Category Archives: Finance

Rising floods threaten Danish financial system

Stormier seas and more frequent floods can cause havoc anywhere. The Danish financial system is now growing apprehensive.

LONDON, 16 June, 2021 − Flooding caused by storm surges and general changes in climate give rise to misery around the world, destroying homes and livelihoods and forcing the migration of hundreds of thousands of people. The financial impact of floods can also impose severe economic strains, and not just in the developing world: the Danish financial system now fears growing losses to come.

Denmark is a relatively small country but has a long coastline, stretching for more than 8,000 kilometres.

As part of a series of reports on the impacts of climate change, Danmarks NationalBank, the country’s central bank, warns that billions of dollars have been loaned to householders and businesses located in coastal and other flood-prone areas.

Flood damage could make recouping many of these loans extremely difficult; credit institutions with substantial exposure to such loans could go out of business. The integrity of the financial system might be threatened.

“Climate change is leading to increased recurrence and severity of flooding from storm surges”

“Exposures of 41 billion krone (US$7billion) are currently located in areas already at risk of flooding”, says the central bank.

“This amount will increase to DKK198 billion (US$32 billion) over the next 50-80 years in the most extreme climate scenario…this implies that the risk could constitute a risk for individual credit institutions as well as the financial system.”

The central bank’s report says the occurrence of floods round the country is increasing, with more than 40 flooding events caused by storm surges happening in the 1991 to 2017 period.

“Climate change is leading to increased recurrence and severity of flooding from storm surges, and the effect from storm surges is further exacerbated by sea level rises,” says the report.

Losses passed on

Areas of the country most exposed to flooding include the area round Copenhagen, the capital, the west coast, and Jutland in the north.

Initially, says the bank, homeowners and businesses with premises located in flood-prone areas will bear the financial costs of flood damage.

“However, the loss can ultimately affect credit institutions…value depreciation has a direct effect on homeowners and can be transmitted to credit institutions if the real estate has been pledged as collateral for the loan.”

Central banks around the world are issuing increasingly strident warnings to banks and other credit institutions about the challenges posed by climate change.

Warned off

In many instances insurance companies and other financial institutions are being told to put aside a portion of their earnings in order to cope with the increased costs climate change will bring.

Investors are being warned that putting money into fossil fuel companies and related enterprises is an increasingly risky business.

Fossil fuel companies are also being told to revise their accounts to take into consideration so-called “stranded assets” – corporate fossil fuel holdings made essentially worthless due to the looming climate catastrophe and the growth of regulation forbidding their exploitation.

As a result, many billions of dollars have been written off the value of what were, till a few years ago, some of the world’s biggest and most financially powerful companies. Climate News Network

Stormier seas and more frequent floods can cause havoc anywhere. The Danish financial system is now growing apprehensive.

LONDON, 16 June, 2021 − Flooding caused by storm surges and general changes in climate give rise to misery around the world, destroying homes and livelihoods and forcing the migration of hundreds of thousands of people. The financial impact of floods can also impose severe economic strains, and not just in the developing world: the Danish financial system now fears growing losses to come.

Denmark is a relatively small country but has a long coastline, stretching for more than 8,000 kilometres.

As part of a series of reports on the impacts of climate change, Danmarks NationalBank, the country’s central bank, warns that billions of dollars have been loaned to householders and businesses located in coastal and other flood-prone areas.

Flood damage could make recouping many of these loans extremely difficult; credit institutions with substantial exposure to such loans could go out of business. The integrity of the financial system might be threatened.

“Climate change is leading to increased recurrence and severity of flooding from storm surges”

“Exposures of 41 billion krone (US$7billion) are currently located in areas already at risk of flooding”, says the central bank.

“This amount will increase to DKK198 billion (US$32 billion) over the next 50-80 years in the most extreme climate scenario…this implies that the risk could constitute a risk for individual credit institutions as well as the financial system.”

The central bank’s report says the occurrence of floods round the country is increasing, with more than 40 flooding events caused by storm surges happening in the 1991 to 2017 period.

“Climate change is leading to increased recurrence and severity of flooding from storm surges, and the effect from storm surges is further exacerbated by sea level rises,” says the report.

Losses passed on

Areas of the country most exposed to flooding include the area round Copenhagen, the capital, the west coast, and Jutland in the north.

Initially, says the bank, homeowners and businesses with premises located in flood-prone areas will bear the financial costs of flood damage.

“However, the loss can ultimately affect credit institutions…value depreciation has a direct effect on homeowners and can be transmitted to credit institutions if the real estate has been pledged as collateral for the loan.”

Central banks around the world are issuing increasingly strident warnings to banks and other credit institutions about the challenges posed by climate change.

Warned off

In many instances insurance companies and other financial institutions are being told to put aside a portion of their earnings in order to cope with the increased costs climate change will bring.

Investors are being warned that putting money into fossil fuel companies and related enterprises is an increasingly risky business.

