Podcast: Banks are Getting Interested in Big Data to Figure out Their Climate Risk

How are banks, investors and financial regulators addressing climate risk?  Founder & CEO, Emilie Mazzacurati, joins Molly Wood in the Marketplace Tech podcast series, “How We Survive,” to discuss climate risk assessment and risk mitigation. The conversation covers regulatory developments, increased transparency on climate risks, resilience investment and the impact of COVID-19 on climate change conversations.

Newsletter: US Climate Risk Disclosure, Climate at Moody’s ESG and more

Four Twenty Seven's monthly newsletter highlights recent developments in climate risk and resilience. This month we feature an analysis on US climate risk disclosure, highlight developments at Moody's ESG Solutions and share recordings of recent climate risk events.

In Focus: Are U.S. Corporates Ready for Climate Risk Disclosures?

Analysis: The State of Climate Risk Disclosure in the US

The results from the U.S. presidential elections signal an impending radical shift in U.S. climate policy. President-elect Biden’s transition team identified climate change as one of four top priorities, promptly followed with the appointment of John Kerry as special envoy for climate. As part of his transition plan, Biden announced ten executive actions related to climate change that he intends to take on his first day in office. One of these measures is the requirement for public companies to disclose climate risks and greenhouse gas emissions in their operations and supply chains. This disclosure requirement aligns with a global trend, following similar announcements in the UK and in New Zealand.

In light of this increasing focus on climate risk regulation, our latest analysis uses the TCFD Climate Strategy Assessment dataset from Moody's affiliate V.E to explore how US firms stand against policy recommendations outlined in recent reports by the US Commodity and Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the Business Roundtable (BRT), including implementing a carbon price, conducting scenario analysis and creating products that contribute to the transition to a low-carbon economy.

We find that the largest US corporations tend to be slightly behind in terms of disclosing key indicators compared to their international peers. However, among all assessed regions, not even a quarter of the firms disclose the indicators reviewed in this assessment. This demonstrates the significant room for progress and shows that increasing firms’ capacity to assess and disclose climate risks in an informative manner remains a global challenge, aligning with findings in the TCFD's 2020 Status report released last month.
Read the Analysis
Climate Risk at Moody's ESG Solutions

Emilie Mazzacurati Appointed Global Head of Moody's Climate Solutions

Moody's announced last week that Four Twenty Seven Founder and CEO, Emilie Mazzacurati will oversee the climate solutions suite within Moody’s ESG Solutions Group, a new business unit formed earlier this year to serve the growing global demand for ESG and climate analytics. As part of its climate solutions suite, Moody’s ESG Solutions provides risk measurement and evaluation tools to understand, quantify and manage physical and transition risks, informing due diligence and risk disclosure in line with the recommendations from the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).
Emilie also remains CEO of Four Twenty Seven, which is now fully owned by Moody's. 

Moody's Analytics Wins Climate Risk Award at Chartis RiskTech100®

Moody’s Analytics won the Climate Risk category in the 2021 Chartis RiskTech100®  highlighting its commitment to integrating climate analytics into its world-class risk models.
Moody’s Analytics' offering helps customers first identify whether they have exposure to climate risk in their portfolios and then quantify the credit risk implication of climate risk factors. These solutions incorporate climate risk analytics from Moody's ESG Solutions powered by Four Twenty Seven and V.E.

Moody’s: Climate Risk and Resilience at US Airports

Climate change will expose the airport sector to increased physical climate risks within the next two decades. In its report, US airports face growing climate risks, but business model and resiliency investments mitigate impact, Moody’s Investors Service leverages Four Twenty Seven’s physical climate risk data to explore potential damages from increased exposure of US airports to floods, heat stress, hurricanes, sea level rise and wildfires. The report finds significant exposure to floods and sea level rise, which can damage crucial structures, leading to significant costs or rendering the assets unusable. Hazards such as heat stress and wildfires present risks with implications for take-off and landing. Airports often undertake long-term capital intensive projects and integrating resilience measures into planning these investments will be critical. Register for free to read the report.
Climate Change and Financial Stability

Financial Stability Board Releases Report on Climate Risk

Yesterday the Financial Stability Board (FSB) released its report, The Implications of Climate Change for Financial Stability, outlining the ways in which physical and transition risks may affect the financial system. It highlights how physical risks can decrease asset prices, increasing uncertainty and how a disorderly transition could also destabilize the financial system, while an orderly transition is expected to have a less significant impact on asset prices. Likewise, the report emphasizes that climate risk could amplify credit, liquidity and counterparty risks and interact with other macroeconomic risks, with significant implications for financial stability.
Earlier this month the Federal Reserve announced its application to join the Network for Greening the Financial System, expecting to gain membership by the group's annual meeting next April. The Governor of the US Federal Reserve is also the Chair of the FSB and such recent events may foreshadow more attention to climate risks at the Fed.
Public Consultations on Climate Risk

EIOPA Consultation on Climate Change Scenarios

The European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) opened a public consultation on its draft opinion on the supervision of the use of climate change risk scenarios in ORSA. This consultation is a follow-up to EIOPA's recommendations that insurers integrate climate risks into their governance and risk management beyond a one-year time horizon, aiming to provide additional guidance on the supervision of these processes. Respond by January 5, 2021.

Hong Kong SFC Consultation on Climate Risk Management for Funds

The Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) opened a public consultation on its proposed guidance for fund managers to integrate climate risk into their investment decision-making and to release climate risk disclosures. The guidance applies to all fund managers, while those with at least HK$4 billion under management would have to comply with additional requirements, such as disclosing more quantitative metrics. The recommendations reference the TCFD Recommendations to encourage consistency in risk disclosure. Respond by January 15, 2021.

TCFD Consultation on Forward-looking Metrics

The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) released a public consultation on decision-useful forward-looking disclosure metrics for financial institutions. Recognizing the growing need for standards guiding forward-looking, comparable climate risk disclosures, it solicits input on the utility and challenges of disclosing certain forward-looking metrics, including metrics on implied temperature rise and value at risk. Respond by January 27, 2021. 
 
Climate Analytics for Financial Risk Assessment: Panel Recordings

Moody's Analytics Synergy Americas Conference

Founder & CEO, Emilie Mazzacurati, and Moody’s Analytics Managing Director, Global Head of Quantitative Research, Jing Zhang, discuss the impacts of climate risk on credit risk in the panel, “How Floods, Wildfires, and Heat Stress Can Play a Role in Financial Reporting and CECL.” Register for free to access the recording.
 

Risk Australia Virtual 2020: Taming the Green Swan

Emilie Mazzacurati presents a keynote presentation titled “Taming the Green Swan: Incorporating Climate Risk into Risk Management.” She covers changes in the regulatory environment and how investors can use science to inform risk management and investment decisions. Emilie discusses progress made on climate risk disclosure to date, explains the latest thinking on conducting scenario analysis for climate risks and provides case studies of the economic impacts of climate risk in Asia and Australia. 
Webinar: How Real Estate Can Adapt and Prepare for Climate Risks

Join us on Thursday Dec. 10 at  9am PST / 12pm ET / 5pm GMT

We’re already seeing the impacts of climate change on our real assets—so how do we better prepare for future climate events? Four Twenty Seven will join CBRE, Measurabl and Nova Group GBC to discuss the full process of integrating physical climate risk management into real estate investment. The webinar will include an explanation of the climate data driving the analytics, how to understand physical climate risks alongside broader ESG data and how to leverage this information to mitigate risk by building resilience.

