Newsletter: The US prioritizes climate change

Four Twenty Seven, an affiliate of Moody's, sends a monthly newsletter highlighting recent developments in climate risk and resilience. This month we discuss the Biden Administration's climate policy, share new climate change records and include recent books on climate risk in the financial sector. 

In Focus: Climate Risk a Priority in the US

First Week Signals Biden Administration's Commitment to Climate Action 

The Biden Administration has named climate changes as one of four top priorities, alongside the COVID-19 pandemic, racial justice and the economic crisis. Beyond rejoining the Paris Agreement, several of Biden's executive orders in his first week in office relate directly to climate, while others have significant implications for the environment. For example, in an executive order on public health and the environmental, federal agencies are mandated to comply with Obama-era regulations prioritizing climate change adaptation and resilience rolled back by Trump. Further, one of his first executive orders stated that regulatory reviews should promote concerns such as public health, environmental stewardship, racial justice and the interests of future generations rather than focusing on a cost-benefit analysis, which typically fails to fully recognize non-economic  benefits. There have been several key climate appointments and climate has emerged as a critical issue across many agencies, so this will remain a space to watch in the coming months.

The US Financial Regulators Begin to Move on Climate

On Monday the Senate approved Janet Yellen for treasury secretary, after she committed last Tuesday that the Treasury would examine the financial risks of climate change and appoint a senior official to lead climate initiatives. Meanwhile, this week the Federal Reserve announced a climate committee with a mission to "assess the implications of climate change for the financial system — including firms, infrastructure and markets in general." The central bank has slowly been increasing its participation in the dialogue on climate risk and this step signals that it may be starting to truly prioritize the issue.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which regulates Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks, issued a Request for Input on climate risk for its regulated entities. The consultation asks about identifying climate risks and about options to integrate climate risk management into the FHFA's regulatory framework. Respond by April 19.
Climate Records Broken Repeatedly
There was a record 50 billion-dollar extreme weather events endured globally in 2020, with a total of $268 billion in total economic losses according to Aon. While the most costly disaster last year was the summer monsoon flooding in China, causing $35 billion in damage, the majority of the damage from extreme weather was in the US.

It's thus fitting that this past year also ties with 2016 for the hottest year on record, even during a La Niña event, which is a phase in the global climate cycle that typically leads to cooler years. The seven years we just experienced are the seven warmest years on record.

Meanwhile, scientists continue to increase our understanding of glacier dynamics and the implications for global sea level rise. A paper published on Monday found that global sea ice, glaciers and ice sheets are melting 57% faster than they were three decades ago.
Physical Climate Risk for Sovereigns

Four Twenty Seven Analysis: Over 25% of the world's population in 2040 could be exposed to severe heat stress and 57% of the economy could be exposed to flooding 

More frequent and severe extreme events driven by climate change pose a significant threat to populations and economies around the world and understanding who and what is exposed to climate hazards is essential to pricing this risk and preparing for its impacts. Four Twenty Seven's report, Measuring What Matters: A New Approach to Assessing Sovereign Climate Risk, builds on new analytics assessing sovereign exposure to floods, heat stress, hurricanes and typhoons, sea level rise, wildfires, and water stress based on the only known global dataset matching physical climate risk exposure to locations of population, GDP (Purchasing Power Parity) and agricultural areas within countries. 
Read the Analysis
The Latest Books on Climate Risk & Sustainable Finance 

Values at Work: Sustainable Investing and ESG Reporting,

This recent book highlights the latest research on sustainability topics of growing interest to investors, including climate change, pollution, diversity, governance, economic inequality and others. Four Twenty Seven wrote a chapter titled “Asset-Level Physical Climate Risk Disclosure.” The chapter discusses the need for consistent, comparable metrics for physical risk disclosure, using the pharmaceutical sector as a case study to examine climate risk disclosure versus climate risk exposure. 