Fossil fuel companies are also being told to revise their accounts to take into consideration so-called “stranded assets” – corporate fossil fuel holdings made essentially worthless due to the looming climate catastrophe and the growth of regulation forbidding their exploitation.

As a result, many billions of dollars have been written off the value of what were, till a few years ago, some of the world’s biggest and most financially powerful companies. Climate News Network

Could ecological interest rates help the Earth?

The global economy doesn’t reflect the Earth’s crisis and its warming climate. Might ecological interest rates help link them?

Andrew Simms, a political economist and co-author of the original Green New Deal, believes ecological interest rates could prevent financial institutions investing in fossil fuels and connect the monetary system to the reality of the planet’s finite ecosystems. This is an edited extract from his new pamphlet written jointly for Prime Economics, the New Weather Institute and the Rapid Transition Alliance.

LONDON, 3 March, 2021 − We need a new global economy, one which recognises the deepening crisis facing life on Earth and is designed to help to solve it. And a good way to build one, experts say, is to switch to something called ecological interest rates.

Interest rates usually capture people’s attention only if they have savings, when they’re bothered by low rates, or borrowings such as a mortgage, which means high ones. But economists are becoming unusually preoccupied with them, partly because it’s very likely that they will soon do something shocking and unusual: go negative.

There’s another reason, though. With intense focus on a green economic recovery after the pandemic, there’s a growing realisation that there is no real link between money, its cost and our ecological life-support system.

The global economy has outgrown the biosphere’s carrying capacity, as a conservative annual assessment of ecological overshoot makes clear. It is as if we were trying to shove size 10 economic feet into size six planetary shoes.

The size of the economy, in turn, is fuelled by the supply of credit in different monetary forms. More money in circulation tends to increase conventional economic growth.

Excessive economic footprint

This doesn’t necessarily mean the productive economy is getting bigger, though. For example, if banks lend money in a risky way – as happened with the sub-prime mortgage debacle behind the 2007-08 financial crisis – they can create an asset bubble which, when it bursts, can trigger recession.

Interest rates are the price we pay to borrow money, and when the price of money is positive, which it usually is, we have to pay back more than we actually borrowed. So interest also motivates orthodox growth, which relies on exploiting the biosphere and human labour.

What matters with an issue like climate breakdown is what happens in aggregate, and how this relates to any change in impact needed for the economy to operate within a particular planetary boundary – in effect, to fit its shoe size.

The economy’s footprint is already too big. So, to be environmentally sustainable, improvements in material efficiency must be big enough not only to compensate for the effects of growth, but also to reduce absolute consumption in line with getting back to the right shoe size again.

For example, there’s a lot of hype about improved aviation fuel efficiency. But, between 2013 and 2019, aviation passenger traffic went up four times faster than fuel efficiency improved. Elsewhere, the carbon emission benefits of supposedly efficient hybrid cars were shown to be only around one third of those promised.

The International Resource Panel (IRP) report, Resource Efficiency and Climate Change: Material Efficiency Strategies for a Low-Carbon Future, found that emissions from the extraction and production of materials such as metals, minerals, woods and plastics more than doubled from 1995 to 2015, accounting for a quarter of global emissions. Measures to improve resource efficiency did not come close to cancelling out the rise.

“The global economy has outgrown the biosphere’s carrying capacity. It is as if we were trying to shove size 10 economic feet into size six planetary shoes”

Global resource use continues to grow. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres recently spoke of humanity waging a “suicidal war” on nature:  global material use is projected to rise to 170-184 billion tonnes by 2050.

Money is a means of exchange, a store and a measure of value, or a unit of account. In essence, though, it isn’t a note or a coin but a social contract, an agreement about how to allocate resources. And the way our current money system is allocating resources is pushing us rapidly over a climate and ecological cliff.

That’s because money – a social construct, “a promise to pay” – cannot be finite. We can always make another promise. But the ecosystem’s ability to fulfil that promise – to meet the liability – is finite.

A price is what you pay, in money, for goods or services. But in practice prices often don’t carry vital information − the human cost of production, the impact on human health, or current and future environmental damage.

And there are larger issues. If someone planned to build on a much-loved meadow, you would face two questions: how much would you pay to save it, or how much compensation would you demand for its loss? Two very different prices would result, one limited by your ability to pay, the other possibly infinitely high. It could be no price.

Prices are judgements of value. How would you set the price of the notional tonne of carbon which, when burned, tipped the balance towards irreversible runaway global warming? You’d ask the price of a climate capable of supporting human civilisation.

Heading for 4°C

Mark Carney, former governor of the Bank of England, has said that the financial sector is investing in fossil fuels so “that if you add up the policies of all of the companies out there, they are consistent with warming of 3.7-3.8°C”. The globally agreed target is to keep climate heating below 1.5°C.