Speakers:
  • Zachary Brown, Director of Energy and Sustainability at CBRE
  • Yoon Kim, Managing Director, Global Client Services at Four Twenty Seven
  • Cameron Ravanbach, Account Manager at Measurabl
  • Rob Jackson, Vice President, Equity Markets Group at Nova Group, GBC
Register Here
Upcoming Events

Join the team online at these upcoming events and check our Events page for updates:

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Four Twenty Seven sends a newsletter focused on bringing climate intelligence into economic and financial decision-making for investors, corporations and governments. Fill in the form below to join our mailing list. As data controller, we collect your email address with your consent in order to send you our newsletter. Four Twenty Seven will never share your mailing information with anyone and you may unsubscribe at any moment. Please read our Terms and Conditions.
 

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Are U.S. Corporates Ready for Climate Risk Disclosures?

Introduction

The results from the U.S. presidential elections signal an impending radical shift in U.S. climate policy. President-elect Biden’s transition team identified climate change as one of four top priorities, promptly followed with the appointment of John Kerry as special envoy for climate. As part of his transition plan, Biden announced ten executive actions related to climate change that he intends to take on his first day in office. One of these measures is the requirement for public companies to disclose climate risks and greenhouse gas emissions in their operations and supply chains.

This disclosure requirement aligns with a global trend, following similar announcements in the UK and in New Zealand, with other financial regulators across Europe and the Asia-Pacific also actively considering such measures.

Disclosures are but one of many policy measures the new Administration may implement to address potential risks from climate change on financial markets and the economy. The report published by the US Commodity and Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in September 2020 provided an extensive list of policy recommendations for financial regulatory agencies and the government at large to regulate climate risk.

A number of these policy recommendations overlapped with the September 2020 report from the Business Roundtable (BRT)[1], where large corporations employing over 15 million in total and representing $7.5 trillion in assets(revenues) called on bold policy action to address the looming climate crisis.

Our analysis examines recommendation from the BRT and CFTC, alongside data on corporate risk disclosure, to provide an indication of how US firms are currently standing against the recommendations, and to provide a comparison to other markets.

Methodology

We use the TCFD Climate Strategy Assessment dataset from V.E, an affiliate of Moody’s, which provides a granular view of how 2,855 companies report in line with the TCFD recommendations. This data is based on a comprehensive analysis of companies’ risk disclosures, across sectors and regions. For the purpose of this analysis, we grouped firms based on the region in which they’re listed, comparing the progress of firms in the US (498 companies), Canada (109), Japan (399) and the European Union (EU) (840). Each of these regions have different approaches to  climate policy, with the EU leading the way in terms of regulatory developments for assessing and disclosing climate risk, while Japan expects markets to address financial risks from climate change through emerging best practices and market pressure. Comparing recommendations from the BRT and CFTC to companies’ risk disclosures, we grouped our analysis into two sections, first looking at recommendations around emissions reductions efforts and then discussing recommendations around risk management.

Emissions Reductions

Carbon price

Both the CFTC and BRT recommend imposing a carbon price to develop a clear price signal associated with greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Firms sometimes use  internal carbon pricing as a management tool, which suggests that they are more prepared to adjust to a nationwide carbon price.

We find that only 3% of assessed US firms report using an internal carbon price, which is fewer than Canada, the EU and Japan. Alongside Canada, US firms also have the highest average carbon footprint of the assessed regions, based on carbon footprint data from V.E. However, Canada shows the largest proportion of firms reporting an internal carbon price, at 19% of firms. The data shows that US firms are behind their peers and have not leveraged the use of an internal carbon price as a management tool to incentivize carbon reductions and price the externalities associated with carbon emissions.

However, we find that many firms that disclose internal carbon prices in the US are from the automobile, energy, mining and pharmaceutical sectors. These sectors are among those with the largest dependencies on energy consumption or fossil fuels, which are expected to be most exposed to transition risks. The overall low numbers are therefore balanced by the fact that the firms in these sectors that do use internal carbon prices are also those that most need to prepare for shifting climate policy.

Table 1. The percent of companies in each region disclosing each indicator.

Low-Carbon Technology

The BRT emphasizes the significant opportunity for the U.S. to continue to lead in development and commercialization of energy efficiency and renewable energy to support the transition to a low-carbon economy. It underscores the need to invest in low-carbon and emissions reduction technology to allow us to capitalize on this opportunity.

In the US, 7% of assessed firms disclose the development of products that contribute to the transition to a low-carbon economy, which is less than firms of other regions.  Japan and the EU lead the way with 19% and 18% of firms respectively reporting investments in low carbon technology. Only 1% of US firms report acquisition of businesses contributing to the transition; although all regions assessed show low uptake of this indicator. In the US, 35% of the companies in industrials, 33% in electrics and 30% in the automobile sector disclose development of products contributing to the energy transition. This demonstrates the opportunities for firms in sectors with high exposure to transition risk, such as electrics and automobiles, to invest in developing new products which would be in higher demand if climate policy increased.

The EU’s Sustainable Finance Taxonomy helps investors identify which activities contribute to climate adaptation and mitigation which in turn informs portfolio alignment with the Paris Agreement or other emissions reduction goals. The Taxonomy puts additional pressure and incentive for corporations to develop activities that directly contribute to the transition. This may explain why EU companies have made among the most progress to date, although it also may be an indication of further pressure growing outside of the EU as global investors aim to align with the taxonomy.

GHG Reduction Targets

The BRT recommends aligning policy and greenhouse gas reduction targets with scientific evidence around the need to reduce emissions. While few firms have disclosed divestment from or decommissioning of carbon intensive assets, those in the US and Japan show the least progress with only 1% of the assessed firms disclosing this indicator, while the EU shows the highest with 6%. Similar to the developments described above, as investors increasingly strive to align their portfolios with emissions reductions targets, companies will experience increased pressure to align their activities with such targets. While the US has experienced less regulatory activity to date in this regard than the other regions, this is likely to change going forward and companies prepared for those change are likely to be better positioned than others.

Risk Management

Governance

The CFTC recommends that financial firms define oversight responsibilities for climate risks for the board of directors. While this recommendation is particularly directed at financial firms, it also aligns directly with one of the TCFD recommendations, and as such will  be increasingly relevant as companies are increasingly asked to disclose their climate risks and opportunities in line with the TCFD. The BRT also recommends voluntary and transparent climate risk disclosure by corporations in line with existing frameworks.

Only 8% of US firms disclose integration of climate risk into board oversight and Japan and Europe show similar progress. Canada stands out with 19% of firms disclosing processes used by the board to monitor and oversee climate progress.

Table 2. The percent of companies in each region disclosing each indicator.

Integration into Risk Management

The CFTC report recommends that financial firms integrate climate risk monitoring and management into their governance. However, only 10% of US firms disclose integration of climate risks into their enterprise risk management. While this is similar to progress in Japan, 17% and 20% of firms in the EU and Canada respectively report integration of climate risks into their management, indicating that they are likely more well prepared both for an increase in extreme events or transition risks and for regulations around assessing and disclosing risk.

The CFTC recommends that financial firms conduct scenario analysis aligned with international efforts, In the US, 11% of firms have disclosed use of scenario analysis, which is similar to Japan and the EU. Canada stands out with 20% disclosing use of scenario analysis. There has been a rapid uptick in both the pressure to conduct scenario analysis and stress tests, particularly for banks, as well as the resources available to support these assessments, such as the reference scenarios released by the Network for Greening the Financial system in June 2020.

Conclusion

Our analysis shows that the largest US corporations tend to be slightly behind in terms of disclosing key indicators compared to their international peers. However, among all assessed regions, only a small percentage of firms disclose the indicators highlighted in this analysis, which demonstrates that there is significant room for progress. Increasing firms’ capacity to assess and disclose climate risks in an informative manner remains a global challenge.

