Climate risk disclosure is essential to building market transparency and a resilient financial system. France led the way in mandating climate risk disclosure in 2015 and continues to play a key role in catalyzing the financial sector’s understanding and disclosure of climate risk. As part of its seven part series highlighting approaches to green finance in “pioneering countries,” Germanwatch published a piece by Four Twenty Seven on France’s role in promoting climate risk disclosure. Read the article below, or find the German version here.
Climate Risk Disclosure: France Paves the Way
Already in 2015, France adopted a law on climate risk disclosure paving the way for protecting economic systems from the consequences of climate change. But others need to follow.
Financial institutions and governments around the world are acknowledging the importance of climate change on the sustainable finance agenda. The World Economic Forum identified climate change-related risks as the top three most likely global risks for 2019, followed by data fraud and cyber attacks, and as four out of the top five most impactful risks, after weapons of mass destruction. This underscores the importance of building economies resilient to climate change impacts.
In 2015, just before the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) and the Paris Agreement, France became the first country to pass a law requiring publicly listed companies, institutional investors and asset managers to report their climate-related risks, including both transition risks (associated with the transition to a low carbon economy) and physical risks (associated with extreme weather events or chronic stresses affecting businesses and economic assets).
While today’s conversations about the Paris Agreement and sustainable finance require a transition to a low carbon economy, governments have realized that they also require discussion of the economic risks of physical climate impacts that will occur whether or not Paris climate targets are met. Reaching the adaptation goals of the Paris Agreement requires catalyzing investment in climate resilience. Increasing transparency on companies’ and investors’ exposure to physical climate risk is an essential first step towards identifying opportunities to invest in adaptation and build resilience.
The Approach: Comply or Explain
The French Energy Transition Law and its Art. 173 laid the regulatory groundwork for integrating climate risk transparency into the national sustainable finance approach. The regulation uses a comply or explain approach, providing flexibility for how firms disclose their risks and allowing firms to opt-out from reporting, with an explanation. This fosters discussions among investors, insurers and businesses to find the most informative and feasible risk analysis and reporting methodology across sectors.
The Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) released its final recommendations for climate-related disclosures in June 2017. These voluntary recommendations provided additional direction on how to disclose climate risks, but still do not provide concrete metrics. French organizations, such as Finance for Tomorrow and I4CE, the Institute for Climate Economics, help to catalyze continued research on this topic and keep climate on the sustainable finance agenda.
International initiatives also help facilitate ongoing thought leadership: for example the report Advancing TCFD Guidance on Physical Climate Risks and Opportunities prepared by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Global Center for Excellence on Climate Adaptation, based on working groups of financial sector experts. While data providers, such as Four Twenty Seven, help to fill data gaps by providing asset-level data on climate risk exposure, there will continue to be ongoing conversations about how best to incorporate this information into actionable disclosures.
Other countries follow the example of France
Art. 173 has helped to center the Paris marketplace in the landscape of green finance. Action on climate risk disclosure continues to increase both within France and internationally. Influential financial actors are beginning to report their own risk exposure, encouraging the market to follow suit. The French Central Bank (Banque de France) for example, released a comprehensive analyses of physical and transition risk in its portfolios in compliance with Art. 173 and TCFD, aiming to set an example for emerging best practices for disclosure. The Dutch Central Bank assessed the exposure of its financial sector to water stress and other environmental risks. Countries such as Spain and Sweden have voiced their support of the TCFD and their consideration of legislation similar to Art. 173, and in July 2018 the Italian insurance supervisor IVASS released a comprehensive reporting requirement for Environmental Social Governance (ESG) risks, including climate change.
In early 2018, the European Commission published an Action Plan: Financing Sustainable Growth, outlining ten actions with timelines by the end of 2019. This led to the development of a Technical Expert Group, which has four workstreams underway: developing a sustainable finance taxonomy, integrating climate change into non-financial reporting requirements, creating a green bond standard and creating carbon indices standards.
