Bank of England Governor Mark Carney and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg launched an effort Friday to provide financial information that capital market will need to assess risk and opportunities in a carbon-constrained world.
Speaking at the Paris climate change conference, Mr. Carney – in his role as chair of the international Financial Stability Board – announced Mr. Bloomberg will lead a task force that will develop voluntary financial risk disclosure guidelines that will ensure consistent information for investors, lenders, insurers and other stakeholders.
"This ideally is going to be the one-stop shop for the right principles around climate to that there can be a true market in transition towards a low-carbon economy," Mr. Carney
"There are a wide range of views amongst investors and providers of capital about the urgency of the issues, about the right technologies to back, about which companies are doing better and which are doing less well," he said.
"But they don't have the information to express their views. The point of this is to solve that market failure."
As chair of the Financial Stability Board (FSB), the central bank governor has led an effort to highlight the growing risk to the financial sector – as well as the businesses more broadly – from the transition away from fossil fuels and from the worsening impacts of climate change.
The Group of 20 this year asked the FSB to assess the implications of climate change on the global economy and financial risk.
In a speech this fall at Lloyd's of London insurance firm, Mr. Carney highlighted three types of threats: physical, or impacts from weather-related events such as floods, droughts and storms; liability issues arising from investors suing companies for failing to disclose risks or parties who suffer loss claiming compensation from those they hold responsible, and transition issues in which assets – especially fossil fuel reserves - are revalued due to the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Since leaving his mayoralty position, Mr. Bloomberg has been a staunch advocate for action on global warming, as the United Nations special envoy for cities and climate change. He is highlighting the work of the climate-related global compact of mayors during the Paris summit. He is also founder of the media company, Bloomberg LP.
Mr. Bloomberg said Friday that disclosure of climate risks is a crucial component of a functioning financial market.
"It's critical that industries and investors understand the risks posed by climate change, but there is currently too little transparency about those risks," Mr. Bloomberg said.
Accounting giant KPMG LLP review the climate disclosure of 250 of the world's largest corporations and found a wide variation in the level of reporting and methods employed.
"It is all but impossible to accurately compare one company's carbon performance with another's," KPMG partner Wim Bartels said in the report. "And few [of the companies] publish sufficient information for their progress to be easily tracked."
KPMG said European companies were far more likely to report their carbon emissions and set targets than U.S., Japanese or Chinese firms, with China lagging the pack. It ranked oil and gas firms worst in terms of the quality of their carbon disclosure, and transport and leisure companies the best.
Canada's largest pension funds say they do take carbon risk into account as they plan their portfolio mix, invest in new assets and manage those investments.
The Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board and the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan said Friday they constantly assess the risk to their long-term assets, not just in the oil and gas sector but across the board.
Disclosure of those risks has improved dramatically in the past decade though more work can be done, CCIPB spokesman Michel Leduc said.
"The river flows in one direction and that's basically more and better and clearer disclosure," he said. "We believe disclosure is critical and transparency is critical."