Our analysis focused on the largest publicly trading companies, which are the first that have to comply with upcoming regulations around climate risk disclosure. The picture of progress likely looks different for mid-market firms where integration of emerging best practices for ESG and climate risk is not yet as deep.

 

[1] Moody’s Corporation, Four Twenty Seven’s parent company, is a BRT member.

Newsletter: Climate Risk Increases Sovereign Risk

Four Twenty Seven's monthly newsletter highlights recent developments in climate risk and resilience. This month we share new research on climate risk and sovereign risk, discuss the climate implications of the U.S. election and highlight new data on EU Taxonomy alignment and TCFD disclosures.

In Focus: Climate Change and Sovereign Risk

Report: Cost of Sovereign Capital is Affected by Climate Risk

New joint research provides a comprehensive analysis of the ways in which climate risks affect sovereign risk. Published by the Centre for Sustainable Finance at SOAS University of London, the Asian Development Bank Institute, the World Wide Fund for Nature Singapore and Four Twenty Seven, the report, “Climate Change and Sovereign Risk,” outlines six transmission channels through which climate change affects sovereign risk and, in turn, the cost of borrowing. Using econometric analysis on a sample of 40 developed and emerging economies shows that higher climate risk vulnerability leads to significant rises in the cost of sovereign borrowing. 

The report also provides a closer look at Southeast Asia, a region with significant exposure to physical climate risks such as storms, floods, sea level rise, heat waves and water stress, as well as transition risks. The implications of climate change for macrofinancial stability and sovereign risk are likely to be material for most, if not all, countries in Southeast Asia.

Lastly, the report highlights the need for governments to climate-proof their economies and public finances. It outlines five policy recommendations, emphasizing the importance for financial authorities to integrate climate risk into their risk management processes and for governments to prioritize comprehensive climate vulnerability assessments and work with the financial sector to promote investment in climate adaptation.
Read the Report
Watch the Launch Event
US Presidential Election: Climate Implications

November's Election is Pivotal for Climate Change

Donald Trump and Joe Biden present significantly different approaches to climate change and environmental justice. Moody's Investors Service's report "Next administration will confront five policy challenges with wide-ranging credit impact," explores policy challenges the next administration will face, including environmental issues. The analysis writes that "Biden's economic plans include measures to address climate change. Trump's proposals do not prioritize addressing climate change or lowering carbon dependence."

Trump plans to continue his efforts to reduce regulation on fossil fuel emissions and pollution, supporting growth of the fossil fuel industry and completing the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. Meanwhile in addition to rejoining the Paris Agreement and planning for net-zero emissions by 2050, Biden would implement pollution regulation with a particular focus on environmental justice. Biden has also expressed his support for mandating that public companies disclose their climate risks and emissions. This National Geographic piece outlines Biden and Trump's respective records on climate change and environmental issues, as well as their future plans.
Handbook on Climate Risk Assessment

NGFS: Case Studies of Environmental Risk Analysis Methodologies

The Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS) released a collection of case studies outlining methodologies for climate and environmental risk analysis for banks, asset managers and insurers. The compilation of approaches, written by academic researchers, financial practitioners and data providers highlights the latest developments in addressing data gaps, identifying how climate risk translates to financial risk, and leveraging climate data to build a resilient financial system.
Four Twenty Seven and Moody's Analytics contributed Chapter 2: "An Approach to Measuring Physical Climate Risk in Bank Loan Portfolios," and Moody's Investors Service wrote Chapter 27: "Moody's Approach to Incorporating ESG Risks into Credit Analysis."
New Data on Companies' Taxonomy Alignment & TCFD Disclosure

Vigeo Eiris Launches Taxonomy Alignment Screening & Request for Comment

Last week Moody's affiliate Vigeo Eiris (V.E) released the beta version of its Taxonomy Alignment Screening tool and a Request for Comment (RFC) to inform the final product, which will launch early next year. Comparable, comprehensive data on companies' alignment with the taxonomy will provide critical information for investors striving to align their portfolios with the taxonomy. 

The EU Taxonomy Regulation outlines criteria for activities contributing to six environmental objectives: climate mitigation; climate adaptation; protection of water and marine resources; transition to a circular economy; pollution prevention and control; and protection and restoration of biodiversity. It was formally adopted earlier this year, with criteria for climate change mitigation and adaptation; criteria for the other objectives are forthcoming.

To date, V.E has screened 1,587 European issuers based on their alignment with the taxonomy's three-part criteria: substantial contribution to one of the six environmental objectives, Do No Significant Harm and compliance with minimum social safeguards. Results show that many companies perform at least one of the 72 Taxonomy activities but few meet the technical criteria for the activities. This beta dataset is freely available upon request and the Request for Comment is open until November 1st, 2020.

How do Climate Risk Disclosures Align with TCFD Recommendations?

Consistent climate risk disclosure is essential to improving market transparency and building a more resilient financial system. As devastating extreme events, regulatory developments and investor pressure have led to an increase in climate risk disclosure, the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures’ (TCFD) recommendations have become a global reference. V.E's new TCFD Climate Strategy Assessment dataset provides a granular view of how 2,855 companies report in line with TCFD recommendations.

This new V.E and Four Twenty Seven report, Measuring TCFD Disclosures, explores the key findings from this assessment, highlighting companies’ disclosures in governance, strategy and risk management and providing a case study on how companies' risk disclosures compare to their exposure. We find that while 30% of companies have identified at least one climate-related risk that may affect their business, only 3% have disclosed enhanced due diligence for projects and transactions. 

Read the Report
Climate Risk in Real Estate

Report: Emerging Practices for Market Assessment

In their latest report, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and Heitman explore how real estate investors are integrating an understanding of market-level climate risk into their decision-making. The report highlights the progress made in assessing climate risk at the asset-level, citing Four Twenty Seven's climate risk analysis. It also discusses the increasing importance of understanding both market-level risk as well as regional resilience measures and how much risk these efforts may mitigate.
Meanwhile, new research on coastal real estate markets finds that a decrease in sales often foreshadows a decrease in prices, which is already taking place in Miami-Dade County, Florida and throughout the state. Many experts think that an increased awareness of the risks of sea level rise is contributing to this trend.

New Resilience Category in ULI Awards for Excellence

The ULI Awards for Excellence honor development projects that demonstrate the highest standards throughout their process, including but not limited to the architecture and design phases. This year one of the five categories is Resilient Development, with application questions including the topics of physical and community resilience. Submissions are open and the early application deadline for ULI Americas is December 18, 2020.
Webinar: Climate Change for Banks

Join Us at 8am PST / 11am ET / 2pm BST next Tuesday Oct. 27th

Join the Moody's Sustainable Finance webinar series for next week's webinar, Responsible Approaches to Climate Change for Banks. Hear from climate risk experts and bank practitioners on ways in which climate change affects banks and how they can respond. The webinar will explore the effects of climate change on banks’ activities and the role banks can play in supporting resilience. We will discuss the ways in which climate change poses material financial risks to banks, as well as opportunities. Practitioners will share case studies of how they leverage climate data for decision-making.

