Moody’s: Credit Quality in U.S. Governments Exposed to Heat Stress

As climate change increasingly leads to costly disasters, municipalities face challenging choices around rebuilding, preparing proactively and raising funds for these goals. Local governments face different challenges based on their size, economy, resources and geographic location. In this analysis, Moody’s Investor Service looks at Four Twenty Seven’s data on exposure to heat stress in U.S. jurisdictions alongside information on outstanding debt and credit quality.

The analysis found that 21% of outstanding debt that Moody’s rates is exposed to high or very high heat stress. Almost 80% of the roughly $190 billion in debt that’s issued in areas with high exposure to heat stress is in the central U.S. and Florida. The Midwest is projected to experience the most significant rise in extreme temperatures by mid-century. The Southeast, on the other hand,  is expected to have a higher number of extreme heat days.  However, its residents and infrastructure are more acclimated to hot conditions, which can help alleviate some of the physiological and structural impacts of extreme heat.

Heat stress can lead to increased costs due to infrastructure damage, energy demand and resilience investment and can also threaten public health and economic productivity. However, many jurisdictions in the Southeast and Midwest have characteristics that reduce credit risk. The Southeast tends to have large, diversified economies, as well as large tax bases and growing populations. Meanwhile, the Midwest tends to have strong cash balances alongside median family incomes that help to buffer risk. The credit risk to extreme heat in these regions is largely balanced out by these credit-positive characteristics.

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Four Twenty Seven’s municipal climate risk data assesses the exposure of U.S. cities above 50,000 in population and all U.S. counties to floods, heat stress, hurricanes, sea level rise and water stress. To learn more read our analysis, Assessing Exposure to Climate Risk in U.S. Municipalities or explore our data products.

Assessing Local Adaptive Capacity to Understand Corporate and Financial Climate Risks

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

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

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

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

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

Key Takeaways

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

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Climate Risk, Real Estate, and the Bottom Line

OCTOBER 11, 2018 – BOSTON, MA – Four Twenty Seven & GeoPhy Release First Global Dataset on Real Estate Investment Trusts’ Exposure to Climate Change. 

Four Twenty Seven and real estate technology company GeoPhy today announce the release of a data product that provides granular projections of the impacts of climate change on real estate investment trusts (REITs). REITs represent an increasingly important asset class that provides investors with a vehicle for gaining exposure to portfolios of real estate. The data was launched at the Urban Land Institute Fall Event in Boston, MA, accompanied by a white paper that lays out the implications of climate risk for the real estate sector.

Four Twenty Seven applied its scoring model of asset-level climate risk exposure to GeoPhy’s database of listed real estate investment trusts’ (REITs) holdings, to create the first global, scientific assessment of REITs’ exposure to climate risk. The dataset includes detailed, contextualized projections of climate impacts from floods due to extreme precipitation and sea level rise, exposure to hurricane-force winds,  water stress and heat stress for over 73,500 properties owned by 321 listed REITs.

“Real estate is on the frontline of exposure to climate change” said Emilie Mazzacurati, founder and CEO of Four Twenty Seven. “Many valuable locations and markets are often coastal or near bodies of water, and therefore are going to experience increases in flood occurrences due to increases in extreme rainfall and to sea level rise.” she noted. “These risks can now be assessed with great precision — the availability of this data provides investors with an opportunity to perform comprehensive due diligence which reflects all dimensions of emerging risks.” she concluded.

“The market has begun to price in the potential impacts of fat-tail climate events” noted Dr. Nils Kok, Chief Economist of GeoPhy. “Properties exposed to sea level rise in some parts of the United States are selling at a 7% discount to those with less exposure, and the value of commercial real estate is expected to equally reflect these risks. Leveraging forward-looking data on risk exposure can allow REIT investors to anticipate changes in market valuations and react accordingly.”

Read the report: Climate Risk, Real Estate, and the Bottom Line.