Many currencies are too big, covering areas that are too large and include a range of economic circumstances for which no single interest rate can be optimal. There are always some areas likely to be “overheating” and others that are struggling. You cannot set an interest rate that suits everyone; money is likely to be too cheap in one place or too expensive in another. Many people therefore argue for more currencies.

One way of reconnecting the money supply to the real world of natural resources is to have currencies which are backed by something real – like commodities. Several could address economic inequality (think various ways of providing universal income and/or services, such as access to energy and built-in incentives to veer away from carbon use).

It’s a sign of the times that alongside the base rate on the Bank of England’s website, the large-scale public creation of money (quantitative easing) has gone from being a seemingly exotic tool to one so standard that it is now one of the two default tools of monetary policy.

Ultimately, though, overuse of the biosphere requires limits on resource consumption. This still leaves quite a lot of room for action, such as making money expensive for what you want to avoid, like more fossil fuel, and cheap for what you need, a switch to job-creating, and clean, renewable energy. So credit should be more expensive for what you want less of.

Mark Carney says banks currently have portfolios of investment that will lead to catastrophic global heating of around 4°C. That shows the cost of borrowing should be made much higher for those investors who are fuelling the crisis.

Lessons from the pandemic

An ecological rate of interest would price money in terms of environmental limits. Current interest rates rarely if ever do this. A few banks are starting to incorporate so-called ESG factors (environmental, social and governance). A few are ceasing to lend to some of the most climate-damaging activities and to vary the cost of capital to reflect environmental risks. But they’re not even scratching the surface of the problem.

One way to do this would be to raise sharply the so-called risk weighting of all high-carbon loans, whether from a bank to a coal mine or for the purchase of a petrol-driven car, making the loan more expensive and sending a decisive market signal.

Central banks and supervisory monetary authorities have as their core mandate the maintenance of financial and monetary stability. Acting to prevent the allocation of vast financial resources to climate breakdown, with its catastrophic implications for humanity and the wider economy, is therefore directly aligned with their fundamental purpose.

What the world needs is something which goes beyond a greener money supply, something which deals with the aggregate size of the economy. There is a growing consensus among a wide spectrum of progressive voices about how a range of economic and social problems could be addressed at the same time as moving away from a growth-dependent economy.

With a rapid, just transition, to live within our ecological means (and the potential for radical policy and behaviour change has been widely demonstrated by responses to the coronavirus pandemic) what might it mean to align the economy with planetary boundaries?

Climate scientists say we should be aiming to return to a carbon concentration in the atmosphere no higher than 350 parts per million of CO2. An ecological growth rate would then be one compatible with stabilising greenhouse gases at no higher than this level. − Climate News Network

* * * * * * *

Andrew Simms is an author, political economist and campaigner. He is co-director of the New Weather institute, co-ordinator of the Rapid Transition Alliance, assistant director of Scientists for Global Responsibility, and a research associate at the University of Sussex. He was for many years the policy director of the New Economics Foundation and led its work on environment, energy, climate and interdependence, as well as on the health of local economies. He tweets from @andrewsimms_uk

The global economy doesn’t reflect the Earth’s crisis and its warming climate. Might ecological interest rates help link them?

Andrew Simms, a political economist and co-author of the original Green New Deal, believes ecological interest rates could prevent financial institutions investing in fossil fuels and connect the monetary system to the reality of the planet’s finite ecosystems. This is an edited extract from his new pamphlet written jointly for Prime Economics, the New Weather Institute and the Rapid Transition Alliance.

LONDON, 3 March, 2021 − We need a new global economy, one which recognises the deepening crisis facing life on Earth and is designed to help to solve it. And a good way to build one, experts say, is to switch to something called ecological interest rates.

Interest rates usually capture people’s attention only if they have savings, when they’re bothered by low rates, or borrowings such as a mortgage, which means high ones. But economists are becoming unusually preoccupied with them, partly because it’s very likely that they will soon do something shocking and unusual: go negative.

There’s another reason, though. With intense focus on a green economic recovery after the pandemic, there’s a growing realisation that there is no real link between money, its cost and our ecological life-support system.

The global economy has outgrown the biosphere’s carrying capacity, as a conservative annual assessment of ecological overshoot makes clear. It is as if we were trying to shove size 10 economic feet into size six planetary shoes.

The size of the economy, in turn, is fuelled by the supply of credit in different monetary forms. More money in circulation tends to increase conventional economic growth.

Excessive economic footprint

This doesn’t necessarily mean the productive economy is getting bigger, though. For example, if banks lend money in a risky way – as happened with the sub-prime mortgage debacle behind the 2007-08 financial crisis – they can create an asset bubble which, when it bursts, can trigger recession.

Interest rates are the price we pay to borrow money, and when the price of money is positive, which it usually is, we have to pay back more than we actually borrowed. So interest also motivates orthodox growth, which relies on exploiting the biosphere and human labour.