Carbon Risk and Green Finance

This new book provides a comprehensive primer on both physical and transition climate risks as financial risks. It covers the emergence of reporting frameworks and mandatory disclosure laws in recent years. The latter portion examines the datasets and approaches that can be leveraged to assess and report climate risk, including emerging topics such as climae stress testing and scenario analysis, citing Four Twenty Seven.
Climate Change, Real Estate and
the Bottom Line

Webinar Recording

How will climate hazards like sea level rise and flooding affect real estate and how is the industry preparing? In this webinar in the Goodwin and MIT Center for Real Estate series, The Path to Tomorrow, Global Head of Climate Solutions at Moody's and Founder & CEO of Four Twenty Seven, Emilie Mazzacurati, joins insurance and finance professionals to discuss climate risk for real estate developers, investors and owners.
What the Recording
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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Measuring What Matters: A New Approach to Assessing Sovereign Climate Risk

December 3, 2020 – Four Twenty Seven Report.  More frequent and severe extreme events driven by climate change pose a significant threat to nations around the world and understanding who and what is exposed to climate hazards is essential to pricing this risk and preparing for its impacts. This new report and underlying analytics assess sovereign exposure to floods, heat stress, hurricanes and typhoons, sea level rise, wildfires, and water stress based on the only known global dataset matching physical climate risk exposure to locations of population, GDP (Purchasing Power Parity) and agricultural areas within countries. 

Read the full report.

Globally, increasingly severe climate conditions impose growing pressure on populations and economies. The implications on economic growth, welfare, production, labor, and productivity are large, with potential material impacts on sovereign credit risk. However, assessing sovereign climate risk presents significant challenges. While most approaches to quantifying future climate risk exposure for sovereigns measure the average exposure over the entire territory of a country, this doesn’t capture whether the populated or economically productive areas are exposed to extremes. Likewise, averages of exposures to several climate hazards can mask extreme exposure to a particular hazard in a certain area of a country.

We’ve mapped the co-occurrence of hazards and exposures, explicitly factoring in the spatial heterogeneity of both climate hazards and people and economic activities across a country. This new report, Measuring What Matters – A New Approach to Assessing Sovereign Climate Risk, provides an analysis of the data. We find that all nations face meaningful risks despite their variation in size and resources. Explore sovereign climate risk in the interactive map below, based on both total and percent of a nation’s population, GDP (PPP) and agricultural areas exposed to climate hazards in 2040.

 

Key Findings:

  • By 2040, we project the number of people exposed to damaging floods will rise from 2.2 billion to 3.6 billion people, or from 28% to 41% of the global population. Roughly $78 trillion, equivalent to about 57% of the world’s current GDP, will be exposed to flooding.
  • Over 25% of the world’s population in 2040 could be in areas where the frequency and severity of hot days far exceeds local historical extremes, with negative implications for human health, labor productivity, and agriculture. In some areas of Latin America, climate change will expose 80-100% of agriculture to increased heat stress in 2040
  • By 2040, we estimate over a third of today’s agricultural area will be subject to high water stress. In Africa, over 125 million people and over 35 million hectares of agriculture will be exposed to increased water stress, threatening regional food security.
  • By 2040, nearly a third of the world’s population may live in areas where the meteorological conditions and vegetative fuel availability would allow for wildfires to spread if ignited.
  • Over half of the population in the most exposed small island developing nations are exposed to either cyclones or coastal flooding amplified by sea level rise. In the United States and China alone, over $10 trillion worth of GDP (PPP) is exposed to hurricanes and typhoons.

Read the full report.

Read the press release.

Contact us to learn more about accessing this unique dataset or explore our other physical climate risk data for banks and investors.

 

*Erratum: In Table 1 of a previous version of this report the “Agriculture Area at High Risk” column was said to be in units of 1 billion hectares. However, it is in units of 100 million hectares. 

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 found that in 2004-2019, an average 37% of delayed flights annually resulted from climate-related extreme weather events. Airports along coastlines or rivers face particular risks as floods can damage crucial structures such as runways and terminals leading to significant costs or rendering the assets unusable. Likewise hurricanes can cause widespread damage including economic impacts on broader regions. Heat stress and wildfire smoke can both present challenges for planes taking off or landing, leading to delayed or canceled flights or adjusted cargo loads.

Airports often undertake long-term capital intensive projects and integrating resilience measures into planning these investments will be critical. Liquidity will also help absorb the effect of disruptive climate-related events.

Moody’s subscribers can read the full report here.

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To learn more about Four Twenty Seven’s climate risk data, check out our solutions for investors, banks and corporations or read our report on.