Key findings include:

  • 35 percent of REITs properties globally are currently exposed to climate hazards. Of these, 17 percent of properties are exposed to inland flood risk, 6 percent to sea level rise and coastal floods, and 12 percent to hurricanes or typhoons
  • U.S. markets most exposed to sea level rise include New York, San Francisco, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Boston. The high-value REITs most exposed to sea level rise in the U.S. are Vornado Realty Trust and Equity Residential.*
  • Globally, REITs concentrated in Hong Kong and Singapore display the highest exposure to rising seas. Sun Hung Kai Properties, worth $56 billion, has over a quarter of its properties exposed to coastal flooding.
  • 37 Japanese REITs have their entire portfolio exposed to the highest risk for typhoon globally, representing $264.5 billion at risk in properties in Tokyo and other Japanese cities.

Read the report Climate Risk, Real Estate, and the Bottom Line.

Download the Press Release.

*Erratum: A previous version of this blog post mentioned in error that CapitaLand is one of the U.S. REITs most exposed to sea level rise. CapitaLand is a Singapore-based REIT with some exposure to sea level rise but it is not among the most exposed.

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Read more about Four Twenty Seven’s REITs data product and our other solutions for investors.

The California Heat Assessment Tool

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

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

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

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

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

Download the full press release.

Key Takeaways

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

Responding to Economic Climate Risk in Australia

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

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

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

Key Findings

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

Download the report.

Engaging with Corporates to Build Adaptive Capacity

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

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

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

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

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

Key Takeaways

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

Download the report.

Download the press release.

Report: Advancing TCFD Guidance on Physical Climate Risks and Opportunities

This seminal report aims to inform and support early adoption efforts of climate risk reporting, based on findings from industry-led working groups  from the financial sector and corporations. The report calls on companies to perform forward-looking risk assessments and disclose material exposure to climate hazards. It also invites firms to investigate benefits from investing in resilience and opportunities to provide new products and services in response to market shifts. 

Download the full report

Access conference materials (slides, summary, op-eds)

TCFD recommendations

The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) seeks to “develop recommendations for voluntary climate-related financial disclosures that are consistent, comparable, reliable, clear, and efficient, and provide decision-useful information to lenders, insurers and investors.” It has crystallised a growing concern among investors and business leaders about the physical impacts that climate change could have on the economy and on financial markets.

The TCFD’s initial report noted a lack of understanding about the impact of climate change on corporate value chains and infrastructure, the channels through which these impacts are transmitted to financial markets, and a lack of transparency in reporting these risks. The final report recommended that financial disclosures should include metrics on the physical risks and opportunities of climate change but did not provide detailed guidance on appropriate metrics.

Without formal or regulatory guidance on metrics and indicators, firms are uncertain about what to include in their disclosures. Investors are therefore likely to receive a heterogeneous mix of financial reports including diverse indicators, metrics, assumptions and timeframes, which will fail to provide comparable data across a portfolio or provide the necessary transparency.

Advancing TCFD guidance on physical climate risk and opportunities

Recognising the challenges in the path towards standardising disclosure of physical risks and opportunities related to climate change, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Global Centre of Excellence on Climate Adaptation (GCECA) launched an initiative, “Advancing TCFD guidance on physical climate risk and opportunities.” The initiative aims to work with innovative thinkers in the financial and corporate sectors to identify the greatest needs for guidance, research and development. It also seeks to lay the foundations for a common conceptual framework and a standard set of metrics for reporting physical climate risks and opportunities.

The preliminary guidance in this report aims to build on the TCFD recommendations and provide common foundations for the disclosure of climate-related physical risks and opportunities. The report also identifies areas where further research or market action is needed so that detailed, consistent, industry-specific guidelines can be developed on the methodology for quantifying and reporting these risks and opportunities. The project focused on disclosure metrics that are specific to corporations. Improving the quality of firms’ climate disclosures is not just important for them, but also critical to managing climate risks and opportunities in financial markets.

Project process

This EBRD-GCECA initiative involved three industry working groups of a dozen participants, with a mix of financial institutions (asset owners, asset managers, banks, insurance), corporations, credit rating agencies, and a financial data provider. Each working group met several times over the first half of 2018 to discuss and consider research questions related to the topic on hand. The working groups debated how best to help the market make progress on disclosure.