What matters with an issue like climate breakdown is what happens in aggregate, and how this relates to any change in impact needed for the economy to operate within a particular planetary boundary – in effect, to fit its shoe size.

The economy’s footprint is already too big. So, to be environmentally sustainable, improvements in material efficiency must be big enough not only to compensate for the effects of growth, but also to reduce absolute consumption in line with getting back to the right shoe size again.

For example, there’s a lot of hype about improved aviation fuel efficiency. But, between 2013 and 2019, aviation passenger traffic went up four times faster than fuel efficiency improved. Elsewhere, the carbon emission benefits of supposedly efficient hybrid cars were shown to be only around one third of those promised.

The International Resource Panel (IRP) report, Resource Efficiency and Climate Change: Material Efficiency Strategies for a Low-Carbon Future, found that emissions from the extraction and production of materials such as metals, minerals, woods and plastics more than doubled from 1995 to 2015, accounting for a quarter of global emissions. Measures to improve resource efficiency did not come close to cancelling out the rise.

“The global economy has outgrown the biosphere’s carrying capacity. It is as if we were trying to shove size 10 economic feet into size six planetary shoes”

Global resource use continues to grow. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres recently spoke of humanity waging a “suicidal war” on nature:  global material use is projected to rise to 170-184 billion tonnes by 2050.

Money is a means of exchange, a store and a measure of value, or a unit of account. In essence, though, it isn’t a note or a coin but a social contract, an agreement about how to allocate resources. And the way our current money system is allocating resources is pushing us rapidly over a climate and ecological cliff.

That’s because money – a social construct, “a promise to pay” – cannot be finite. We can always make another promise. But the ecosystem’s ability to fulfil that promise – to meet the liability – is finite.

A price is what you pay, in money, for goods or services. But in practice prices often don’t carry vital information − the human cost of production, the impact on human health, or current and future environmental damage.

And there are larger issues. If someone planned to build on a much-loved meadow, you would face two questions: how much would you pay to save it, or how much compensation would you demand for its loss? Two very different prices would result, one limited by your ability to pay, the other possibly infinitely high. It could be no price.

Prices are judgements of value. How would you set the price of the notional tonne of carbon which, when burned, tipped the balance towards irreversible runaway global warming? You’d ask the price of a climate capable of supporting human civilisation.

Heading for 4°C

Mark Carney, former governor of the Bank of England, has said that the financial sector is investing in fossil fuels so “that if you add up the policies of all of the companies out there, they are consistent with warming of 3.7-3.8°C”. The globally agreed target is to keep climate heating below 1.5°C.

Many currencies are too big, covering areas that are too large and include a range of economic circumstances for which no single interest rate can be optimal. There are always some areas likely to be “overheating” and others that are struggling. You cannot set an interest rate that suits everyone; money is likely to be too cheap in one place or too expensive in another. Many people therefore argue for more currencies.

One way of reconnecting the money supply to the real world of natural resources is to have currencies which are backed by something real – like commodities. Several could address economic inequality (think various ways of providing universal income and/or services, such as access to energy and built-in incentives to veer away from carbon use).

It’s a sign of the times that alongside the base rate on the Bank of England’s website, the large-scale public creation of money (quantitative easing) has gone from being a seemingly exotic tool to one so standard that it is now one of the two default tools of monetary policy.

Ultimately, though, overuse of the biosphere requires limits on resource consumption. This still leaves quite a lot of room for action, such as making money expensive for what you want to avoid, like more fossil fuel, and cheap for what you need, a switch to job-creating, and clean, renewable energy. So credit should be more expensive for what you want less of.

Mark Carney says banks currently have portfolios of investment that will lead to catastrophic global heating of around 4°C. That shows the cost of borrowing should be made much higher for those investors who are fuelling the crisis.

Lessons from the pandemic

An ecological rate of interest would price money in terms of environmental limits. Current interest rates rarely if ever do this. A few banks are starting to incorporate so-called ESG factors (environmental, social and governance). A few are ceasing to lend to some of the most climate-damaging activities and to vary the cost of capital to reflect environmental risks. But they’re not even scratching the surface of the problem.

One way to do this would be to raise sharply the so-called risk weighting of all high-carbon loans, whether from a bank to a coal mine or for the purchase of a petrol-driven car, making the loan more expensive and sending a decisive market signal.

Central banks and supervisory monetary authorities have as their core mandate the maintenance of financial and monetary stability. Acting to prevent the allocation of vast financial resources to climate breakdown, with its catastrophic implications for humanity and the wider economy, is therefore directly aligned with their fundamental purpose.

What the world needs is something which goes beyond a greener money supply, something which deals with the aggregate size of the economy. There is a growing consensus among a wide spectrum of progressive voices about how a range of economic and social problems could be addressed at the same time as moving away from a growth-dependent economy.

