Michael Bloomberg. Photo by Bloomberg Philanthropies [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
Business is rapidly recognising their enterprises are increasing its interaction with business and commerce whenever possible.
The Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) was established and is chaired by Michael Bloomberg.
This meeting in Adelaide presented the rationale behind the recent regulatory efforts in developing Guidelines by the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) on behalf of the Financial Stability Board (FSB), an international body chaired by Mark Carney, Governor, Bank of England.
The FSB Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) will develop voluntary, consistent climate-related financial risk disclosures for use by companies in providing information to investors, lenders, insurers, and other stakeholders.
The Task Force will consider the physical, liability and transition risks associated with climate change and what constitutes effective financial disclosures across industries.
The work and recommendations of the Task Force will help companies understand what financial markets want from disclosure in order to measure and respond to climate change risks, and encourage firms to align their disclosures with investors’ needs.
The meeting in Adelaide on Feb 13 was moderated by Bruce Carter, Chair of the Premier’s Climate Change Council. His introduction highlighted the fact that there are now 125 major companies globally who, since 2014, have committed to 100% renewables under the banner RE100; as yet, no Australian company is involved. However, as a state, South Australia has made considerable progress on renewable energy and is second only to Denmark in its uptake of renewable energy.
The first speaker was Adrian King, Partner in charge of Sustainability Services at KPMG, who highlighted not only the direct risks to a business from climate change, but that hedge funds will exploit those companies that do not disclose, and account for, any climate risk.
The TCFD was formed in December 2015 and the Guidelines were released in June 2017 for use by companies. Approximately 80% of companies are now declaring climate risk, and this is considered a core requirement. As 80% of the risk may lie outside the factory gates, a full assessment may require 3 years, and requires following the guidelines, implementing changes, and scenario planning for future risks. The first international TFCD workshop was held in 2017 in Frankfurt; the second such workshop is to be held in Sydney this year.
The second speaker was Sarah Barker, Special Counsel at Minter Ellison who provided the perspective of a corporate lawyer. Companies are under an obligation to have a robust process of governance and clarity with respect to this process, and proper reporting and disclosure of climate risk. Current corporate and security legislation can be used in this respect and she gave several instances where cities, states, and shareholders are either threatening litigation or are suing the carbon majors (oil, coal, gas and cement). Furthermore, major insurers are no longer accepting force-majeure or ‘act of God’ as a catch all for extreme weather events that can be attributed to climate change, an acknowledged risk.
Finally, Megan Flynn, Group Manager Environment, Qantas Airways Ltd mentioned the current initiatives including fuel efficiency, bio-fuels, and the Qantas Future Planet Program. Qantas aims for carbon neutral growth beyond 2020 and will be purchasing carbon off-sets monitored by UN oversight; it is aware that 80% commuters want climate change addressed and Qantas has a wealth of meteorological experience to draw on from within its operations group.
It was both an enlightening and informative experience to have the Panel Moderator and the first speaker to use a few standard global warming graphs / diagrams and state that they and the larger business community unequivocally accept the reality of, and the science behind, global warming. It is clear that Australia is playing a significant role on the world stage, and South Australia in particular is making a serious contribution. There is a certain irony that while many politicians on the right continue to deny the reality of climate change, major corporations, the larger community and the economists are moving to effect real and timely changes. Perhaps this is an example of market forces – big business to the rescue? Overall, I came away encouraged, not least by the take-home message from all the speakers, that climate change presents significant opportunities as well as risks, as long as the world recognises and acts decisively.
Some References for further reading