  • Working group 1: Metrics for physical climate risk management and disclosure.
  • Working group 2: Metrics for climate resilience opportunities.
  • Working group 3: Climate intelligence for business strategy and financial planning.

The recommendations we developed aim to serve a dual purpose, seeking to improve corporations’ understanding of their own exposure and risk profile as well as opportunities arising from climate change, and provide clear signals for financial institutions to understand risks and opportunities implicit in individual holdings as well as portfolio-wide exposures.

The working groups built on the TCFD guidance, existing reporting frameworks, and an extensive review of literature to develop a set of recommendations on physical risks and opportunities. As a general rule, this report has prioritised recommendations that are consistent with current industry practices and that leverage metrics and frameworks already used for financial disclosures. It also includes a mix of recommendations that focus on providing better information, as well as recommendations that require more sophisticated analysis. In line with the TCFD recommendations, the recommendations of this EBRD-GCECA initiative are geared to facilitating comparability across companies within a sector, industry or portfolio, and to promoting disclosure of reliable and verifiable information.

Recommendations

Disclosing physical climate risks

A corporation’s vulnerability to climate impacts goes well beyond the physical exposure of its facilities. It includes supply chains, distribution networks, customers and markets. Furthermore, a company’s resilience to climate impacts depends on its risk management and business plans, as well as its governance.

Figure ES-1. How climate change affects corporate value chains

The impacts of climate change on corporate value chains depend on where the company operates and what impacts may affect relevant locations, but they also depend on the company’s activities. Corporations whose production processes consume high volumes of water, for example, may be particularly sensitive to changes in drought and the availability of water. Similarly, corporations with high energy consumption or significant use of outdoor labour will experience greater challenges as average temperatures rise, affecting both energy costs and labour productivity.

Recommendation 1: Assess exposure to all first-order climate impacts

Corporations should consider all first-order impacts when undertaking a climate risk assessment – heat stress, extreme rainfall, drought, cyclones, sea-level rise and wildfires – and additional climate hazards relevant to their industries, such as ocean acidification for fisheries. Exposure to climate hazards should be assessed at the local scale, using the most recent climate data and literature.

Recommendation 2: Assess climate risks over the duration of an asset’s lifetime or over the lifetime of a financial instrument

This report recommends that corporations provide more detailed information on the location of their critical operations, suppliers and market, at least at the country-level, as part of segment reporting to enable investors and creditors to conduct analysis on exposure to risk in their portfolio.

Firms should consider climate impacts over the following timeframes,

  1. Assess changes in asset performance over the past 5-10 years (or longer) that are attributable to extreme weather events or to climate variability, in order to detect possible impacts from climate change.
  2. Assess potential impacts over the expected lifetime of the asset and/or over the lifetime of the investment or loan.

Recommendation 5:  Disclose the impacts of weather variability on value chains

Corporations with moderate or high sensitivity to variability in temperature and precipitation should identify and disclose whether and how changes in temperature and precipitation have materially affected their performance.

Recommendation 6:  Perform forward-looking assessment climate-related risks

Corporations should disclose 1) their assessment of the types of climate-related risks to which they may be exposed in the future due to the geographic exposure of their facilities and 2) the estimated financial impacts from the risks they have identified as being material.

Recommendation 7: Describe risk management processes for the physical impacts of climate change

Corporations should describe their processes for identifying, assessing and managing the physical risks of climate change, as noted by the TCFD. For these physical impacts, aspects of particular interest to financial institutions and banks include risk management processes, insurance coverage, planned facility moves or retrofits, corporate adaptation strategy, and engagement with local authorities to build climate resilience locally.

Disclosing physical climate opportunities

The TCFD also encourages corporations to disclose opportunities related to the impacts of a changing climate. This recommendation is critical to ensuring that businesses and financial institutions continue to thrive in a changing environment. It is also vital for promoting the healthy development of resilience products and services that cater to new market needs for resilience.

