extreme heat diminishing worker productivity, winter storms damaging roads and power lines or one of countless other impacts, extreme weather causes harm to businesses’ facilities, their workers and supply chains, and leads to financial impacts. The World Resources Institute’s recent report, “Water Shortages Cost Indian Energy Companies Billions,” highlights findings that India’s thermal power is so reliant on water for cooling that the largest thermal utilities had to close at least once between 2013-2016 and lost about $1.4 billion in revenue. In the article “5 Things Companies Can Do to Grow in a Water-Stressed World,” Water Deeply describes ways that companies are mitigating their risk by proactively addressing water resource limitations.

Climate-related Risk for Telecommunications

Companies in different sectors will be affected differently by three types of climate risk. Novethic’s article “L’impact des risques climatiques sur les entreprises, le cas d’Orange,” provides direct examples of how physical climate risk, transition risk and reputation/legal risk directly threaten companies. In a discussion of Orange, a telecommunications provider, the article highlights the complex factors that companies must consider in addition to their impact on CO2 emissions. Such considerations include a company’s potential to promote innovations for resilience in society through programs ranging from apps that organize carpooling to smart metering.

Inside the Office at Four Twenty Seven

Meet Guest Researcher, Nora Pankratz

Four Twenty Seven is excited to welcome Nora Pankratz as a guest researcher. Nora is a Ph.D. candidate in Finance at the European Center for Corporate Engagement at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Her research focuses on the impact of extreme temperatures on the financial performance of public firms. For the next several months Nora will be based in Berkeley, working with data collected by Four Twenty Seven to develop a research project on the translation of climate risks into financial risks.

Upcoming Events

Join the Four Twenty Seven team in the field at these upcoming events:

  • March 19-21: ClimateCon, Asheville, NC: Katy Maher, is at this convening of science and businesses professionals focused on building climate resilience.
  • March 26-27: Financial Risks International Forum, Paris, France: Léonie Chatain, will attend this annual conference on emerging risks in the financial and insurance sectors.
  • April 2:  ICARP TAC Quarterly Meeting, San Francisco, CA: Natalie Ambrosio will participate in the Adaptation Vision Framework workshop hosted by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research.
  • April 3-6: Sustainatopia, San Francisco, CA: COO Colin Shaw, will speak on a panel on ESG investing and a panel on climate risk at this annual convening of sustainability and financial experts.
  • April 9Financing Climate Change Adaptation, New York, NY: Founder and CEO Emilie Mazzacurati will participate in a private investor workshop on financing adaptation in US cities, organized by C40, NY City and GARI.
  • April 10-11:  Responsible Investors Asia, Tokyo, Japan: Meet with the Four Twenty Seven team to discuss physical climate risk in equities and infrastructure portfolios.
  • May 17: Sustainable Real Assets Conference, Washington, DC: Founder and CEO Emilie Mazzacurati will keynote GRESB’s annual conference on infrastructure resilience.
  • May 31: Advancing TCFD Guidance on Physical Climate Risk and Opportunities, London, UK: Four Twenty Seven is a strategic partner for this event hosted by EBRD and GCECA to discuss emerging guidance on metrics for physical climate risk disclosures and scenario analysis.
  • June 5-6: Responsible Investors Europe, London, UK: Meet with the Four Twenty Seven team to discuss ratings and engagement on physical climate risk in equities.
  • June 18-21: Adaptation Futures 2018, Cape Town, South Africa: Director of Advisory Services, Yoon Kim, will facilitate a session exploring integrating climate risks into infrastructure investment decisions.
  • August 28-293rd California Adaptation Forum, Sacramento, CA: Save the date for this opportunity to join over 600 climate leaders in workshops, sessions and networking around adaptation action in California.

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Four Twenty Seven sends a newsletter focused on bringing climate intelligence into economic and financial decision-making for Fortune 500 companies, investors, and government institutions.Our mailing address is:
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EU Moves Towards Regulation for Climate Risk Disclosure

From Recommendations to Action 

March 15, 2018 – 427 ANALYSIS. The EU laid out a clear plan to move towards mandatory climate risk disclosure as part of a new set of regulations to finance sustainable growth and support the transition to a low-carbon economy. The European Commission’s Action Plan lays out a two year timeline for implementation, with a goal to create a taxonomy for climate adaptation finance by the end of 2019. These regulations from the EU will drive change into financial markets globally and set standards on reporting, disclosures and infrastructure resilience that will likely set the bar for the rest of the world.