Art. 173 mandates an assessment of reporting progress made during the first two years of its application. This review may lead to more explicit guidance on reporting methodologies, potentially expanding the directive to apply to more actors. This, alongside increasing regulatory and investor pressure, will propel the continued improvement of physical climate risk disclosure. As uptake of climate risk and opportunity disclosure increases and is integrated into financial decision-making, France, along with other nations, will make important progress on building more sustainable economies.
To find out more about developments in climate risk disclosure read our newsletters “France’s Central Bank Publishes First TCFD Report” and “TCFD Reporting on the Rise.”
How have the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure’s (TCFD) recommendations changed the landscape of climate risk reporting and where is the market headed? The Climate Change Business Journal interviewed Founder & CEO, Emilie Mazzacurati, about the history of the TCFD, it’s uptake to-date and how the recommendations influence other developments on risk disclosure. Emilie explains her view that “early TCFD reports…are focused on showing good faith efforts more than providing hard data on climate risk exposure.” This is due to the preliminary need to explore datasets on climate risk, familiarize stakeholders with the subject and overcome challenges associated with being among the first to disclose risks.
Ongoing industry efforts to develop best-practices for climate risk reporting will likely lead to more widespread adoption of metrics for disclosure. Such initiatives include France’s Article 173, the European Commission’s Action Plan on Sustainable Finance, and the Network of Central Banks and Supervisors for Greening the Financial System. Emilie says, “The market is in exploratory mode: this is an emerging issue, and the collective understanding of impacts on corporations and financial markets is fast evolving. What is clear, however, is that this is a very material issue, and that is here to stay.”
To learn more about developments on climate risk disclosure download the report Advancing TCFD Guidance on Physical Climate Risks and Opportunities or read our newsletter, TCFD Reporting on the Rise.
The Urban Land Institute, a cross-disciplinary real estate and land use network, and Heitman LLC, a global real estate investment firm, released a report on climate risk and response in the real estate sector. The paper explores the evolving understanding of climate risk in real estate and shares current best practices for measuring and managing risk. It highlights Four Twenty Seven’s asset-level risk screening of Heitman’s real estate portfolio and the Four Twenty Seven and GeoPhy analysis of climate risk exposure in REITs. Read the press release from the Urban Land Institute below, originally published on PR Newswire:
LONDON, Feb. 5, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — A new report from the Urban Land Institute (ULI), a global multidisciplinary real estate organization, and Heitman LLC (Heitman), a global real estate investment management firm, points to the pressing need for greater understanding throughout the industry of the investment risks posed by the impacts of climate change. It also highlights proactive measures by Heitman and other leading firms to stay at the forefront of mitigation strategies and accurately price risk into investment decisions.
Climate Risk and Real Estate Investment Decision-Making explores current methods for assessing and mitigating climate risk in real estate, including physical risks such as catastrophes and transitional risks such as regulatory changes, availability of resources and attractiveness of locations. Both types of risks have financial impacts for real estate, including higher operational costs and declining property values. The report, released today at ULI’s Europe Conference in London, is based on insights from more than 25 investors and investment managers in Europe, North America, and Asia Pacific, as well as existing research.
“Understanding and mitigating climate risk is a complex and evolving challenge for real estate investors,” said ULI Global Chief Executive Officer W. Edward Walter. “Risks such as sea-level rise and heat stress will increasingly highlight the vulnerability not only of individual assets and locations, but of entire metropolitan areas. This report shows that Heitman and other leading ULI members are prioritizing this issue with provocative approaches to better gauge and develop mitigation strategies. Building for resilience, on a portfolio, property and citywide basis, is paramount to staying competitive. Factoring in climate risk is becoming the new normal for our industry.”
“Opportunities are emerging across the real estate industry for investment managers and investors to better assess climate risk and navigate the potential impacts of climate change on assets and portfolios,” said Maury Tognarelli, Heitman Chief Executive Officer. “More accurate, forward-looking data on the risks associated with climate change are becoming available, positioning the industry to incorporate climate risks into how investments are underwritten and portfolios constructed. Ultimately, we hope this report will spur discussion among real estate industry participants with the end-goal of improving the investment outcomes for our clients and constituents.”