The TCFD defines “climate-related opportunity” as “the potential positive impacts related to climate change on an organisation,” and notes that opportunities “will vary depending on the region, market and industry in which an organisation operates.” This report identifies three broad types of opportunities related to physical climate change impacts:

  1. Opportunities related to managing existing climate-related physical risks
  2. Opportunities to respond to new emerging risks
  3. Opportunities to adapt to market shifts and cater to new market needs

Recommendation 8: Identify opportunities based on managing risks and market shifts

Corporations and financial institutions should strive to identify opportunities in managing existing climate-related risks and responding to emerging risks. Corporations should also assess the potential changes in their value chains, explore potential market shifts as customer needs change and target their products and services to cater to growing demand for adaptation solutions.

Recommendation 9: Assess climate opportunities over timeframes relevant to business planning

Corporations should define the appropriate timescales in which to report opportunities in consultation with their investors. Opportunities in response to managing existing risks that affect recent and current accounts and the next year’s accounts should be reported as part of core financials. Opportunities arising from market shifts are unlikely to be reported quantitatively and are more appropriate for disclosure in general reporting on future business expectations.

Recommendation 10: Disclose business opportunities at the segment level; for critical facilities, disclose resilience benefits at the facility level

Opportunities may be disclosed at different levels to best serve firms and investors. Opportunities due to shifting market demand or new products should be reported at the segment level, in line with risk disclosures. Benefits from managing existing or emerging risks may be disclosed at the segment level (for process or supply-chain improvements, for example). For critical facilities, it may be advantageous for firms to disclose significant resilience upgrades or strategic improvements at the facility level, to showcase good stewardship and provide confidence that critical facilities are protected.

Recommendation 11: Disclose benefits from resilience investments using the same metrics as for risk disclosure

Corporations should acknowledge the importance of accurately accounting for the opportunity effects on their core financials arising from actions to manage current risks and respond to emerging risks. These metrics may include avoided negative impacts on revenues, operating expenses, capital expenses, supply chain costs, value-at-risk, or projected annual average losses.

Recommendation 12: Include business opportunities in qualitative disclosures

The disclosure of opportunities involving market shifts and new products and services can be achieved by qualitative disclosures of the lifecycle of new commercial opportunities. The disclosures may include information on the development stage of endeavours, sector, the size of potential markets, and the length of time until commercial viability.

Scenario analysis for physical climate risks and opportunities

With regard to climate intelligence for business strategy and financial planning, the TCFD recommendations strongly advocate the development and use of scenarios when analysing climate risks and opportunities. In this context, scenario analysis is intended as a tool to address challenges and acquire key information. Scenarios provide a narrative, either qualitative or quantitative, which “describes a path of development leading to a particular outcome.”

Recommendation 13: Consider current and desired GHG concentration pathways and related warming projections as a basis for scenario analysis of physical climate risks and opportunities

Corporations should not be concerned with developing new climate scenarios themselves. Instead, as a basis for their scenario analysis of physical risk, they should consider at least two main types of existing climate scenarios, based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):

  • Current GHG pathway: National climate policies currently in place around the world are projected to reduce baseline emissions, which would result in warming of about 3.4°C above pre-industrial levels.[i]
  • Desired (‘aspirational’) GHG pathway: These are the scenarios compatible with limiting warming to below 1.5°C by 2100 (with a probability of ≥50 per cent), and to below 2°C in the 21st century (with a probability of about 80 per cent).

Recommendation 14: Integrate scenario analysis of physical climate risks and opportunities into existing planning processes to ensure strategic, flexible and resilient businesses and investments

The main reason to undertake scenario analysis is to obtain a comprehensive assessment from firms of their risks and opportunities. Firms should achieve this by exploring different possibilities of what might happen in the future, despite uncertainty and by integrating climate change considerations into their existing business strategies and financial planning.

Recommendation 15: Avoid standardised scenario analysis in order to have a more comprehensive range of outcomes

Firms should look at more than one scenario and multiple climate models in order to have a more comprehensive range of potential outcomes. Although a degree of comparability is desirable, it is also recommended that corporations develop their own scenarios, which should be highly contextual, and based on the views and values of individual corporations.

