We’ve written about how environmental activists have launched an aggressive multifaceted campaign attacking the financial services companies that the oil and natural gas industries depend on to stay in business. They have targeted bank financing, insurance industry investments, and financial investors, and fund managers. They even persuaded the U.S. Department of Labor to allow pension fund managers to consider “investment strategies that take into account environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors,” including “plans on climate change preparedness and sustainability” even if those investments lose money.
All of these campaigns are built upon disclosure. Which banks are financing pipeline projects? Which insurance companies are investing in oil companies? Which pension funds have holdings in oil and gas? Activists have been working tirelessly to force the financial sector to disclose their ties to the energy sector so that they can pressure individual financial companies to divest from oil and natural gas.
The Financial Stability Board, the international body that monitors and makes recommendations about the global financial system, just made the activists’ job much easier. The FSB recently announced that they would establish a protocol whereby “the financial sector can incorporate climate-related issues in financial reporting.”
A key objective of this reporting system, they wrote, “is to promote more effective climate-related disclosures that will support informed investment, credit, and insurance underwriting decisions about reporting companies, and will enable a variety of stakeholders to understand the concentrations of carbon-related assets in the financial sector and the financial system’s exposures to climate-related risk.” In other words, this system will make it easier to target financial institutions that invest in or lend money to oil and natural gas companies.
In their report, the Financial Stability Board writes, “The governance workstream will focus on developing a common and baseline set of recommendations for voluntary disclosures [which will] allow for increased investor engagement with boards and management regarding the impact of climate change, which in turn increases boardroom engagement on how and when climate change may impact a business.”
The protocols are being developed by The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, which outlined voluntary disclosure recommendations in their recently released report. The Task Force, which is chaired by former NYC mayor and the United Nations’ Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change Michael Bloomberg, is determined to use financial leverage to reduce oil and natural gas consumption and to prop up alternative energy industries.
Consider these two recent quotes from Christian Thimann, vice-chair of the FSB Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure:
“Research findings indicate that global CO2 emissions must be restricted to less than one trillion metric tons between 2010 and the end of the century to comply with the Paris agreement and limit global warming to below 2°C. This means that most available coal, oil, and gas reserves must stay in the ground. As a result, investments in fossil-fuel energy sources will continue to lose value over time, eventually becoming stranded.
“Thus, the financial sector’s revaluation of such holdings not only helps to stabilize the climate, but also better protects its clients’ investments, and, by preventing the creation of a ‘carbon bubble,’ helps to stabilize economies. But selling off these holdings will not suffice; the freed-up assets must also be redirected to more sustainable businesses.” (From a recent op-ed he co-wrote.)
“Finance is important to direct investments to a lower carbonized economy.” (From a recent video.)
And while the protocols are currently voluntary, the activists have vowed to make them mandatory. As Ceres president and founding board member Mindy Lubber recently wrote, “While the TCFD’s initiative promotes voluntary disclosure, we believe its guidelines can be part of the groundwork for the mandatory disclosure that regulators need to move towards. Mandatory disclosure is the only way to ensure that reporting is truly comparable and consistent.”
And if the candid statements from the vice-chair of the Task Force are any indication, Ms. Lubber might just get her wish.