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.

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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Moody’s Sector In-Depth: REITs can manage climate risk, investments needed to address growing challenges

While real estate investment trusts (REITs) can manage the current physical risks of climate change, increased asset exposure to climate hazards will pose greater challenges. In its sector in-depth, REITs Can Manage Climate Risk, Investments Needed to Address Growing Challenges, Moody’s Investors Service leverages Four Twenty Seven’s climate risk data to assess climate risk for 15 rated US REITs.

REITs are most exposed water stress in regions such as California and the Southwest while heat stress puts strains on operating costs in California, the mid-Atlantic and several Northeast locations. For the REITs assessed in the report, hurricane and sea-level rise risk pose less severe threats than they do in some coastal markets.  pose modest influence in comparison to heat and water stress for most property locations. Floods pose a modest risk to most assessed REITs.

The analysis found that factors such as the power to pass improvement costs to tenants and local government investment in resilience can mitigate these growing risks.  While insurance has traditionally been another risk mitigation technique, these growing changes demand larger capital investments. Asset-level resilience measures can help protect properties from the the impacts of hazards and reduce increased operating costs.

Moody’s subscribers can read the full report here.

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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 real estate climate risk in Europe.

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

Increasing 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 power plants are vulnerable to increasing frequency of extreme weather conditions such as flooding and storm surge, due to their need for water cooling which means many plants are adjacent to large bodies of water. Technology and equipment required for safe plant operation are susceptible to damage and nuclear plants along the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico are particularly exposed to floods from sea level rise.

Clustered in the Midwest and eastern part of the U.S., market-based plants face less risk of hurricanes or sea level rise than regulated/cost-based plants. However, they face increased heat stress and water stress which can reduce plants’ cooling capacity. The credit impact for market-based plants can be more significant than the regulated plants that are more easily able to make-up costs through rate recovery programs.

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.

Moody’s subscribers can read the full report here.

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To learn more about Four Twenty Seven’s climate risk data, check out our solutions for investors, banks and corporations or read our report on Assessing Global Wildfire Potential.

Racial Justice and Climate Change: Exposure

Introduction

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. A long legacy of racist housing policy and weak environmental protections contribute to this disproportionate exposure, coupled with systemic issues related to public health, education and wealth.

As part of our commitment to help raise awareness of the nexus between racial equity and climate change, this article will provide a brief overview of environmental injustice issues in the U.S., as well as highlight the disproportionate impacts of climate change on Black communities and people of color.

Disclaimer: We are aware that the history of environmental justice in the U.S. is deep and complex, and this short piece cannot do justice to the complex web of issues and suffering imposed on minorities. We hope this blog post provides an entry point for identifying organizations and researchers with greater expertise and a long history of commitment to environmental justice.

Housing Discrimination and Environmental Injustice  

The disenfranchisement of Black communities and other people of color in the United States includes discrimination in terms of access to education, public transportation, recreation, employment, healthcare and housing. Environmental racism is just one manifestation of this oppression and is particularly evident in housing and development.

Black communities and other people of color have been relegated to neighborhoods that have greater exposure to environmental pollution and toxicity than primarily white neighborhoods. Housing and lending policies have historically limited options for Black communities and people of color and concentrated these communities in locations with higher exposure to environmental hazards. In the 1930s, federal housing policy actively and intentionally contributed to segregation, subsidizing development for middle to low-income white households and prohibiting people of color from purchasing those homes. Relegated to live only in certain areas, entire minority communities were then “redlined,” labeling home buyers’ mortgages as too risky to insure. “Threat of infiltration of negro[s]” and “Infiltration of: Negroes” were often listed as reasons for giving a community a low grade, and for deeming the community as “hazardous.”

In America, where homeownership is the single most important source of equity- and wealth-building, Black households have historically been shut out of higher-value neighborhoods and have been systematically prevented from benefiting from the upward mobility and financial resources that accompany homeownership. Factors like redlining, disenfranchisement and the operation of toxic facilities in Black neighborhoods means that homes in majority Black neighborhoods are valued at half the price of homes with non-Black residents. Lack of opportunity to build equity through home ownership is a key reason that African American wealth equals just 5% of white wealth in the U.S.