The real estate industry as a whole has just begun the development of more advanced strategies to recognize, understand and manage risks, and for the most part presently relies on insurance to cover the majority of the shorter term, financial-oriented risks related to climate change, the report states. However, while insurance has remained generally attainable in risk-prone areas, being insured does not protect investors from a reduction in asset liquidity. That, along with the likelihood of future changes in insurance availability and costs, is prompting a growing number of investors and investment managers to explore new ways to build climate risks into their investment processes, including:
- Mapping physical risk for current portfolios and potential acquisitions;
- Incorporating climate risk into due diligence and other investment decision-making processes;
- Incorporating additional physical adaptation and mitigation measures for assets at risk;
- Exploring a variety of strategies to mitigate risk, including portfolio diversification and investing directly in the mitigation measures for specific assets; and
- Engaging with policy makers on local resilience strategies.
Whether or not their assets have already been directly affected by the impacts of climate change, “investors see climate considerations as a necessary layer of fiduciary responsibility to their stakeholders, as well as an opportunity to identify markets and assets that will benefit from a changing climate,” notes the report. While early adapters have committed resources to gain knowledge and improve awareness of climate risk, in the coming years, methods are likely to become more sophisticated, it adds.
“The industry needs to be able to better measure the value impact so it can base its future decision-making on a quantitative rather than qualitative understanding of the risks and the potential return on investment from investing in mitigation strategies for their assets.”
While awareness of climate risk is growing, none of the report’s interviewees have yet ruled out attractive investment markets solely because of that risk, the report says. Still, interviewees emphasized the need to invest in a “sensible and smart” way in markets where physical risks from climate change are evident.
Climate Risk shows that leading investment managers and institutional investors are at various points in the undertaking of resilience scans of their portfolios. These scans help to identify vulnerabilities and impacts resulting from sea-level rise, flooding, heavy rainfall, water stress, extreme heat, wildfires and hurricanes. This includes short-term considerations such as business disruption for building tenants as well as higher operating and capital costs caused by increased wear and tear on properties.
The report highlights Heitman’s use of emerging technology that combines next-generation climate maps with real estate data to manage climate risk. Providers of this technology use scientific climate models that project long-term, global climate change impacts and clarify the degree of exposure to both extreme weather events and chronic industry-disrupting fluctuations, such as rising seas. The report also shows how Heitman integrated the analysis into its investment decision-making, noting that the company also considers if and how an asset and the community in which it is located has already begun to mitigate climate risks. “The climate risk assessment contributes to a holistic approach (by Heitman) to constructing global property portfolios,” says the report. “If a portfolio is determined to have a higher-than-targeted exposure, it can be rebalanced over time through limiting new acquisitions or exiting existing assets exposed to a certain risk.”
As a whole, the industry needs to understand the pricing impacts of physical climate risks, and how climate change is likely to have a bigger impact on valuation in the future as asset and market liquidity are affected, the report says. It identifies several steps to raise awareness, such as:
- Improve analyses of climate risk in annual and quarterly reports. This helps create awareness among investment managers and investors and helps drive change.
- Use big data to better understand patterns around changes in asset liquidity and value, and weather forecasting.
- Work with the insurance industry to understand data and gain knowledge on how climate change is affecting premiums and coverage.
- Engage with city leaders in vulnerable areas to support city-level commitment to and implementation of physical and transitional risk mitigation strategies.
“An eventual downward repricing of higher-risk assets will be the market’s way of redirecting capital to locations and individual assets where it is expected to be better insulated from these particular risks. This process will be painful for investors who are caught off guard, but those who are prepared have the potential to outperform,” the report concludes.
Climate Risk and Real Estate Investment Decision-Making was prepared through a collaborative effort between Heitman; ULI UK, which serves the institute’s members in the UK; and ULI’s Center for Sustainability and Economic Performance. The center provides leadership and support to real estate and land use professionals to invest in energy-efficient, healthy, resilient, and sustainable buildings and communities.
For more on climate risk in real estate read Four Twenty Seven and GeoPhy’s assessment of asset-level risk exposure in real estate investment trusts (REITs) and find out more about our REITs data product.