With a rapid, just transition, to live within our ecological means (and the potential for radical policy and behaviour change has been widely demonstrated by responses to the coronavirus pandemic) what might it mean to align the economy with planetary boundaries?

Climate scientists say we should be aiming to return to a carbon concentration in the atmosphere no higher than 350 parts per million of CO2. An ecological growth rate would then be one compatible with stabilising greenhouse gases at no higher than this level. − Climate News Network

* * * * * * *

Andrew Simms is an author, political economist and campaigner. He is co-director of the New Weather institute, co-ordinator of the Rapid Transition Alliance, assistant director of Scientists for Global Responsibility, and a research associate at the University of Sussex. He was for many years the policy director of the New Economics Foundation and led its work on environment, energy, climate and interdependence, as well as on the health of local economies. He tweets from @andrewsimms_uk

Climate chaos batters global insurance industry

The climate crisis is exacting a rising price from the worldwide insurance industry, a relief and development agency says.

LONDON, 11 January, 2021 – The economic cost of the climate crisis keeps on rising, as the world’s insurance industry is now acutely aware. As the world digests the news that 2020 was the joint hottest year on record, two reports attempt to assess how many billions of dollars are being lost as a result of an ever-warming planet.

Christian Aid, the UK and Ireland-based charity, lists what it considers to be the 15 most serious climate-related disasters in 2020, and seeks to quantify them in financial terms.

“Covid-19 may have dominated the news agenda in 2020, but for many people the ongoing climate crisis compounded that into an even bigger danger to their lives and livelihoods”, says Christian Aid.

Six of the ten most costly disasters happened in Asia, many of them associated with an unusually prolonged and wet monsoon season. The charity estimates that floods in China cost US$32 billion, while extended rains in India cost US$10bn. Cyclone Amphan, which in May hit the Bay of Bengal region – one of the world’s most densely populated areas – caused losses valued at US$13bn.

“Covid-19 has an expiry date, climate change does not, and failure to ‘green’ the global economic recovery now will increase costs for society in future”

In Africa, unusually heavy rains and changing wind patterns are considered to have been the main factors behind devastating infestations of locusts, which caused an estimated US$8.5bn of damage to crops in Kenya and other East African countries.

In its latest update on locust breeding and movement patterns, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation warns that swarms are likely to continue devastating crops across the Arabian peninsula and in East Africa in the weeks ahead.

Christian Aid says its calculations of financial losses resulting from climate crisis-related events are likely to be an underestimate. “Most of these estimates are based only on insured losses, meaning the true financial costs are likely to be higher”, the report says.

Insurance is a very unequal business: much of the property and economic infrastructure of the developing world is not insured, with the bulk of cover being in the US, Europe and other leading economies.

Australian toll

Swiss Re is one of the world’s biggest insurance groups. Its preliminary estimate of global insurance losses as a result of both what it terms natural catastrophes and man-made disasters in 2020 amounts to US$83bn, up 40% on the previous year. A large chunk of those losses resulted from claims related to extreme weather events in the US.

“Losses were driven by a record number of severe convective storms (thunderstorms with tornadoes, floods and hail) and wildfires in the US”, says Swiss Re. Wildfires in Australia were another contributing factor.

The group says climate change is likely to exacerbate what it calls secondary peril events, as more humid air and rising temperatures create extreme weather conditions, which in turn will result in more frequent wildfires, storm surges and floods.

“While Covid-19 has an expiry date, climate change does not, and failure to ‘green’ the global economic recovery now will increase costs for society in future”, says Jerome Jean Haegeli, Swiss Re’s chief economist. – Climate News Network

The climate crisis is exacting a rising price from the worldwide insurance industry, a relief and development agency says.

LONDON, 11 January, 2021 – The economic cost of the climate crisis keeps on rising, as the world’s insurance industry is now acutely aware. As the world digests the news that 2020 was the joint hottest year on record, two reports attempt to assess how many billions of dollars are being lost as a result of an ever-warming planet.

Christian Aid, the UK and Ireland-based charity, lists what it considers to be the 15 most serious climate-related disasters in 2020, and seeks to quantify them in financial terms.

“Covid-19 may have dominated the news agenda in 2020, but for many people the ongoing climate crisis compounded that into an even bigger danger to their lives and livelihoods”, says Christian Aid.

Six of the ten most costly disasters happened in Asia, many of them associated with an unusually prolonged and wet monsoon season. The charity estimates that floods in China cost US$32 billion, while extended rains in India cost US$10bn. Cyclone Amphan, which in May hit the Bay of Bengal region – one of the world’s most densely populated areas – caused losses valued at US$13bn.

“Covid-19 has an expiry date, climate change does not, and failure to ‘green’ the global economic recovery now will increase costs for society in future”

In Africa, unusually heavy rains and changing wind patterns are considered to have been the main factors behind devastating infestations of locusts, which caused an estimated US$8.5bn of damage to crops in Kenya and other East African countries.