Furthermore, as of 2019 over 30 million Americans live in areas where water infrastructure has violated safety standards. For example, in rural and primarily Black Lowndes County, Alabama, only around 20% of the population has a sewer system—the others have pipes deploying raw sewage into their yards. Navajo Nation residents rely on water contaminated by uranium mining, and infections and cancer are rampant in these communities. Lack of access to safe water leads some residents to drive for hours to obtain safe water, which in turn hampers education and work efforts, further perpetuating inequities. There is a nationwide trend in lack of enforcement and regulation around safety standards for drinking water, and often low-income, Black, Indigenous and other people of color who lack political clout endure the most severe impacts. In 2017 the American Society of Civil Engineers rated the U.S. drinking-water infrastructure as a D, estimating a need for $1 trillion investment in the next 25 years to prevent further erosion of pipes.

After decades of discriminatory housing policies and inequitable development, Black communities are still disproportionately exposed to pollution and environmental toxins, leading to detrimental health impacts which are often compounded by lack of access to suitable healthcare. This disproportionate exposure has been well-documented since the 1980s when a nationwide study by The United Church of Christ Commission on Racial Justice found that race was the strongest determinant of the location of commercial hazardous waste sites. Nationally, “African Americans are 75 percent more likely than Caucasians to live in fence-line communities—those next to commercial facilities whose noise, odor, traffic or emissions directly affect the population.”

Disproportionate Exposure to Climate Impacts and Climate Justice

While climate justice has multiple dimensions, at its core it refers to the understanding that those who are least responsible for climate change suffer its gravest consequences. Globally this manifests in developing countries experiencing the worst impacts of climate change, while their industrialized counterparts bear the responsibility for the carbon emissions responsible for worldwide climate impacts. From an intergenerational perspective, today’s younger generations are inheriting the consequences of older generations’ actions related to climate change, with Greta Thunberg a vocal advocate for generational justice.

Climate justice also manifests through racial inequity, in particular in the U.S., where the impacts of climate change will not be distributed evenly. While Black communities and other people of color bear the greatest health costs of industrial activity and of physical climate hazards, they also bear less responsibility for the greenhouse gas emissions causing the climate crisis. While individuals within these communities can be highly resilient, confronting social and economic disparities daily, these communities also often lack the resources to adequately prepare for and respond to the health impacts of pollution and physical impacts of climate change.

Floods

Flooding in the United States disproportionately affects Black residents, as Black neighborhoods are often in low-lying floodplains, with impermeable surfaces and a lack of effective flood protection infrastructure. In many cases, nearby chemical sites, refineries and other industrial infrastructure are also located in flood zones, multiplying the risks of exposure to toxic chemicals during storms. While many middle-income white households face difficult decisions about whether to permanently leave their home in the floodplain, not everyone has the economic freedom to make such decisions. In many cases, Black residents and other people of color do not have access to the transportation or the savings to evacuate at a moment’s notice, let alone permanently relocate.

Storms

The overexposure of Black neighborhoods to flood risk, alongside the lack of resilience investment in these communities, also leads to disproportionate vulnerability to the impacts of storms. During Hurricane Katrina, Black individuals were among those that were least likely to evacuate, with access to transportation being a key factor. The city’s four largest public housing buildings, primarily occupied by Black residents, were permanently closed after incurring storm damage. Four of the seven zip codes enduring the costliest flood damage due to Hurricane Katrina were at least 75% Black and the community most damaged by Hurricane Harvey was 49% nonwhite. This is a common trend across the nation.

These statistics, stem partially from a history of inequitable funding. In 1965 Hurricane Betsy hit New Orleans, causing the most damage in New Orleans East and the Lower Ninth Ward, which are primarily Black neighborhoods. This catalyzed investment in levees to protect New Orleans from flood waters, but these investments went primarily to predominantly White neighborhoods which were not as damaged and already had some flood protection infrastructure. This distribution of funds foreshadowed the unequal distribution of impacts when Katrina hit decades later.