The European Commission recently released its Action Plan: Financing Sustainable Growth to establish a regulatory framework that supports the goals of the Paris agreement. The Action Plan calls for transformation of the whole financial system and  to enable the financing a sustainable, resource-efficient economy.

The Action Plan builds on the recommendation from a high profile expert group, the High-Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance (HLEG), which was created by the European Commission in December 2016.   The group included experts from banking, insurance, asset management and stock exchanges. Its final recommendations to the Commission, released in January  acknowledged the responsibility of the financial system to drive change towards “enduring and inclusive economic prosperity”. HLEG recommendations aimed to both promote sustainable investments, so that capital reaches sustainable projects and also to ensure that the financial system itself addresses risk and builds resilience.

Incorporating many of the  recommendations of the HLEG, the Commission’s Action Plan lays out ten specific actions, setting deadlines within the next two years, with a number of thematic sub-actions that willbe pursued simultaneously.  Action 1  lays the groundwork for many of the following actions as it will establish a Technical Expert Group on Sustainable Finance, with the responsibility of drafting a standardized EU sustainability taxonomy , including climate mitigation by Q1 2019 and adaptation by Q3. This effort will be supported by legislation this year that mandates the creation of the taxonomy.

The 10 actions are summarized in this infographic from the European Commission:

Mandating Disclosure

Of most immediate importance to investors is Action 7, which calls for the proposal by Q2 2018 of legislation mandating investors to explicitly consider sustainability factors in their investment decisions and disclose their methodology of doing so. This effort is particularly focused on improving the consistency and transparency of climate risk considerations by investors.

Likewise, Action 9 is focused on improving the methodologies and practice of corporate risk disclosure. The Commission will publish a report on current reporting legislation by Q2 this year, which will inform a revision of corporate reporting guidelines to help them align with the TCFD recommendations, by Q2 2019. Later this year the Commission will develop a European Corporate Reporting Lab, under the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group, to help develop best practices for corporate reporting. The goals of Action 10 will support these actions by supporting a shift in corporate governance. It aims to improve transparency and combat long-termism, by engaging with stakeholders around corporate governance starting by Q2 next year.

Revamping Credit Ratings

The Commission also commits to revamping the ways in which credit ratings incorporate sustainability metrics into their scoring. Through Action 6, the European Securities Markets Authority (ESMA) will examine the credit ratings’ current practices around this topic by Q2 2019 and the Commission will pursue comprehensive research on reporting standards, exploring the potential of mandating agencies to integrate specific sustainability metrics into their standards.

Client Clarity

To improve consumers ability to identify sustainable investments, Action 2 calls for the technical expert group to publish a report exploring green bond standards by Q2 2019 and the Commission will consider expanding the EU Ecolabel to include financial products, initially focusing on retail investments. Likewise, Action 4 says that by Q2 2018, the MiFID II and IDD rules will be updated to ensure that sustainability preferences are considered when banks, investment firms and insurers offer accounts to clients and by the end of the year the ESMA will include these provisions in their guidelines. Through Action 5 the Commission will adopt acts that improve the transparency of sustainability benchmarks by Q2 2018.

 Comprehensive Sustainability Support

The Commission identifies a lack of technical expertise as a challenge to pursuing sustainable infrastructure projects and aims to confront this by to increasing the technical support available to investors.  It will run a pilot project offering tools for sustainable infrastructure projects, from 2019-2023 through Action 3.

Action 8 states that the Commission will consider including sustainability frameworks in prudential requirements, looping in the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA).

