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Banks, UN seek to promote climate transparency in financial markets

Together with the UN Environment Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), 11 of the world’s leading banks announced on Tuesday, July 11, 2017 a commitment to develop analytical tools and indicators to strengthen their assessment and disclosure of climate-related risks and opportunities. Following the publication last month of the final recommendations by the Financial Stability Board’s (FSB) Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), the banks not only welcome the recommendations but are the first from their industry to work towards adopting key elements of the ground-breaking framework.

Erik Solheim
Erik Solheim, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Photo credit: OECD/Michael Dean

“The message from financial heavyweights is clear – climate change poses a real and serious threat to our economy,” said Head of UN Environment (UNEP), Erik Solheim. “At the same time, there are enormous business opportunities in taking climate action. Transparency on how financial institutions mitigate the risks and seize the opportunities of a two degrees pathway is crucial to move international markets towards actively supporting a low-carbon and climate-resilient future.”

The Financial Stability Board, chaired by Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, mandated the Task Force to develop voluntary, consistent climate-related financial risk disclosures for use by companies, investors, lenders and insurers. Increasing the amount of reliable information on financial institutions’ exposure to climate-related risks and opportunities will strengthen the stability of the financial system and help boost climate‑friendly investments. Chaired by the former Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, the Task Force’s final recommendations were published at the end of June and submitted to the G20 last week.

The recommendations are welcomed by financial institutions and civil society alike, as the role of the finance sector in meeting the Paris Climate Agreement’s goals becomes increasingly clear. This first mover project to implement the recommendations puts the eleven UNEP FI members in the vanguard of this effort. Its results will be made public to encourage banks worldwide to adopt the scenarios, models and approaches developed.

“Sustainable finance is about two imperatives: improving the contribution of finance to sustainable, low-carbon and inclusive growth, and ensuring financial stability in light of environmental risks such as climate change,” said Christian Thimann, Group Head of Strategy, Sustainability and Public Affairs at the AXA Group, Co-Chair of UNEP FI and TCFD Vice-Chair. “The TCFD framework emphasises how achieving these two goals requires that financial and non-financial corporations provide more transparency on how they plan to address the risks and opportunities related to climate change.”

“After the G20, the issue now is about implementation: how can the finance industry put the framework into practice and deliver disclosure that is meaningful? Through this and other industry-led working groups UNEP FI is helping the finance sector to do just that: move from awareness to action.”

Shayne Elliott, CEO of ANZ, said: “Companies must improve reporting on their management of carbon risks and opportunities for their shareholders and banks to make more informed decisions. We are doing our part by being an earlier adopter of the FSB Taskforce recommendations, joining this initiative and thus signalling we will be seeking greater disclosure from our customers about their climate related risks and opportunities.”

Jes Staley, CEO, Barclays PLC: “As a contributing member to the work of the FSB Task Force over the past 18 months, Barclays is pleased to be able to continue our involvement by joining this UNEP FI Working Group.  Putting the theory into practice – or exploring how best the Recommendations can be implemented – and creating greater transparency for all participants, is an endeavour we look forward to working on with our fellow Working Group participants.”

David Gall, Chief Group Risk Officer, National Australia Bank: “We recognise the growing demand for disclosure of information to assist investors, customers and shareholders make more informed decisions on carbon opportunities and risks. We are committed to making sure we have reliable and standardised information to guide our reporting – we made a commitment to carbon risk disclosure in 2015 and our work with the UN Environment is another example of this commitment.”

Luiz Carlos Angelotti, Executive Director, Bradesco: “Bradesco supports the Task Force initiative and believes that if companies and investors adopt its recommendations and include such [an] important issue in their strategic discussions… it will certainly facilitate the transition towards a lower-carbon economy, reducing asset price impacts and creating new business line opportunities for companies.”

Vasuki Shastry, Global Head, Public Affairs and Sustainability, Standard Chartered: “Climate change is a problem which requires global ambition and action; the work of the Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures is an important step in delivering this. We look forward to working collaboratively through the UN Environment Programme to explore how these disclosures can be practically implemented by the banking sector.”

Ed Skyler, ‎Executive Vice President for Global Public Affairs, Citi: “The scale and sophistication of climate risk and opportunity continue to grow, and the finance sector has an important role in shaping the path forward. Working together to refine our approaches to enhanced disclosure will help accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.”‎

Liselotte Arni, Head Environmental and Social Risk, UBS: “We welcome and support the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures. They represent a major step forward to help businesses and investors assess the risks associated with climate change. We look forward to working with other banks on implementing the TFCD’s recommendations.”

Denise Hills, Sustainability Superintendent, Itaú, and Co-chair of the UNEP FI Steering Committee: “Our participation in this UNEP FI initiative strengthens our commitment to a global economy in transition. At the same time, it reinforces our purpose to be a transformation agent to add value for our clients, shareholders and society in an ethical, consistent and responsible way.”

The UN Environment Finance Initiative is a partnership between UNEP and the global financial sector created in the wake of the 1992 Earth Summit with a mission to promote sustainable finance. Over 200 financial institutions, including banks, insurers and investors, work with UN Environment to understand today’s environmental challenges, why they matter to finance, and how to actively participate in addressing them.

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