Sustainable Business

New Zealand passes climate change disclosure laws for financial firms in world first

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A Commonwealth Bank of Australia logo adorns the wall of a branch in Sydney, Australia, May 8, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray/File Photo

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SYDNEY, Oct 21 (Reuters) - New Zealand has become the first country to pass laws requiring banks, insurers and investment managers to report the impacts of climate change on their business, officials said on Thursday.

About 200 of the largest financial firms in New Zealand, including banks with total assets of more than NZ$1 billion ($718.90 million), large insurers and equity and debt issuers listed on the country's stock exchange will have to make disclosures. read more

Several foreign firms that meet the NZ$1 billion threshold -- including Australia's four largest banks: Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA.AX), Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ.AX), Westpac Corp (WBC.AX) and National Australia Bank (NAB.AX) -- will also come under the legislation.

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"New Zealand is a world-leader in this area and ... we have an opportunity to pave the way for other countries to make climate-related disclosures mandatory," minister for climate change James Shaw said in a statement.

The new laws will require financial firms to explain how they would manage climate-related risks and opportunities, and the disclosure requirements will be based on standards from New Zealand's independent accounting body the External Reporting Board (XRB).

Those standards will be based on the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), and the disclosures will become mandatory for financial years beginning in 2023.

The New Zealand government has introduced several policies to lower emissions during its second term including promising to make its public sector carbon-neutral by 2025 and buy only zero-emissions public transport buses from the middle of this decade.

($1 = 1.3910 New Zealand dollars)

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Reporting by Paulina Duran in Sydney; Editing by Kim Coghill

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