Recommendation 16: Consider data from a wide variety of sources and scales when developing scenario analysis of physical climate risks

In order to construct plausible physical climate risk and opportunity scenarios, firms should consider inputs from a wide variety of sources and levels of detail. These include scientific data (not only on climate change), macroeconomic data, socio-economic data, data on political economics and policy, corporate data, ‘vision’ and market analysis data, ‘big data’, and so on.

Recommendation 17: Take account of scientific uncertainty inherent in climate data and in scenario analysis of physical risks and opportunities

Corporations and financial institutions are very well accustomed to making decisions within a large spectrum of uncertainty. In the same way, they should consider and manage the uncertainty that surrounds climate data and climate science for scenario analysis. Scientific uncertainty should be taken into account and made explicit when assessing climate-related financial risks and opportunities.

Recommendation 18: Disclose qualitative information that is relevant to the company and its investors

The ultimate objective in disclosing the use of scenarios is to build investor confidence that a company is meaningfully engaged on the topic of climate change, that it is looking at a broad range of outcomes and is responsive and proactive, rather than defensive and reactive. In this context, firms should disclose information on their climate risks and opportunities in the way that is most appropriate to them, as well as to their investors, and to the type of information disclosed or its format (quantitative or qualitative).

Conclusion

Efforts to formalise and standardise the assessment and disclosure of climate-related risks and opportunities are still in their infancy. As science and business continue to progress in their understanding of climate impacts, the recommendations made in this report will evolve over time, informed by emerging practices and the continuous efforts of corporations, financial institutions, credit rating agencies, industry groups, think-tanks, regulators and governments.

Climate disclosures will remain a topic of active research and discussion, and this report aims to support the emergence of market practices that bring transparency to markets and help build resilience in firms and financial institutions.

The Participants in the Initiative

The EBRD hosted the initiative and funded its technical secretariat.  The GCECA provided a secondment to the technical secretariat. The technical secretariat was provided by Four Twenty Seven, the leading provider of intelligence on climate risk to financial markets, and by Acclimatise, an advisory company specialised in adaptation to climate change.

The expert working groups in the initiative included participants from Agence Française de Développement, Allianz, APG Asset Management, AON, the Bank of England, Barclays, Blackrock, Bloomberg, BNP Paribas, Citi, Danone, the Dutch National Bank, DWS Deutsche AM, European Investment Bank, Lightsmith Group, Lloyds, Maersk, Meridiam Infrastructure, Moody’s, S&P Global Ratings, Shell, Siemens, Standard Chartered, USS and Zurich Alternative Asset Management.

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Access conference materials (slides, summary, op-eds)

Assessing Exposure to Climate Risk in U.S. Municipalities

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

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

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

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

Key Findings

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

Download the report.

Download the press release.

Using Climate Data – 427 Technical Brief

April 25, 2018 – 427 TECHNICAL BRIEF. Financial institutions, corporations, and governments  increasingly strive to identify and respond to risks driven by physical climate impacts. Understanding the risks posed by climate change for facilities or infrastructure assets starts with conducting a risk assessment, which requires an understanding of the physical impacts of climate change. However, climate data in its raw form is difficult to integrate into enterprise risk management, financial risk modelling processes, and capital planning. This primer provides a brief introduction to climate models and data from a business or government perspective.

The first of several reports explaining the data and climate hazards analyzed in Four Twenty Seven’s equity risk scores and portfolio analytics, Using Climate Data unpacks the process through which raw climate data is transformed into usable metrics, such as future temperature projections, to help financial, corporate and government users productively incorporate climate-based analytics into their workflows. Beginning by explaining what a global climate model is, the report explains climate data’s format, computational choices to hedge uncertainty and resources for aggregated climate projections tailored to specific audiences.

Key  Takeaways

  • Climate models are simulations of the Earth’s future conditions. Climate projections are based on a compilation of many models and are publicly available.
  • Regional climate models and statistical downscaling improve the resolution of data produced by global climate models and are thus valuable options when projections are only needed for one location or several in the same region.
  • Climate models can be used to project future trends in temperature and precipitation, but can not project discrete storms or local flooding from sea level rise, which require additional data and analysis.
  • Different time horizons of climate projections have different strengths and limitations so it is important to select the data product best suited to a specific project’s goal.
  • There are several drivers of uncertainty in climate models and strategies to hedge this uncertainty can help users correctly interpret and use climate projections.