“A Blueprint” for Change

While the HLEG emphasized that its report is only the beginning of an enduring effort to create a resilient financial system that supports a sustainable society, the Commission’s resulting Action Plan clearly defines the next steps. And as HLEG also emphasized its report’s relevance for financial sectors worldwide, the Commission’s Action Plan states that a “coordinated, global effort is crucial.”  As “the HLEG hopes to stimulate a wide public debate that helps shift Europe’s financial system from post-crisis stabilization to supporting long-term growth,” that same widespread conversation is essential to driving global change. These regulations from the EU, as is often the case, will drive change into financial markets globally by setting new standards global financial institutions must meet.

Download the HLEG Recommendations.

Download the EC Action Plan

For more resources on building a sustainable financial sector, read about Four Twenty Seven’s work providing the technical secretariat for an EBRD and GCECA initiative to build a resilient financial sector and download the GARI Investor Guide to Physical Climate Risk and Resilience.

EU High-Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance

Reaching the goals of the Paris agreement, and financing a sustainable, resource-efficient economy, requires a transformation of the whole financial system. Understanding that private-sector investments must be joined by a transformation of the regulatory landscape, the European Commission created the High-Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance (HLEG) in December 2016. As the need for reform spans across all facets of the sector, HLEG members include experts from banking, insurance, asset management, stock exchanges and others. The group acknowledges that a sustainable society depends upon enduring and inclusive economic prosperity and that the financial system has a responsibility to drive change towards this sustainability. Thus, the HLEG aims to both promote sustainable investments, so that capital reaches sustainable projects and also to ensure that the financial system itself addresses risk and builds resilience.

After releasing an interim report and soliciting public feedback in July, the HLEG released its final recommendations for actions  to facilitate this financial system reform. The report describes a set of priority recommendations and a set of “cross-cutting recommendations.” The former include developing an EU sustainability taxonomy, pushing investors to focus on ESG factors and consider broader time horizons,  creating European sustainability standards for green bonds and other financing options, identifying investment needs by focusing first on climate mitigation, providing sustainable finance options for retail investors, and integrating sustainability into both the governance and financial oversight of financial institutions. The “cross-cutting” recommendations include embracing long-term vision, empowering citizens to shape a sustainable financial sector, monitoring sustainable investment and delivery, integrating a “Think Sustainability First” outlook throughout EU policy, and promoting global sustainable finance.

HLEG acknowledges that there are other social and environmental issues that must be addressed alongside climate change.  Emphasizing that this report is only the beginning of an enduring effort to create a resilient financial system that supports a sustainable society, HLEG also states the report’s relevance for financial sectors worldwide. As “the HLEG hopes to stimulate a wide public debate that helps shift Europe’s financial system from post-crisis stabilization to supporting long-term growth,” that same widespread conversation is essential to driving global change.

Download the Recommendations.

For more resources on building a sustainable financial sector, read about Four Twenty Seven’s work providing the technical secretariat for an EBRD and GCECA initiative to build a resilient financial sector and download the GARI Investor Guide to Physical Climate Risk and Resilience.

Newsletter: Are we doing enough? The state of climate adaptation in the US

 

 

Four Twenty Seven’s monthly newsletter highlights recent developments in climate adaptation and resilience. This month, don’t miss a review of U.S. climate adaptation and a close look at opportunities to build resilience through collaboration.

In Focus: The State of Climate Adaptation


Are we doing enough? How is the field of adaptation developing in the United States? Rising to the Challenge, Together: A Review and Critical Assessment of the State of the US Climate Adaptation Field explores the field’s development, potential and challenges. Commissioned by the Kresge Foundation, the report was co-authored by Susanne C. Moser of Susanne Moser Research and Consulting, Joyce Coffee of Climate Resilience Consulting, and Aleka Seville in her capacity as Four Twenty Seven’s Director of Community Adaptation in 2017.

Based on a literature review and dozens of interviews with thought leaders and adaptation practitioners, this report finds that the emerging field of climate adaptation must continue to develop with increased urgency. Communities across the country are experimenting with adaptation, with the support of a growing knowledge base and suite of tools, and boosted by new actors including utility managers, private sector interests and philanthropy.