Speakers:
  • Yoon Kim, Managing Director, Global Client Services, Four Twenty Seven (Moderator)
  • Sara Faglia, Senior ESG Analyst - Financial Sector, Vigeo Eiris
  • Michael Denton, Director - Enterprise Risk Solutions, Moody's Analytics
  • Craig Davies, Head of Climate Resilience Investments, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
  • Imène Ben Rejeb-Mzah, Group CSR Head of Methodologies and Data, BNP Paribas
Register for Free
Inside the Office at Four Twenty Seven

Senior Climate Data Analyst, Research - Siraphob (Gain) Boonvanich

Four Twenty Seven welcomes Gain as a Senior Climate Data Analyst, Research. Gain optimizes cloud infrastructure and climate data processing to support the development of Four Twenty Seven's climate risk analytics. Previously, Gain worked at Weathernews Inc. where he helped transform cloud infrastructure and developed various weather research applications, including radar and satellite image processing, machine learning models and demand prediction. 

Join the team! 

Find open positions on our Careers page and visit Vigeo Eiris' and Moody's Careers pages for more opportunities in climate change and ESG.
Upcoming Events

Join the team online at these upcoming events and check our Events page for updates, including links to events not yet available:

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Copyright © 2020 Four Twenty Seven, All rights reserved.
Four Twenty Seven sends a newsletter focused on bringing climate intelligence into economic and financial decision-making for investors, corporations and governments. Fill in the form below to join our mailing list. As data controller, we collect your email address with your consent in order to send you our newsletter. Four Twenty Seven will never share your mailing information with anyone and you may unsubscribe at any moment. Please read our Terms and Conditions.
 

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Report: Climate Change and Sovereign Risk

This joint report provides a comprehensive analysis of the ways in which climate risks affect sovereign risk, demonstrating new empirical evidence of how climate risk and resilience influence the costs of capital. It also explores the implications for Southeast Asia in particular, where countries are highly exposed to climate change risks and their economic consequences. Lastly, the report outlines five policy recommendations based on these findings. The report was a collaboration between the Centre for Sustainable Finance at SOAS University of London, the Asian Development Bank Institute, the World Wide Fund for Nature Singapore and Four Twenty Seven.

Download the full report.

Download the Executive Summary.

Watch the launch event.

“Climate Change and Sovereign Risk” outlines six transmission channels through which climate change affects sovereign risk and in turn the cost of capital, providing examples of each and explaining how they’re connected. It uses empirical analysis to demonstrate the significant impacts of climate risk exposure on the cost of capital. Using a sample of 40 developed and emerging economies, econometric analysis shows that higher climate risk vulnerability leads to significant rises in the cost of sovereign borrowing. Premia on sovereign bond yields amount to around 275 basis points for economies highly exposed to climate risk. This risk premium is estimated at 113 basis points for emerging market economies overall, and 155 basis points for Southeast Asian economies.

To further explore these channels, the report provides a closer look at Southeast Asia, a region with significant exposure to climate hazards such as storms, floods, sea level rise, heat waves and water stress. Physical risks are expected to considerably affect economic activity, international commerce, employment and public finances across Southeast Asian countries. Transition risks will be prominent as exports and economies become affected by international climate policies, technological change and shifting consumption patterns. The implications of climate change for macrofinancial stability and sovereign risk are likely to be material for most if not all countries in Southeast Asia.

The report highlights the need for governments to climate-proof their economies and public finances or potentially face an ever-worsening spiral of climate vulnerability and unsustainable debt burdens. It outlines five policy recommendations, emphasizing the importance for financial authorities to integrate climate risk into their risk management processes and for governments to prioritize comprehensive climate vulnerability assessments and work with the financial sector to promote investment in climate adaptation.

The report was originally posted by SOAS University of London.

Moody’s: Credit Risk of Sea Level Rise for Coastal Governments

Climate change is driving more frequent coastal flooding, which threatens infrastructure, real estate and economies. In its report, Sea Level Rise Increases Credit Risk for Coastal States and Local Governments, Moody’s Investors Service leverages Four Twenty Seven’s climate risk data to explore the credit risks of sea level rise for coastal governments.

The analysis highlights several areas with particular exposure to increasing sea level rise, which threatens property value growth and associate tax revenue, in turn increasing credit risk. Increased disruption due to coastal flooding disrupts the local economies that rely on coastal economic activities to generate revenue. Likewise, areas less exposed to flooding are prone to climate gentrification, as property values increase when these areas become more desirable and residents can be displaced. Though it can be expensive, effective, equitable adaptation measures can reduce vulnerability to sea level rise and support credit-quality. This requires tax revenue, financial capacity, and growth strategies that aim to protect vulnerable local economies and property values.

Coastal economies across the U.S. are exposed to the impacts of sea level rise. However coordinated adaptation efforts between federal, state and local governments can reduce risks. Areas such as Gulf Coast states lag in state-level adaptation policies, causing local governments to shoulder the financial burden of sea level rise, and straining their credit quality. Federal government leadership and increased funding is key in supporting adaptation measures that mitigate the impacts of sea level risks in coastal areas.

Moody’s subscribers can read the full report here.

—————–

To learn more about Four Twenty Seven’s climate risk data, check out our solutions for investors, banks and corporations or read our analysis on the impacts of sea level rise on real estate.

 

Newsletter: Wildfires, Storms and Their Impacts on Credit Risk

Four Twenty Seven's monthly newsletter highlights recent developments in climate risk and resilience. This month we discuss the costs of climate hazards, share updates on Moody's ESG and highlight recent developments in climate risk regulation.

In Focus: The Current Reality of the
Climate Crisis

Devastating Human & Economic Costs of Wildfires

As cities on the West Coast take turns with the worst air quality in the world, and cope with evacuations and loss of life and property from record-breaking wildfires, there is increasing evidence about the longer-term implications of these devastating events. After several years of catastrophic fires in California, exacerbated by hot and dry conditions driven by climate change, homes in exposed areas are likely to decline in value, which in turn can increase mortgage default rate, with severe market implications.

Likewise, as the COVID-19 pandemic limits firefighting resources and makes evacuations particularly challenging, new research continues to emerge about the devastating health impacts of wildfire smoke. For example, "Researchers from the University of Tasmania identified 417 extra deaths that occurred during 19 weeks of smoky air, and reported 3,100 more hospital admissions for respiratory and cardiac ailments and 1,300 extra emergency room visits for asthma" during Australia's bushfires last year.

This is not just a current concern in the U.S., but rather wildfire potential is increasing  globally, and regions such as Brazil and Portugal are also enduring fires. Four Twenty Seven's recent analysis on global wildfire potential assesses how conditions will become more conducive to wildfires in regions around the world.
Read Wildfire Analysis

Dire Records Foreshadow Worsening Extremes

As wildfires ravage the west, Hurricane Sally began to hit southeastern Mississippi and the western Florida Panhandle on Tuesday. The slow-moving storm is expected to continue to drop rain and lead to heavy wind as it moves to shore on Wednesday. This is the 18th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season and the earliest S-named storm on record. Several more hurricanes have already formed in the Atlantic and these back-to-back storms present significant challenges; diminishing the window for search and rescue, increasing the duration of flooding and power outages and exacerbating COVID-19 challenges. Sea level rise driven by climate change worsens storm surge risk during hurricanes and warmer oceans can fuel stronger storms.

This comes as this year's first seven months were the second hottest on record and in the Northern Hemisphere July was the hottest on record, beating the previous record set just last year. This is increasingly evident in the Arctic, where satellite imagery shows that the region's largest remaining ice shelf lost a 110 square km portion and where Bering Sea ice was at a record low during 2018 and 2019. This affects ecosystems and Indigenous communities and contributes to feedback loops of warming in the region when reflective ice is replaced by dark water. Meanwhile, in Antarctica two glaciers that are already contributing to around 5% of global sea level rise were recently found to be less stable than previously understood.