In its latest update on locust breeding and movement patterns, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation warns that swarms are likely to continue devastating crops across the Arabian peninsula and in East Africa in the weeks ahead.

Christian Aid says its calculations of financial losses resulting from climate crisis-related events are likely to be an underestimate. “Most of these estimates are based only on insured losses, meaning the true financial costs are likely to be higher”, the report says.

Insurance is a very unequal business: much of the property and economic infrastructure of the developing world is not insured, with the bulk of cover being in the US, Europe and other leading economies.

Australian toll

Swiss Re is one of the world’s biggest insurance groups. Its preliminary estimate of global insurance losses as a result of both what it terms natural catastrophes and man-made disasters in 2020 amounts to US$83bn, up 40% on the previous year. A large chunk of those losses resulted from claims related to extreme weather events in the US.

“Losses were driven by a record number of severe convective storms (thunderstorms with tornadoes, floods and hail) and wildfires in the US”, says Swiss Re. Wildfires in Australia were another contributing factor.

The group says climate change is likely to exacerbate what it calls secondary peril events, as more humid air and rising temperatures create extreme weather conditions, which in turn will result in more frequent wildfires, storm surges and floods.

“While Covid-19 has an expiry date, climate change does not, and failure to ‘green’ the global economic recovery now will increase costs for society in future”, says Jerome Jean Haegeli, Swiss Re’s chief economist. – Climate News Network

Major US pension fund plans fossil-free future

Goodbye to fossil fuels, says one major US pension fund: they’re no good for either the climate or the economy.

LONDON, 17 December, 2020 − In what’s being billed as “the biggest leap forward worldwide on climate finance action this year,” a major US pension fund has announced plans to move its money out of fossil fuels.

The New York State Common Retirement Fund has a portfolio of $226 billion worth of investments under its control. A substantial portion of that cash pile has been invested in the fossil fuel industry, including more than $1bn in the oil giant ExxonMobil.

Tom DiNapoli, the New York State comptroller, who oversees the state’s fiscal affairs, said the retirement fund was pulling its money out of fossil fuels not only for the good of the climate: the move also made financial sense.

“New York State’s pension fund is at the leading edge of investors addressing climate risk because investing for the low-carbon future is essential to protect the fund’s long-term value”, said DiNapoli.

“Divestment is a last resort, but it is an investment tool we can apply to companies that consistently put our investments’ long-term value at risk”

“We continue to assess energy sector companies in our portfolio for their future ability to provide investment returns in light of the global consensus on climate change. Divestment is a last resort, but it is an investment tool we can apply to companies that consistently put our investments’ long-term value at risk.”

The fund is the third largest public pension fund in the US, investing on behalf of more than a million past and present state and local government employees. Under the fund’s plan, investments in what’s termed the riskiest oil and gas companies will be withdrawn by 2025: by 2040 the fund aims to have no money invested in companies associated with climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions.

It says it has already withdrawn investments in more than 20 coal companies. Earlier this year, the last remaining coal-fired power plant in New York State closed.

The fund is now reviewing its investments in tar sands projects and plans further analysis of its financial holdings in fracking companies, fossil fuel service groups, oil and gas transport companies and pipeline operations.

Sandy’s warning

Climate activists in New York State have been among those at the forefront of what’s grown into a global campaign aimed at persuading investors to withdraw their money from the fossil fuel industry.

In 2012 Hurricane Sandy hit the Caribbean, the east coast of the US, and Canada. In the north-east of the US alone more than 60 people died, and the overall cost of the damage caused was estimated at more than $70bn.

In the aftermath of Sandy, a coalition of various organisations, including 350.org, was formed with the aim of persuading institutions – from religious groups to universities to sovereign wealth funds – to withdraw investments in fossil fuel enterprises.

Other organisations, such as the UK-based Fossil Free group, have boosted what is now a worldwide fossil fuel divestment movement, which has successfully campaigned for several trillion dollars’ worth of investments to be withdrawn from the fossil fuel industry. − Climate News Network

Goodbye to fossil fuels, says one major US pension fund: they’re no good for either the climate or the economy.

LONDON, 17 December, 2020 − In what’s being billed as “the biggest leap forward worldwide on climate finance action this year,” a major US pension fund has announced plans to move its money out of fossil fuels.

The New York State Common Retirement Fund has a portfolio of $226 billion worth of investments under its control. A substantial portion of that cash pile has been invested in the fossil fuel industry, including more than $1bn in the oil giant ExxonMobil.

Tom DiNapoli, the New York State comptroller, who oversees the state’s fiscal affairs, said the retirement fund was pulling its money out of fossil fuels not only for the good of the climate: the move also made financial sense.

“New York State’s pension fund is at the leading edge of investors addressing climate risk because investing for the low-carbon future is essential to protect the fund’s long-term value”, said DiNapoli.