Sea level rise

Global sea levels have risen by about eight inches over the past century, with the rate of rise increasing recently. In responding to sea level rise, jurisdictions tend to take one of two approaches: invest in adaptation measures to keep the water out, or abandon an area to the rising seas. Studies show that low-income minority neighborhoods are more likely to be abandoned while higher-income predominately white neighborhoods tend more often to be protected. One reason for this is decision-making that relies only on financial indicators. Resilience investments driven by cost benefit analysis focusing only on the property values, rather than looking at social and cultural characteristics of a community, further contribute to the inequitable impact of climate change.

Relatedly, as the risks of sea level rise become more evident there is an increased risk of “blue-lining” – a term used by Tulane Professor Jesse Keenan, to express its connection to redlining. Many Black and low-income populations that did not receive investment in sound sewage and drainage systems due to redlining experience the worst impacts of flooding today. As banks and investors learn about exposure to floods and sea level rise, they are increasingly hesitant to offer funding to these neighborhoods. Yet without investment, communities are unable to improve their infrastructure and build resilience, further reinforcing the cycle of racial injustice.

Research in Miami-Dade County, Florida found a positive relationship between price appreciation and elevation in most study cities. This shift can potentially lead to ‘climate gentrification’—another term coined by Prof. Keenan, as minority populations migrate towards more exposed areas. For example, in Miami’s higher elevation, traditionally minority neighborhoods such as Liberty City and Little Haiti, rising property values are making homes unaffordable for residents, reflecting the new preference for high elevation. This combination of being priced out of higher elevation neighborhoods and property values decreasing in more exposed coastal areas may further contribute to the cycle of disproportionate exposure to sea level rise among Black populations and other minority residents.

Water Stress

According to the World Resources Institute’s data, 20% of the U.S. currently experiences “high” or “extremely high” water stress, and this number is expected to increase significantly by midcentury. Population growth will further threaten drinking water supplies, and the impacts will be uneven. In 2014 the water table in Fairmead, an unincorporated town in California’s Central Valley with majority Black and Latino residents, dried up and the citizens had to rely on donations and emergency relief for drinking water. Many of Fairmead’s residents are farmers, relying on water for their livelihoods as well as for human consumption, and water for irrigation comes from private wells that are only a few hundred feet deep. While these farmers cannot afford to drill deeper wells, nearby corporate farms can afford to drill wells up to 1,000 feet deep and are thus less affected by the dwindling water table. Climate change will exacerbate existing inequities around water access, particularly for Black and Indigenous communities.

Extreme Heat

Extreme heat kills more residents annually in the U.S. than any other climate hazard. Temperatures can vary by as much as 20ºF between neighborhoods due to the urban heat island effect. The hottest neighborhoods tend to be disproportionately covered in concrete and home to low-income and Black residents. Research shows that these urban development trends are connected to the history of racist housing policies. Residents in low-income and Black communities are also less likely than middle-income and white populations to have well-insulated homes, access to consistent air-conditioning or cool, safe public gathering spaces. Meanwhile, the asthma, heart disease and other chronic illnesses precipitated by exposure to air pollution, increases the health risks of extreme heat.

Conclusion

Due to a history of segregation and systematic economic oppression Black communities are consistently relegated to areas most exposed to flooding and extreme heat, while at the same time lacking resilience investment and access to educational, health and transportation resources to effectively prepare for and respond to disasters. Investing in equitable climate change adaptation is one facet of pursuing climate justice. Equitable adaptation requires involving community members in every step of decision-making and reviewing adaptation options based on the exposure and vulnerability of the community in question, as well as the potential for downstream impacts on others. We discuss this subject in our blog on equity as a cornerstone of adaptation.

How Can Asset Owners Manage Climate Risk?

Introduction: Why Climate Risk Matters for Asset Owners

In the world where quarterly corporate reporting makes it feel like financial markets are ruled by short-termism, asset owners stand out in contrast, managing their portfolios with horizons in the decades and even longer. With trillions in assets under management and the long-term well-being of their beneficiaries and other stakeholders as their goal, asset owners’ risk management practices must be robust.  This includes the consideration of factors beyond traditional financial metrics. While their long horizon allows asset owners to withstand short-term volatility, their portfolios may be exposed to higher levels of other risks, including those posed by a changing climate, which is not necessarily accounted for in asset prices.