Global Ports Exposed to Floods, Sea Level Rise

Sea ports handle 80% of global goods, so disruptions have significant wide-reaching consequences. This recent Economist article leverages Four Twenty Seven's data to explore risk exposure of about 340 of the world's largest ports. The analysis found that 55% of global trade goes through ports that are highly exposed to at least one hazard, such as floods, sea level rise, storms and wildfires and that 8% of trade passes through ports highly exposed to at least three hazards. This points to a need for risk assessment and resilience investment at ports, which requires capacity-building for port managers and an increase in adaptation finance.
Four Twenty Seven at Moody's:
Integration in Research and Ratings

Moody's Launches Comprehensive ESG Solutions Group

This week Moody’s Corporation announced the formation of an Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Solutions Group to serve the growing global demand for ESG insights. The group leverages Moody’s data and expertise across ESG, climate risk, and sustainable finance, and aligns with Moody's Investors Service and Moody's Analytics to deliver a comprehensive, integrated suite of ESG customer solutions.

The ESG Solutions Group includes Four Twenty Seven and Vigeo Eiris, a global pioneer in ESG assessments, data and tools, and sustainable finance. Together, Moody's and its affiliates develop tools and analytics that identify, quantify and report on the impact of ESG and climate-related risks and opportunities. ESG and climate risk considerations are already integrated into credit ratings and research offered by Moody’s Investors Service (see below), and will be integrated into a range of Moody’s Analytics risk management solutions, research, data and analytics platforms, including stress testing solutions and climate-adjusted credit risk analytics for corporates, sovereigns and real estate.

Moody's Investors Service Announces Inclusion of Four Twenty Seven's Climate Risk Data in US CMBS and CRE CLOs

Reflecting the growing materiality of climate events for real estate, Moody's Investors Service now considers climate risk data and analytics from Four Twenty Seven in its research and ratings process for US commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) and commercial real estate collateralized loan obligations (CRE CLOs). Presale reports include physical climate risk tables for the properties backing the loans in CMBS and CRE CLO transactions, including their forward-looking risk to floods, heat stress, hurricanes & typhoons, sea level rise, water stress and wildfires. 

Moody’s: U.S. Nuclear Operators Exposed to Physical Climate Risks

Physical climate hazards affect the operations and costs of nuclear plants due to their water needs and reliance on critical equipment. In its report, Nuclear Operators Face Growing Climate Risk but Resiliency Investments Mitigate Impact, Moody’s Investors Service leverages Four Twenty Seven’s physical climate risk data to explore the exposure of nuclear power plants to climate hazards, including heat stress, water stress, flooding and hurricanes. The analysis found that nuclear plant operators face physical and economic risks due to extreme events driven by climate change, and operators and owners will have to consider these risks and explore increased resilience options, as they approach license expiration and renewal processes between 2030 and 2050.
Developments in Climate Risk
Regulation & Assessment

U.S. CFTC Releases Report on Climate Risk

Last week the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission released a report highlighting the economic risks of climate change and emphasizing the need for the financial system to address these risks. The first such report to be issued by a U.S. government entity, it covers both physical and transition climate risks and calls for a nationwide price on carbon. However, this comes two weeks after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission released updated disclosure requirements that don't include climate change.

UK Releases Consultation on Mandating TCFD Disclosure

The UK's Department for Work and Pensions released a public consultation on a proposal to mandate climate risk disclosure. The policy would require pension funds of at least £5 billion to assess and disclosure their climate risks and opportunities under several scenarios by October 2021 and would also apply to funds of at least £1 billion in 2022. Respond by October 7th.
Meanwhile, yesterday, New Zealand announced that it would mandate TCFD disclosure on a comply or explain basis by 2023.

Charting a New Climate: UNEP FI TCFD Banking Pilot Phase II Report

Last week the UNEP Finance Initiative released a report outlining phase II of its pilot project working with global banks to understand their approaches to assessing physical climate risks and opportunities and the tools and data that could best support these processes. It discusses climate risk vulnerability by sector, includes an exploration between the connection between loan performance and climate risk exposure and reviews several data providers, including Four Twenty Seven and our ongoing collaborations with Moody's Analytics.
Moody's ESG Summit: Climate Scenarios

Join Us During Climate Week NYC for a Half Day on Climate Risk

Hear from industry leaders on the latest market developments in climate change and discover new approaches to leveraging climate data and financial indicators to understand how physical and transition risks translate into credit risks. The session will include keynote presentations by Nick Anderson of IASM, Jane Ambachtsheer of BNP Paribas Asset Management and Sean Kidney of the Climate Bonds Initiative. The latter session will feature experts from Moody's, Four Twenty Seven and Vigeo Eiris, discussing new approaches to modeling climate risk and its financial impacts.

This event is hosted by Moody's in partnership with the Climate Bonds Initiative during Climate Week New York City. The session is on September 24th beginning at 9:15am EST.
Register for Free

Moody's Analytics' Launches ESG Risk Assessment Courses

Moody's Analytics' upcoming courses on ESG risk assessment include introductions to climate, environmental and social risks and their connection to credit analysis and portfolio management. These virtual, instructor-led courses will include case studies and discussions on how to assess and manage ESG risks. Topics include ESG KPIs, the Sustainable Development Goals, CO2 scope, climate risk analysis, proxy voting, climate risk disclosure and upcoming regulation.

Choose from three upcoming sessions, with options for time zones in the U.S., Europe and the Asia-Pacific regions and review the full course outline.
Inside the Office at Four Twenty Seven

Director, Sales - Jackie Willis

Four Twenty Seven welcomes Jackie Willis as Director, Sales in New York. Jackie leads Four Twenty Seven’s business development and growth strategy in the eastern United States. Jackie has spent the majority of her career in analytical and portfolio management roles in corporate and municipal finance, in the securities and banking industries at institutions such as Prudential Capital Management, TIAA-CREF, TD and Wachovia (now Wells Fargo). Most recently, she served as a Solution Specialist covering the commercial and industrial (C&I) and commercial real estate (CRE) credit risk models for Moody’s Analytics.

Join the team! 

Find open positions on our Careers page and visit Vigeo Eiris' and Moody's Careers pages for more opportunities in climate change and ESG.
Upcoming Events

Join the team online at these upcoming events and check our Events page for updates, including links to events not yet available:

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Copyright © 2020 Four Twenty Seven, All rights reserved.
Four Twenty Seven sends a newsletter focused on bringing climate intelligence into economic and financial decision-making for investors, corporations and governments. Fill in the form below to join our mailing list. As data controller, we collect your email address with your consent in order to send you our newsletter. Four Twenty Seven will never share your mailing information with anyone and you may unsubscribe at any moment. Please read our Terms and Conditions.
 

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Newsletter: How will climate change worsen wildfire exposure?

Four Twenty Seven's monthly newsletter highlights recent developments in climate risk and resilience. This month we share new data on wildfire potential, highlight the connection between racial justice and climate change and feature new reports on climate risk.

In Focus: Projecting Future Wildfire Potential

Four Twenty Seven Analysis - Days of High Wildfire Potential will Increase by Up to Three Months in Most Exposed Regions
 

Areas ranging from California and Australia to the Amazon, Spain and the Arctic have experienced unprecedented loss of life and damage from wildfires in the past several years. Climate change is already making wildfires more severe and Four Twenty Seven's latest analysis finds that it will lead to more days with high wildfire potential in areas already prone to wildfires, and create hotter and drier conditions that will expose entirely new areas. 

This analysis leverages Four Twenty Seven's new dataset, which provides the only known globally comparable assessment of future wildfire potential in a changing climate at a scale of approximately 25 kilometers by 25 kilometers. The data is built upon the two key factors of soil moisture deficit and wildfire fuel type and incorporates data from global climate models to provide a view of changing conditions by 2030-2040, capturing both absolute and relative change in frequency and severity. This new data is now available on-demand for our clients via Four Twenty Seven’s Physical Climate Risk Application for real assets.