“Divestment is a last resort, but it is an investment tool we can apply to companies that consistently put our investments’ long-term value at risk”

“We continue to assess energy sector companies in our portfolio for their future ability to provide investment returns in light of the global consensus on climate change. Divestment is a last resort, but it is an investment tool we can apply to companies that consistently put our investments’ long-term value at risk.”

The fund is the third largest public pension fund in the US, investing on behalf of more than a million past and present state and local government employees. Under the fund’s plan, investments in what’s termed the riskiest oil and gas companies will be withdrawn by 2025: by 2040 the fund aims to have no money invested in companies associated with climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions.

It says it has already withdrawn investments in more than 20 coal companies. Earlier this year, the last remaining coal-fired power plant in New York State closed.

The fund is now reviewing its investments in tar sands projects and plans further analysis of its financial holdings in fracking companies, fossil fuel service groups, oil and gas transport companies and pipeline operations.

Sandy’s warning

Climate activists in New York State have been among those at the forefront of what’s grown into a global campaign aimed at persuading investors to withdraw their money from the fossil fuel industry.

In 2012 Hurricane Sandy hit the Caribbean, the east coast of the US, and Canada. In the north-east of the US alone more than 60 people died, and the overall cost of the damage caused was estimated at more than $70bn.

In the aftermath of Sandy, a coalition of various organisations, including 350.org, was formed with the aim of persuading institutions – from religious groups to universities to sovereign wealth funds – to withdraw investments in fossil fuel enterprises.

Other organisations, such as the UK-based Fossil Free group, have boosted what is now a worldwide fossil fuel divestment movement, which has successfully campaigned for several trillion dollars’ worth of investments to be withdrawn from the fossil fuel industry. − Climate News Network

London plans tribute to green investments pioneer

The financial heart of London is to house a memorial to a woman who championed switching to green investments.

LONDON, 15 December, 2020 − A woman credited with pioneering green investments and shifting billions of pounds away from destructive industries is to have a memorial in the City of London – a first for an environmental campaigner.

Tessa Tennant, who died two years ago of cancer, aged 63, started green financial funds in 1988 to show that investing in the industries of the future not only helped the planet: it could also be both successful and consistently profitable.

By the time of her death she was known across the world in stock exchanges and boardrooms as a successful green campaigner who had converted many of the world’s largest investment funds to the principles of sustainable development.

Such was the affection and esteem in which she had been held by the financial community that a competition was held to design a public artwork to celebrate her life.

The winning design was by two well-known Scottish artists, Matthew Dalziel and Louise Scullion. It takes the form of an amulet intended to represent the powerful symbolic union of people and environment that is at the heart of sustainable finance and green investments.

“There has been an extraordinary growth in sustainable investing. However, much more must be done to culturally embed sustainable finance into the City’s core fabric”

Once the design had been settled, a search began for a site suitable for the two-tonne amulet. The City and the Church of England have now agreed it should be erected at Christ Church Greyfriars graveyard in the heart of the City.

Because the amulet, together with its foundation of eight tonnes, will be sitting on top of an important archaeological site, the site permission is currently for five years.

James Cameron, a lawyer who chairs the Sustainable Finance Sculpture Project, says the site is perfect: “Greyfriars was an important and highly respected seat of learning in the 14-15th century, rivalling only Oxford University in status.

“Interestingly, their extensive library was funded by the Lord Mayor of London, Dick Whittington.

“The Franciscans advocated a different type of lifestyle where knowledge and integrity were valued over wealth and property, and we believe these ideals closely mirror the contemporary objectives of our project.”

Clear influence

The project is now raising the £300,000 (US$396,000) needed to commission the memorial, which Cameron hopes will be unveiled in time for the next annual UN climate conference, to be held in 2021 in the Scottish city of Glasgow.

The impact that Tessa Tennant had already had was apparent two decades ago when she gave a lecture entitled Business Alarm Call on 4 December 2000 at 10 Downing Street, hosted by the then prime minister, Tony Blair, and his wife Cherie.

It helped to launch CDP, a not-for-profit charity that runs a global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states and regions to manage their environmental impacts. It now has more than 10,000 company and city members.

The lecture, reproduced here, describes how this was going to be the solar century, and how the world of business must change to embrace that new reality in order to save the planet from climate change.

Ceaseless campaigner

A great number of the advances in renewables that Tennant predicted seemed far-fetched at the time but have since happened. Green investments were only one part of her concerns, and many of her other  environmental ideas for improving sustainability have been adopted.

Many other more advanced proposals are still under consideration. Tessa was still campaigning to speed up the scale of change that was needed to address the perils of climate change when she died.

Cameron said: “Twenty years on (from that speech), there has been an extraordinary growth in sustainable investing, and its resilience has been exceptional during this difficult year of the global pandemic.

