Climate-related financial disclosure becoming more mainstream: G20 task force

LONDON (Reuters) - Climate-related disclosure is becoming mainstream as more firms support and align their financial reporting to recommendations by a global task force though few disclose the financial impact on the company, a survey shows.

FILE PHOTO: An iceberg floats in a fjord near the town of Tasiilaq, Greenland, June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

The Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) was set up by the G20’s Financial Stability Board at the end of 2015 to develop a voluntary framework for companies to disclose the financial impact of climate-related risks and opportunities.

This was partly in response to concerns in the financial community that assets are being mispriced because the full extent of climate risk is not being factored in, threatening market stability.

The framework, launched in June last year, applies to a wide range of sectors, including financial sector organizations, banks, insurance companies, asset managers and asset owners.

In its first status report, the TCFD surveyed the disclosures of 1,700 companies and found that most were revealing information which was aligned with at least one of the task force’s recommendations.

“Today’s announcement shows that climate disclosure is becoming mainstream. Over 500 companies are now supporters of the TCFD, including the world’s largest banks, asset managers and pension funds, responsible for assets of nearly $100 trillion,” Mark Carney, chair of the Financial Stability Board, said in a statement.

This compares to the support of 100 firms when the framework was launched last year.

While many companies described climate-related risks and opportunities, few disclosed the financial impact of climate change on the company, the task force said.

Disclosures vary across industries, the survey found.

For example, more non-financial companies reported their climate-related metrics and targets than financial companies did. But, financial firms were more likely to disclose how they had embedded climate risk into their overall risk management.

A minority of companies disclosed forward-looking climate targets or the resilience of their strategies under different climate-related scenarios, including a 2 degree Celsius or lower temperature limit.

Climate change can lead to droughts, floods and extreme storms. As such events become more common, people turn to insurance to cover the costs of damage which can increase premiums. There can also be a knock-on effect on house prices, for example, which can damage the overall economy.

For oil, gas and power companies, as the world turns to a low-carbon economy, two thirds of the world’s fossil fuel reserves cannot be burnt. That undermines the value of assets held by such companies and also investments in them by banks and other financial institutions.

In a separate report on Wednesday, the Bank of England said only 10 percent of banks in Britain are managing climate risks with long-term, comprehensive plans.

The International Energy Agency estimates that the switch to a low-carbon economy will cost on average $3.5 trillion in investments a year for the foreseeable future.

However, the value at risk of the global total stock of manageable assets due to climate change could be anywhere from $4.2 trillion to $43 trillion between now and the end of the century, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The TCFD will publish another status report in June next year which will analyze the disclosures made in 2018 financial reports.

Reporting by Nina Chestney; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Adrian Croft