Register for our webinar on August 20th at 8am PST / 11am ET / 16:00 BST to learn more about the methodology and findings.
Read the Report
Climate Change and Racial Justice

Exploring Environmental Justice and the Need for Equitable Adaptation

The relationship between race and climate change is too often ignored. The recent protests for racial justice and police reform call attention to the fact that racism is still deeply embedded in our institutions and public policies. In the United States, people of color are disproportionately affected by polluting industries and climate change, while at the same time often lacking the resources to prepare and being excluded from decision-making on adaptation investment.

As part of our commitment to help raise awareness of the nexus between racial justice and climate change, Four Twenty Seven published a two-part blog series on the nexus of racial justice and climate change. The first blog focuses on exposure, providing a brief overview of environmental injustice issues in the U.S., and shedding light on the disproportionate impacts of climate change on Black communities and people of color. One solution is to ensure that climate adaptation intentionally considers this disproportionate exposure, factoring racial equity into decision-making. The second blog on adaptation outlines the need to integrate equity into adaptation and highlights emerging best practices.

Read our analyses:

Webinar Recording

Last week Four Twenty Seven and Moody's hosted a webinar exploring these topics. Four Twenty Seven's Yoon Kim discussed disproportionate exposure of people of color to climate hazards, Moody's Investors Services' Ram Sri-Saravanapavaan presented on the implications of inequality on sovereign credit, Tulane's Jesse Keenan discussed climate justice in urban development and UC Irvine's Michael Méndez presented on racial equity in climate policy. Register here to watch the recording

Central Banks on Climate Risk

The Bank of England's Climate Risk Disclosure

Last month the Bank of England published its first TCFD-aligned climate risk disclosure, assessing the exposure of its own portfolios to physical and transition risks. The Bank underscores the importance of addressing climate change as a financial risk and states the importance of assessing and disclosing risks even as the best available resources continue to evolve. The risk assessment leverages Four Twenty Seven and Moody's Analytics analysis on physical risk exposure. Meanwhile, the Bank of England's Climate Financial Risk Forum published a guide for financial stakeholders to assess, manage and disclose climate risk.

Guide to Climate Scenario Analysis for Central Banks and Supervisors

The Network for Greening the Financial System released a four step approach for central banks and supervisors to implement scenario analysis for climate risk, accompanied by a detailed set of climate scenarios. The steps include identifying the scope of the assessment; identifying scenarios; assessing the best way to connect climate risk exposure to economic and financial impacts; and explaining the results and methodology.

Indebted to Nature - Exploring Biodiversity Risks for the Dutch Financial Sector

Last month the De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB) and PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency released this report outlining the ways in which biodiversity loss poses economic and financial risk and the role the financial sector plays in biodiversity loss. The report also assesses the Dutch financial sector's exposure to biodiversity risk leveraging Four Twenty Seven's database. The separate report, Methods for analyses in Indebted to nature, explains the full approach. 
Public Consultations on Climate Risk

EIOPA Discussion Paper on Methodological Principles of Insurance Stress Testing

The European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority's (EIOPA) recent discussion paper outlines an approach to climate risk stress testing for transition and physical risks, citing Four Twenty Seven's methodology. EIOPA has asked for feedback by October 2.

European Central Bank Consultation on Climate Risk Disclosure Guidance

The European Central Bank (ECB) published guidance asking banks to disclose their climate-related risks and integrate these risks into their risk management processes. Compliance will be expected when the guidelines are finalized at the end of the year. The ECB has solicited feedback through a public consultation open until September 25.
Four Twenty Seven Wins
WatersTechnology Asia Award

Four Twenty Seven Recognized as Best Alternative Data Provider

The WatersTechnology Asia Award 2020 for Best Alternative Data Provider recognizes Four Twenty Seven’s innovation, accuracy and high standard in curating and deploying data for financial stakeholders.
This regional award showcases vendors and end users with high quality solutions with global relevance that are also especially pertinent to Asia markets.This came as financial regulators across the Asia-Pacific region have increasingly contributed to the global call for increased measurement and disclosure of climate risks in investment portfolios, encouraging financial actors to step up. With an office in Tokyo and a partnership with Sydney based DB Funds Advisory, Four Twenty Seven is excited to bring our award-winning climate risk data to more financial stakeholders in these markets. 

Four Twenty Seven Recognized in Exeleon Magazine's Top Companies

Business and Tech Magazine Exeleon, includes Four Twenty Seven in its listing of the top 100 companies to watch in 2020. "While the past several years have seen an increase in awareness of the material risks of climate change, Four Twenty Seven was on the leading edge of analyzing many complex scientific datasets and translating them for financial and business stakeholders." Exeleon writes. "Emilie and her team publish deeply data-driven and location-specific analysis, based on the best available climate data and the specific need of financial stakeholders."
Four Twenty Seven Partners with Nova Group

Nova's Climate Resilience Assessment Leverages Four Twenty Seven's Physical Risk Data

Four Twenty Seven is pleased to announce a partnership with Nova Group, GBC, a leading environmental and engineering due diligence advisory firm. Four Twenty Seven's asset-level physical climate
risk data now informs Nova’s new Climate Resilience Assessment, providing resilience recommendations based on the risks and characteristics of the specific asset of interest.
Inside the Office at Four Twenty Seven

Associate Director, Research - Stephanie Auer

Four Twenty Seven welcomes Stephanie as Associate Director, Research. Stephanie develops and incorporates metrics of novel climate indices into Four Twenty Seven’s products and services. Stephanie’s background is in data science and conservation ecology. She has worked for NatureServe and the California Academy of Sciences in ecological forecasting, data visualization and mapping, with a focus on analysis and communication for climate change adaptation planning.

Join the team! Four Twenty Seven is Hiring

There are several opportunities to join Four Twenty Seven's dynamic team. See the open position below and visit our Careers page and Moody's Careers page for more information.
  • IAM Modeler with expertise in Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) and in translating IAM outputs for a wide range of stakeholders
Upcoming Events

Join the team online at these upcoming events and check our Events page for updates:

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Copyright © 2020 Four Twenty Seven, All rights reserved.
Four Twenty Seven sends a newsletter focused on bringing climate intelligence into economic and financial decision-making for investors, corporations and governments. Fill in the form below to join our mailing list. As data controller, we collect your email address with your consent in order to send you our newsletter. Four Twenty Seven will never share your mailing information with anyone and you may unsubscribe at any moment. Please read our Terms and Conditions.
 

Our mailing address is:
Four Twenty Seven
2000 Hearst Ave
Ste 304
Berkeley, CA 94709

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Climate Change and Wildfires: Projecting Future Wildfire Potential

August 6, 2020 – Four Twenty Seven Report. Wildfires are complex physical phenomena that come at extraordinary costs to human and natural systems. Climate change is already making wildfires more severe and this new research finds that it will lead to more days with high wildfire potential in areas already prone to wildfires, and create hotter and drier conditions that will expose entirely new areas. Understanding which areas are exposed to changing wildfire conditions will help leaders in government, finance and public health to mitigate catastrophic loss. This report explores Four Twenty Seven’s new methodology for assessing global wildfire potential, identifying regional trends and hot spots.

Read the full report.