Download the Report.

Report: A Review of Climate Adaptation in the US

Events once considered “hundred year” disasters increasingly occur several times in individual lifetimes. In the face of urgent crisis, community leaders, businesses, nonprofits and individuals have seen a need to build resilience, to preserve human lives and the economies upon which they depend. Recognizing the emergence of a field of climate adaptation and seeking details on the field’s development, potential and challenges, the Kresge Foundation commissioned an assessment of the field of adaptation. This project culminated in a report, Rising to the Challenge, Together: A Review and Critical Assessment of the State of the US Climate Adaptation Field, by  Susanne C. Moser of Susanne Moser Research and Consulting, Joyce Coffee of Climate Resilience Solutions, and Aleka Seville, Four Twenty Seven’s Director of Community Adaptation at the time. Read the full press release below:

Download the Full ReportDownload the Executive Summary • Download the Appendices

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The emerging field of climate adaptation is growing in sophistication and influence, but there is a significant gap between the magnitude of the challenge and existing efforts to protect people and property from climate volatility, according to a report released today.

“Rising to the Challenge, Together” provides a critical assessment of the state of the climate adaptation field in the U.S. It was commissioned by The Kresge Foundation and authored by a trio of adaptation experts: Susanne C. Moser of Susanne Moser Research and Consulting; Joyce Coffee of Climate Resilience Consulting; and Aleka Seville of Four Twenty Seven, Inc.

The report finds that the challenge of climate adaptation and resilience is an everyday reality for decision makers across the United States. Climate change is widely recognized as a critical – possibly existential – threat to humans, other species, and the natural systems on which all life depends. As climate impacts accelerate and population grows in vulnerable areas, disasters are more frequent and more devastating.  Supercharged storms, catastrophic wildfires, and deadly heatwaves affect growing numbers of Americans – particularly those with low incomes who are least able to avoid or minimize the impact of severe events.

Communities across the country are experimenting with adaptation, defined as the management of and preparation for the impacts of global climate change and related extremes. They are aided by a growing knowledge base and suite of tools, and boosted by new actors including utility managers, private sector interests and philanthropy.

However, the field is largely crisis-driven and fails to adequately address the social equity aspects of adaptation choices, that should ensure all people benefit regardless of socio-economic status or race.  It also lacks a shared vision, consistent funding and agreed upon best practices among other shortcomings, the report found.

“Our research revealed a growing core of professionals, committed municipal leaders, engaged community residents and others who are proactively identifying ways to make their cities and regions more resilient,” said author Susanne C. Moser. “But without much-accelerated efforts to expand and professionalize the adaptation field we fear communities, businesses and particularly the most vulnerable are at growing risk. To ensure their safety, well-being and prosperity, we must rapidly come together to slow the release of planet-warming greenhouse gases; invest in smarter, more resilient systems, infrastructure and planning practices; and do both while building social cohesion and equity.”

The report’s findings and recommendations were the basis of a next-steps conversation among several dozen climate-resilience experts and thought leaders at a January 22 workshop in Washington, D.C. At that meeting participants discussed ways to better disseminate promising resilience practices, embed climate resilience in planning and policymaking, and generate new financing mechanisms for the work.

The report recommends aggressive acceleration of adaptation planning, coordination across jurisdictions, and implementation among advocates, planners, and funders. Leaders must press the urgency of addressing climate change both through adaptation and mitigation – pushing the field to think bigger, bolder and deeper. At the same time, funding support must grow and policy incentives should be aligned to support the incorporation of resilience across different practices and sectors.

“This report highlights the urgency of building climate adaptation as a field of practice,” said Lois DeBacker, managing director of The Kresge Foundation’s Environment Program. “It is critical to expand the number of people who understand the imperative of acting quickly, which actions yield the best and most effective protections against climate change-fueled events, and how to approach climate resilience in ways that advance equity.”

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