Additionally, regulatory actions like the EU Action Plan on Sustainable Finance, growing global support of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), and groups like the Network for Greening the Financial System, whose members include 42 central banks and supervisors, are pushing investors of all stripes to take physical climate risks into account, warning of dire systemic consequences if climate risks continue to go unpriced.

With climate risk moving from the fringes of finance to center stage, the challenge is to translate climate models and climate data into actionable intelligence for financial decision-making. Climate models are complex, incorporating information from many disciplines of earth science, and their outputs are unwieldy. However, when transformed into indicators at appropriate scales and timeframes, climate data provides essential forward-looking information for financial decision-makers.

Assessing Exposure to Inform Risk Management

Evaluating an asset’s exposure to physical climate hazards is challenging, yet also an essential first step in managing climate risks. Four Twenty Seven’s Physical Climate Risk Application (Application) allows investors to assess exposure to floods, sea level rise, hurricanes & typhoons, heat stress and water stress at the asset and portfolio levels. Asset owners leverage hazard exposure scores to identify regional and sectoral trends as well as specific hotspots. Flexible viewing options and digestible data provide insight for portfolio risk assessments and due diligence processes. Armed with climate risk data at decision-relevant scales, asset owners can begin to manage their risk.

Climate Data for Portfolio Management

Real estate, infrastructure, agriculture, timber and other real assets have long been an integral component of an asset owner’s portfolio due to their returns and the diversification they offer to the overall fund. However, many real assets are highly vulnerable to physical climate risks. These risks manifest in direct and indirect ways, including increased costs, reduced revenues, and decreased asset value.

Asset owners use Four Twenty Seven’s Application to evaluate forward-looking physical climate risk exposure. For example, the portfolio-specific summary table in Figure 1 provides a snapshot of exposure and serves as the starting point for the analysis of physical climate risks.  In this portfolio, hurricanes & typhoons, earthquakes, heat stress and water stress are the most prevalent hazards.

While asset owners frequently emphasize the hazards they view as most financially material—for instance floods, hurricanes, and sea level rise—heat stress and water stress can also have material financial impacts. For instance, a major heat wave across Europe in the summer of 2019 demonstrated how increasing temperatures can cause business disruptions and raise operating costs. Absent retrofits to address climate risks in European real estate, the total increase in energy bills for commercial buildings could potentially cost $300 billion (£457 billion) by 2050. Water stress, another potentially overlooked risk, can threaten the long-term operations of assets like thermal power plants that rely on large amounts of water for cooling. For example, Moody’s found that 11 major U.S. utilities representing over $31 billion in rate base have extreme risk to water stress, which has already caused some power utilities to retire capital-intensive generation facilities early.

In addition to providing an entry point for further analysis, metrics in the summary table are useful for risk reporting. As reporting requirements develop, outputs from the Physical Climate Risk Application will empower asset owners to effectively describe asset exposure, communicate how risks are being managed, and characterize their portfolios’ overall climate risk and resilience strategies.

Asset owners can also identify exposure hotspots, explore sectoral trends, and dive deeper into the exposure of individual assets. Figure 2 shows the same portfolio ranked by highest flood risk score. Floods can raise costs, cause business disruption, and decrease asset values.

Using the data in Figure 2, asset owners can consider shortening their holding periods for assets with the highest levels of exposure, ensure that they have appropriate insurance coverage, and evaluate if coverage or premium prices may rise in the future. As the climate changes, insurers’ risk tolerances may also reach their limits and they may seek to exit markets. It is thus essential for asset owners to monitor the evolving landscape. Beyond evaluating potential changes to insurance, asset owners can also use this data as an entry point for engagement with a building manager, to better understand the site’s flood history and investigate if the asset has flood defenses.

Institutional investors understand that, over the typical commercial real estate hold period of seven to ten years, the next buyer of their building is likely to be concerned by climate risk as well. The Application equips asset owners with the exposure data they need to make sure their portfolios are resilient to climate risks and continue to provide the returns they need and expect from the asset class.