The 2019-2020 Australian bushfires raged for seven months, killed more than 30 people, hospitalized thousands more,[1] and burned more than 10 million hectares of land.[2] While the full financial and ecological impact is still unknown, costs from those fires are likely to exceed $4.4 billion.[3] Meanwhile, ten of the largest wildfires in Arizona’s history occurred in the last eight years and nine of California’s largest wildfires occurred in just the last seven years.[4]

Beyond direct losses and disruption from damage to buildings and infrastructure, air pollution from wildfires has led to healthcare costs in excess of $100 billion in losses per year in the United States.[5] Leaders in government, finance, and public health need to understand how and where climate change will further heighten wildfire potential because of the serious threat wildfires pose to societies, economies, and natural systems.

This new report, Climate Change and Wildfires: Projecting Future Wildfire Potential, outlines Four Twenty Seven’s approach to quantifying global wildfire potential, capturing both absolute and relative changes in frequency and severity by 2030-2040.  Wildfire potential refers to meteorological conditions and vegetative fuel sources that are conducive to wildfires. Using a proprietary methodology submitted for peer review, our analytics link climate drivers such as changing temperature and precipitation patterns with the availability of vegetative fuels to assess wildfire potential in the future.

The analysis also explores key regions exposed to increasing wildfire potential and discusses the implications for financial stakeholders and communities. Our analytics affirm common understanding about locations exposed to wildfire, providing an indication of the increasing severity and frequency of wildfires in areas already prone to these events. The report also offers insight into areas that may have less obvious exposure, but are likely to have higher wildfire potential over time. Preparing for wildfires is a local, and often regional effort. The relatively high spatial granularity of our results (~25 kilometers) enables decision-makers to evaluate wildfire potential at a useful scale.

Key Findings:

  • Four Twenty Seven developed a first-of-its-kind global dataset projecting changes to wildfire potential under a changing climate, at a granularity of about 25 x 25 kilometers.
  • In areas already exposed to wildfires, by 2030-2040 climate change will prolong wildfire seasons, adding up to three months of days with high wildfire potential in Western Australia, over two months in regions of northern California and a month in European countries including Spain, Portugal and Greece.
  • New wildfire risks will emerge in historically wet and cool regions, such as Siberia, which is projected to have 20 more days of high wildfire potential in 2030-2040.
  • Globally, western portions of the Amazon and Southeast Asia will experience the largest relative increases in wildfire severity, further threatening crucial biodiversity hotspots and carbon sinks.
  • Confronting this new risk will take unprecedented resources and new approaches in regions not familiar with wildfires and worsening wildfire seasons will continue to threaten already limited resources in currently exposed areas.

Read the full report.

Download the press release.

[1] Cohen, Li, “Australian bushfire smoke killed more people than the fires did, study says,” CBS News, March 20, 2020, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/australia-fires-bushfire-smoke-killed-more-people-than-the-fires-did-study-says/.

[2] Rodway, Nick, “‘We are a ghost town’: Counting the cost of Australia’s bushfires,” Aljazeera, January 27, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/ajimpact/ghost-town-counting-cost-australias-bushfires-200127035021168.html.

[3] Ben Butler, “Economic Impact of Australia’s Bushfires Set to Exceed $4.4bn Cost of Black Saturday,” The Guardian, January 7, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jan/08/economic-impact-of-australias-bushfires-set-to-exceed-44bn-cost-of-black-saturday.

[4] Cappucci, Matthew and Freedman, Andrew, “Arizona wildfires grow as flames flicker throughout Desert Southwest and California,” The Washington Post, June 22, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2020/06/22/arizona-wildfires-grow-flames-flicker-throughout-desert-southwest-california/

[5] Fann N., Alman B., Broome R. A., Morgan G. G., Johnston F. H., Pouliot G., & Rappold A. G., “The health impacts and economic value of wildland fire episodes in the U.S.: 2008-2012,” The Science of the Total Environment, 2018.

Racial Justice and Climate Change: Adaptation

Introduction

Black communities and other people of color are disproportionately exposed to the impacts of climate change and also tend to have fewer financial and healthcare resources to prepare for and respond to these impacts. Adapting to climate change without an explicit focus on racial justice can further reinforce inequalities; hence, building systemic resilience to climate change must include investment in communities that are on the frontlines of climate impacts, including Black communities.

For the Local and Regional Government Alliance on Race & Equity, “racial equity means that race can’t be used to predict success, and we have successful systems and structure that work for all.” Equity means that different groups are provided with the resources they need to address their distinct challenges, acknowledging that these will not necessarily be equal. Thus, adaptation must include equity in every step of the process, from risk assessment and decision-making to planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Key elements of equitable adaptation include conducting vulnerability assessments that account for place-based vulnerabilities, integrating consideration of social and cultural value within budgeting decisions, involving frontline communities in the decision-making from the start, and investing in the resources and policies these communities need to thrive. While by no means exhaustive, this article highlights the importance of racial equity for several phases in the climate adaptation process and shares some emerging best practices.

Risk and Vulnerability Assessment

The first step in the climate adaptation process is identifying risk exposure and vulnerability. Climate risk is not based solely on exposure to climate hazards like floods and extreme heat, but also on vulnerability, driven by a community’s specific characteristics. Vulnerability is shaped by the sensitivity of a given population and its adaptive capacity. Thus, the impact of a climate hazard, such as a storm or drought, will depend upon the resources and sensitivities of exposed communities.

Adaptive capacity is multifaceted, including both tangible resources such as access to transportation, air conditioning and green spaces and intangible elements such as social capital. Effective risk and vulnerability assessments explore these characteristics of a community, to identify how risks may manifest, and serve as the foundation for determining what adaptation measures are needed. For example, members of low-income communities with low vehicle ownership and greater dependence on public transportation will be less likely to be able to evacuate during an extreme event, experience longer-term impacts if subway stations are flooded or damaged, and be more likely to face economic hardship if they cannot get to work or lose their jobs. For extreme heat, communities with more urban green spaces, widespread access to air conditioning, or access to public cooling centers such as libraries, are likely to be less vulnerable than communities in dense urban centers with little greenery and/or those without access to safe public cooling centers.

Social capital is built through regular interaction, shared values or culture, and human connections, which build trust and lead individuals to look out for one another. In some cases, high social capital has increased communities’ resilience, helping to counterbalance a lack of tangible resources. For example, during Chicago’s deadly 1995 heat wave, while Black communities were hit hardest, the Black community of Auburn Gresham stood out with lower death rates than Chicago’s most affluent neighborhoods. The distinguishing factor was the way Auburn Gresham’s infrastructure was conducive to building social capital—its sidewalks and restaurants promoted opportunities to get to know each other and interact. Assessing the social elements of adaptive capacity in climate vulnerability assessments is critical to understanding a community’s needs and ensuring that adaptation efforts build on and leverage existing social capital.

Sensitivity refers to the characteristics of individuals and communities that affect how a climate hazard may impact them. For example, Black communities often have high sensitivity to climate hazards, due to preexisting health conditions, which are driven by disproportionate exposure to environmental toxins. Likewise, agricultural communities are particularly sensitive to water stress due to the water-intensive nature of agricultural activities, with those that lack financial resources and political influence likely to experience the greatest impacts. Engaging with a community to assess its exposure to physical climate hazards, the resources it has to respond, and its residents’ particular sensitivities lays the groundwork for equitable adaptation.

Budgeting

A climate risk assessment centered on concerns for social equity can inform an equitable planning and budgeting process. Traditional cost benefit analysis can undervalue the needs of low-income communities or communities of color, due to its emphasis on ensuring adaptation costs do not exceed  property values. While this approach is often used to determine the best locations for adaptation investment, it can perpetuate inequitable distribution of impacts and investment. For example, in Cedar Rapids, IA, a flood mitigation study found that a region on the Cedar River’s West Bank did not qualify for investments in flood barriers due to relatively low property values. However, hundreds of these homes were destroyed by flooding in 2008. Policy makers can integrate a consideration for equity and improve the longer-term return on investment by replacing the current cost benefit analysis to account for vulnerability and longer-term community impacts and savings, rather than only up-front economic impacts.