However, the field is largely crisis-driven and fails to adequately address the social equity aspects of adaptation choices, that should ensure all people benefit regardless of socio-economic status or race.  It also lacks a shared vision, consistent funding and agreed upon best practices among other shortcomings, the report found. The report recommends aggressive acceleration of adaptation planning, coordination across jurisdictions, and implementation among advocates, planners, and funders. Read more.

Read the Report

The United States of Climate Change


With examples from every state in the U.S. this United States of Climate Change” feature from The Weather Channel displays the vast, dire and varied implications of climate change. It also documents communities’ efforts to adapt to a rapidly changing world. From new species of pathogen-hosting mosquitoes flourishing in Mississippi to “flash droughts” threatening barley in small Montana towns that depend on selling the crop to beer brewers, there is a plethora of local stories highlighting cultural, social and economic impacts of climate change. The Washington Post reports on the thinking behind Weather.com’s framing of this feature.

For more examples of climate change’s local impacts, read about Four Twenty Seven’s work examining the impacts of climate change on Delaware’s workforce and our analysis of extreme heat and public health in Denver.

Working with businesses to build community resilience

As increasing numbers of climate disasters cause over $1 billion in damages, the economic impacts of these events are widespread and ongoing. California wine-growers will feel the financial effects for years as they work to rebuild their vineyards, while the communities that depend on this economy will also feel these consequences. Four Twenty Seven’s blog post “Working with Businesses to Build Community Resilience” outlines opportunities for local governments and businesses to support each other in adaptation efforts.

Businesses and communities depend on each other and have important roles to play in collaborative climate change preparation. While businesses rely on resilient infrastructure and city services, they can also support community recovery efforts and participate in planning. Likewise, local governments can create collaborative networks, share resources and engage businesses. Read more.

Read the Blog

Resources on Engaging Businesses in Adaptation

For more insight on corporate adaptation read the Caring for Climate report, The Business Case for Corporate Adaptation, which highlights the benefits for businesses to build their awareness of climate risk and opportunities for policymakers to encourage corporate adaptation.

Will Amazon HQ2 consider resilience?

Eager for an opportunity for up to 50,000 jobs and a potential $5 billion in investment, twenty cities received the anticipated advancement to the list of finalists for Amazon’s HQ2 last month. Among this short list is the Southeast Florida bid, a collaboration between Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties.

These counties have experience working together through the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, which also includes Monroe County. The compact’s Regional Climate Action Plan emphasizes the importance of regional strategies to build resilient economies and communities. Now the benefits of this collaboration are becoming increasingly clear, as many of the regional compact’s priorities, such as addressing sea level rise and improving infrastructure, are also important for bolstering economic success by helping to attract Amazon and other businesses to the region.

Inside the Office at Four Twenty Seven

Meet the Team: Lindsay Ross

Four Twenty Seven is delighted to welcome Lindsay Ross, who joins the team as a Senior Analyst, Macroeconomic Risks. Lindsay analyzes the economic impacts of climate change on corporations and financial markets. She studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), focusing on Energy, Resources, and the Environment as well as International Finance and Economics. Previously she worked for the U.S. International Trade Commission, assisting with research on the impacts of international trade on the U.S. economy.

Upcoming Events

Join the Four Twenty Seven team in the field at these upcoming events:

  • February 13: Climate Risk: From Assessment to Action, Washington, DC: CEO, Emilie Mazzacurati, will speak on a panel at this workshop hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank
  • February 28 – March 2: Climate Leadership Conference, Denver, CO: Climate Adaptation Senior Analyst, Kendall Starkman, will attend this gathering of climate, sustainability and energy professionals.
  • March 6: Inaugural Conference: Northern European Partnership for Sustainable Finance (NEPSF), London, UK. Emilie Mazzacurati will join the launch of this new Partnership to support sustainable finance.
  • June 18-21: Adaptation Futures 2018, Cape Town, South Africa: Director of Advisory Services, Yoon Kim, will facilitate a session at this conference, exploring integrating climate risks into infrastructure investment decisions.
  • August 28-29: 3rd California Adaptation Forum, Sacramento, CA: Save the date for this opportunity to join over 600 climate leaders in workshops, sessions and networking around adaptation action in California.

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Working with Businesses to Build Community Resilience

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.