Climate Data for Due Diligence

Beyond analyzing portfolios of existing holdings, the application’s real-time scoring allows asset owners to quickly incorporate physical climate analysis into their due diligence processes for new acquisitions. In addition to providing easily digestible, high-level screening results, granular climate data allows clients to continue to invest, for example, in valuable coastal markets with known exposure. Figure 3 shows exposure of nine facilities in Tokyo, where the combination of storm surge and sea level rise could cause $1 trillion (100 trillion yen) in damages in a 1-in-100 year storm. Because the sea level rise (and flood) data featured in the Application is at a scale of 90 x 90 meters, investors do not need to eliminate entire markets from their investment strategies. Rather than exiting a profitable market, asset owners can use the Four Twenty Seven Physical Climate Risk Application to selectively invest in assets with lower exposure.

Asset owners often use Four Twenty Seven data to set their own internal thresholds for further due diligence. Using the detailed site information, as shown in Figure 4, as well as the downloadable scorecard, analysts can quickly understand which hazards to investigate further.

Some investors require further due diligence for any assets that receive “High” or “Red Flag” scores. Deal teams may be tasked to investigate asset-specific features that would make it more resilient to specific climate hazards, such as freeboard above base flood elevation, onsite power generators, or water efficiency measures.

Conclusion

Real assets, whose time horizon of returns aligns well with the investment goals of asset owners, are exposed to physical hazards, which will continue to become more frequent and severe. Exploring asset-level climate hazard exposure is the first step to analyzing and ultimately managing physical climate risk. As regulation around climate risk rapidly evolves, mandates to monitor and report these risks will also expand. Equipped with a detailed understanding of their portfolio holdings’ exposure, asset owners are empowered to make better-informed investment and risk management decisions, ultimately enhancing the resilience of their portfolios to physical climate risk.

Download this case study.

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Four Twenty Seven offers on-demand physical climate risk scoring for real assets and other climate risk datasets for investors to assess their risk across asset classes. Learn more about Four Twenty Seven’s data or reach out to schedule a demo.

Newsletter: Climate Resilience in the Age of COVID

Four Twenty Seven's monthly newsletter highlights recent developments in climate risk and resilience. This month we discuss the overlapping challenges of COVID-19 and climate hazards, share consultations on climate risk for financial stakeholders and highlight developments in climate risk at Moody's.

The Compounding Challenges of Climate Hazards and COVID-19

Climate Preparedness Takes on New Meaning - Four Twenty Seven Analysis 

Last week in the Southern U.S., residents and policy-makers weighed the risks of high winds and flooding alongside the risks of spreading COVID-19, as many evacuated to storm shelters, and 750,000 people lost power across ten states from Texas to West Virginia. Meanwhile that same week 50,000 people in Connecticut lost power because of a storm, with restoration efforts complicated by COVID-19. The devastating human health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are exacerbated by climate hazards, which threaten communities around the world. Four Twenty Seven's new analysis explores exposure to floods, heat stress, hurricanes and wildfires in U.S. municipalities alongside the impacts of COVID-19 on the same regions.

Our analysis explores exposure to extreme rainfall in the Midwest and the particular vulnerability of essential services such as manufacturers of personal protective equipment and farmers, to disruptions due to floods. It discusses the human health implications of extreme heat and its particular threat to business continuity from power disruptions when business operations are dispersed across employees' homes. States like Louisiana and Florida are addressing COVID-19 while preparing for a busy hurricane season. Likewise, typical wildfire preparations have been delayed and canceled due to the pandemic, leaving states like California, Washington and Colorado particularly vulnerable to this year's wildfires.
Read the Analysis

Further reading on climate change and COVID-19:

Public Consultations on Climate Change in the Financial Sector
While the world is sheltering from COVID-19, regulators are moving forward with their goals to address climate change. There are currently several open consultations to gather industry feedback on new standards and reporting requirements. 
 

EU Draft Minimum Standards for Climate Benchmarks

The European Commission is seeking feedback on draft standards for its "EU Climate Transition" and "EU Paris-aligned" benchmarks. The goals of the benchmarks are to increase transparency, help direct capital toward climate-friendly investments and prevent green-washing. Provide feedback by May 6.
 

FCA Proposal for Updated Climate Risk Disclosure

The UK Financial Conduct Authority is seeking feedback on its proposals to mandate climate risk disclosure for all commercial companies with premium listings. This requirement would build upon the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures recommendations and use a comply or explain approach. Respond by June 5.
 