The distribution of disaster recovery funds will dictate the resources available for community rebuilding and, in many instances, Black communities do not receive the funds they need. For example, after Hurricane Harvey, Taylor Landing, TX received $1.3 million in recovery funds—about $60,000 per affected resident. Taylor Landing is a town of 228, which had a median household income of about $69,000 in 2017 and, according to the Census, had no Black residents. Meanwhile, nearby Port Arthur, a town of 54,000 residents, with a median household income of $32,000 and a population that was over a third Black, received $4.1 million from the same funding—about $84 per affected resident. This inequitable distribution of funds is due to an unrepresentative regional fund allocation system. The members of the council that distributes the funds disproportionately represent the region’s smaller, primarily white towns, rather than the region’s largest cities, including Port Arthur. Moreover, the Small Business Administration approves disaster loan applications from primarily white communities at almost twice the rate that it does for applications from majority Black communities. This discrepancy is largely because disaster loan applications are based on credit scores, which are typically lower for minority populations and are more likely to remain low if these communities lack the resources to recover. This exemplifies the need for Black communities most exposed to climate impacts to be represented in decisions about resource allocation to support climate resilience and for reconsidering financing structures.

Acknowledging that many Black communities face compounding challenges due to a historic lack of investment in their communities, investing in these communities, and reducing the loss and costs that come with repeated impacts are important steps in ending this cycle. This calls for a restructuring of federal disaster response funding processes, moving beyond rigid frameworks based on home value and including advisory committees composed of members of the frontline communities. Financial institutions also have an opportunity to increase the flow of financial capital to Black communities. Strategies can include building advisory offerings meant to foster financial literacy and savings, shifting to key performance indicators focused on client financial health rather than promoting indebtedness and creating new models to reach those typically excluded. For example, accepting proof of current employment instead of requiring credit history to allow individuals to begin building credit would help those typically unable to access capital begin to obtain financing. Building equity in budgeting and promoting equitable lending practices would play a role in breaking the cycle of disenfranchisement.

Integrating Equity into Adaptation

Maladaptation and the Need for Change

There are many different types of adaptation measures, including structural measures, land-use policies and capacity-building. The impacts and efficacy of any adaptation measure is highly context-dependent. One common point of failure is the exclusion of certain stakeholders or when planners, consultants, and policy-makers make their own judgements of what is important and may ignore important characteristics of the community. In this case, there is often high potential for maladaptation, or unintended consequences that end up perpetuating existing social inequities by increasing the exposure of those who are already on the frontline.

For example, levees and other flood barriers often worsen downstream flooding as they force the water through a narrower channel, so there is more volume to inundate surrounding areas that do not have flood protection. The cost benefit calculations discussed above drive these engineering decisions and lead to protection for more affluent communities while nearby low-income towns endure the consequences. Likewise, while increasing flood insurance premiums may help provide incentives to move from flood-prone areas, for those who cannot afford to leave it also leads to increased affordability challenges and potentially the decision to forgo flood insurance, compounding challenges when flooding does occur.

As governments begin to invest in adaptation measures, there is a risk of climate gentrification, or the pricing out of Black residents and low-income communities. For example, in Norfolk, VA, part of the sea level rise strategy is to demolish several public housing units, replacing them with mixed-income buildings and transforming the rest of this exposed area into a green space that can absorb floodwater. The city provides some assistance and vouchers for relocation, but the burden largely falls on the low-income residents. In some cases, their only options are to live farther away from the city center, paying more money for gas to commute to work and making the daily efforts of providing for their families even more challenging.

Many factors influence the efficacy of adaptation outcomes, including whether or not the adaptation is responsive to the community’s needs. For example, if a new cooling center is built, but residents lack transportation or feel uncomfortable meeting in public spaces with few amenities, the cooling center will do little good. Likewise, evacuating ahead of hurricanes saves lives and warning systems can help prompt more thorough evacuations. However, residents that are not informed about the importance of evacuations or those who do not trust public authorities are unlikely to heed evacuation warnings, particularly if evacuations are challenging due to resource and transportation constraints. The long history of racism and exclusionary government programs have weakened trust of public authorities in some communities. Creating adaptation strategies that are truly equitable and effective requires understanding the community’s needs and tailoring a climate response that can be fully embraced by the community at risk.

Changing Policies

Policy makers must start exploring alternatives to adaptation guidelines that perpetuate inequity, such as the Army Corps of Engineers’ sole use of property value metrics when assessing which communities get flood protection, or waterfront adaptation that leads to climate gentrification. Some cities including those in the Bay Area, Atlanta and Chicago have started developing Land Trusts to ensure that affordable housing is available in the long-term, even as areas increase in value. The Land Trusts permanently own the land, but allow low-income families to enter into long-term leases and to build equity on the homes. When the time comes to move, the family sells to another qualifying low-income family and a resale formula is used to determine the amount, providing profit for the family that is selling while keeping the home affordable for other low-income families. This is one example of ways that innovative policies can foster equity alongside climate adaptation.

Engagement and Representation

Community engagement should be integrated into all steps of the adaptation process. This engagement can be broken down into three forms: outreach, consultation and deliberation. Outreach is the one-way, information sharing that comes from informing the community about climate risks or adaptation efforts, and consultation involves soliciting community feedback on draft plans and decisions. While this is important, it is essential that community engagement doesn’t just occur in the middle or end of the process, but rather is a central component from the beginning. Having community members present during the decision-making process will help identify what the community really needs. Equitable representation of community members, in terms of demographics and socioeconomic status is essential.

Another important outcome of intentional community engagement is transparent, two-way trust-building. Understanding the language, scientific literacy and culture of a community helps to build trust, and ultimately, to reduce vulnerability as a result of more successful and inclusive adaptation efforts.

Building Upon Existing Capacity

As discussed above, social capital is an important component of resilience and shared culture is one element of social capital. It is often the case that strong bonds exist in communities of color based on shared culture. While many Black communities and other communities of color lack financial capital and, thus, often do not have financial resources to build resilience, their social capital provides a solid foundation from which to build equitable, cohesive adaptation plans. Funneling resources through existing networks such as local religious groups and community cultural centers helps bolster this social capital while also allowing the organizations most informed regarding a community’s needs and trusted by its population to lead adaptation.

One example of adaptation rooted in community engagement and trust building is Baltimore’s Make a Plan, Build a Kit, Help Each Other program centered around residents sharing their stories and discussing the impacts of climate change, while working with local experts to develop preparedness plans. It is important to meet communities where they are, framing adaptation efforts around ensuring that communities have the social resources needed to prepare for climate hazards and acknowledging the wealth of insight and experience the community has to provide.

Conclusion

Equitable climate adaptation involves identifying areas that are on the frontlines of climate change and what they need to prepare for climate impacts. It also involves considering the implications of policy and ensuring that a disproportionate burden is not placed on frontline communities. Investing in equitable adaptation is one essential tool for addressing the disproportionate impacts of climate change on Black communities and other people of color. For too long, planning decisions have excluded communities of color, with long-term negative impacts. While more recent adaption efforts have sought to end this vicious cycle by creating a more inclusive environment for planning, communities of color still lack the political clout and funding to move projects forward. Opportunities to build partnerships with (or within) these communities, identify new funding and development models that directly address decades of exclusion, and reduce repeated loss by helping those most exposed confront climate change, must be embraced and advanced.