Update to the EU Non-financial Reporting Directive

The European Commission is soliciting feedback on its non-financial reporting directive as part of its efforts to improve oversight of non-financial reporting in alignment with its Green Deal and a global call for a new approach to regulating non-financial disclosure. Provide feedback by June 11.
 

Consultation on Renewed EU Sustainable Finance Strategy

The European Commission is soliciting public feedback on its updated sustainable finance strategy, building upon its 2018 Action Plan for Sustainable Finance. This strategy aims to integrate climate change and other environmental considerations into the financial system, supporting the European Green Deal. The deadline to respond was extended to July 15.
ESG and Climate at Moody's

Moody's Launches New ESG & Climate Risk Website

Moody's new ESG and Climate Risk Hub collates resources on climate risk and ESG from Moody's and its affiliates, including Four Twenty Seven. The platform includes solutions and insights to help investors, lenders and other stakeholders integrate climate risk into decision-making.

ESG Factors Frequently Cited as Material Credit Considerations

Out of almost 8,000 Moody's private sector ratings actions in 2019, about a third referenced material ESG considerations. Moody's Investor Service's new report shares findings on how ESG considerations are factored into ratings actions.
Climate Risk News

New High Temperature Records Set

Last month was the hottest month on record for the world's oceans and the oceans' five hottest years have been within the last ten years. Warm oceans are connected to many climate hazards, ranging from hurricanes to wildfires. If the Atlantic remains warm during hurricane season, it's expected to contribute to stronger storms this year. Meanwhile, warm seas can pull rain from inland, contributing to drought associated with wildfire conditions. This occurred last year in Australia when the Indian Ocean was particularly warm off of Africa's coast.

Meanwhile, this year's first quarter had the second warmest air temperatures on record globally. NOAA projects there is a high chance that 2020 will become the warmest year on record.

Climate Resources for the Financial Sector

These ongoing scientific findings on the dire rate of climate change, including new temperature records and updated sea level rise projections, have significant financial implications. The Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP) launched a new Global
Sustainability and Climate Risk Resource Center to help communicate these risks. This platform introduces climate change for financial stakeholders and provides resources to help risk managers understand climate risks.
Inside the Office at Four Twenty Seven

Senior Climate Data Analyst - John Naviaux

Four Twenty Seven welcomes John as Senior Climate Data Analyst. John performs stochastic modeling of climate and weather data to advance Four Twenty Seven’s climate risk analytics. Previously, John worked on topics ranging from transportation economics in Los Angeles to particle physics at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland. John monitored arctic mercury pollution in Norway as part of a Fulbright Fellowship, and received his Ph.D. at Caltech for his research on the ocean’s response to climate change.

Four Twenty Seven is Here to Serve our Clients

As COVID-19 has led to widespread disruption in businesses and personal lives, Four Twenty Seven remains committed to ensuring the safety of our staff and clients while also continuing to provide the same data, analysis and client support that we are known for. Our business remains open globally, with teams in the U.S., Paris, London and Tokyo working remotely. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us via email or on our cell phones. 
Upcoming Events

An Update on Postponements and Cancellations:

  • Apr 28 – Afire Rising Leaders Summit, New York, NY: Chief Revenue Officer, Lisa Stanton, will speak - CANCELED
  • May 12 at 10am EDT – IIF ESG Webinar Series: Quantifying the Impact of Climate Change: Founder & CEO, Emilie Mazzacurati will speak.
  • May 18 – Sciences Po Award Dinner, New York, NY: Founder and CEO, Emilie Mazzacurati, will speak. - POSTPONED
  • Jun 8 - 12 – University of Notre Dame CARE Conference, Heron Island, AU: Director of Communications, Natalie Ambrosio, will speak. - CANCELED
  • Jun 9 - 10 – Responsible Investor London 2020, London, UK: Members of the Four Twenty Seven team will attend and host a booth. - PENDING
  • Sept 2-3 – Risk Americas Convention, New York, NY: Members of the Four Twenty Seven team will host a booth and present on climate risk.
  • Sept 9 The Future of ESG Data 2020, London, UK: Senior Analyst, Léonie Chatain, will speak.
  • Sept 15 - 16 – Responsible Investor Tokyo 2020, Tokyo, Japan: Members of the Four Twenty Seven team will present on risk disclosure and host a booth. 
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