“It is also fitting that the amulet will be sited first in the City of London – a leading innovator of change and a global leader in green finance. However, much more must be done to culturally embed sustainable finance into the City’s core fabric and fully harness its innate ingenuity and creativity to fully deliver on the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.” − Climate News Network

 

The financial heart of London is to house a memorial to a woman who championed switching to green investments.

LONDON, 15 December, 2020 − A woman credited with pioneering green investments and shifting billions of pounds away from destructive industries is to have a memorial in the City of London – a first for an environmental campaigner.

Tessa Tennant, who died two years ago of cancer, aged 63, started green financial funds in 1988 to show that investing in the industries of the future not only helped the planet: it could also be both successful and consistently profitable.

By the time of her death she was known across the world in stock exchanges and boardrooms as a successful green campaigner who had converted many of the world’s largest investment funds to the principles of sustainable development.

Such was the affection and esteem in which she had been held by the financial community that a competition was held to design a public artwork to celebrate her life.

The winning design was by two well-known Scottish artists, Matthew Dalziel and Louise Scullion. It takes the form of an amulet intended to represent the powerful symbolic union of people and environment that is at the heart of sustainable finance and green investments.

“There has been an extraordinary growth in sustainable investing. However, much more must be done to culturally embed sustainable finance into the City’s core fabric”

Once the design had been settled, a search began for a site suitable for the two-tonne amulet. The City and the Church of England have now agreed it should be erected at Christ Church Greyfriars graveyard in the heart of the City.

Because the amulet, together with its foundation of eight tonnes, will be sitting on top of an important archaeological site, the site permission is currently for five years.

James Cameron, a lawyer who chairs the Sustainable Finance Sculpture Project, says the site is perfect: “Greyfriars was an important and highly respected seat of learning in the 14-15th century, rivalling only Oxford University in status.

“Interestingly, their extensive library was funded by the Lord Mayor of London, Dick Whittington.

“The Franciscans advocated a different type of lifestyle where knowledge and integrity were valued over wealth and property, and we believe these ideals closely mirror the contemporary objectives of our project.”

Clear influence

The project is now raising the £300,000 (US$396,000) needed to commission the memorial, which Cameron hopes will be unveiled in time for the next annual UN climate conference, to be held in 2021 in the Scottish city of Glasgow.

The impact that Tessa Tennant had already had was apparent two decades ago when she gave a lecture entitled Business Alarm Call on 4 December 2000 at 10 Downing Street, hosted by the then prime minister, Tony Blair, and his wife Cherie.

It helped to launch CDP, a not-for-profit charity that runs a global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states and regions to manage their environmental impacts. It now has more than 10,000 company and city members.

The lecture, reproduced here, describes how this was going to be the solar century, and how the world of business must change to embrace that new reality in order to save the planet from climate change.

Ceaseless campaigner

A great number of the advances in renewables that Tennant predicted seemed far-fetched at the time but have since happened. Green investments were only one part of her concerns, and many of her other  environmental ideas for improving sustainability have been adopted.

Many other more advanced proposals are still under consideration. Tessa was still campaigning to speed up the scale of change that was needed to address the perils of climate change when she died.

Cameron said: “Twenty years on (from that speech), there has been an extraordinary growth in sustainable investing, and its resilience has been exceptional during this difficult year of the global pandemic.

“It is also fitting that the amulet will be sited first in the City of London – a leading innovator of change and a global leader in green finance. However, much more must be done to culturally embed sustainable finance into the City’s core fabric and fully harness its innate ingenuity and creativity to fully deliver on the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.” − Climate News Network

 

A stark climate warning from the green swan

The green swan brings a clear message from people who should know: bankers say the climate crisis means major change lies ahead.

LONDON, 10 February, 2020 − There’s more than a touch of déjà-vu about The green swan, another alarm call from the serious world of senior bankers about what the future is likely to hold.

Way back in 2006 the British economist Lord Nicholas Stern wrote his review warning of the serious impacts of climate change, in particular its effect on the global economy and the world’s financial systems.

For a brief period it seemed people were listening. Then, in 2008, the global financial crisis came along – a crisis caused, not by climate change but primarily by reckless bank lending, weak regulation and a sustained bout of greed.

World leaders panicked as the financial sector went into meltdown. Multi-billion dollar rescue packages were thrown about like confetti. Amid the panic, Stern’s warnings were largely forgotten.

It’s only recently that bankers and financiers have been revisiting his work and waving their own red flags about the dire consequences of a warming world.

The publisher of this book – the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) – is the central bank to the world’s central banks, its goal to preserve overall global monetary and financial stability. It is a conservative, some might say staid, institution, its utterances normally carefully calibrated and moderate in tone.

“Green swan events may force central banks to intervene as ‘climate rescuers of last resort’ and buy large sets of devalued assets”

The green swan is different: it graphically describes the sense of urgency now evident in banking boardrooms about global warming, the dire state of the planet and the consequent effects on the finance sector.

“Exceeding climate tipping points could lead to catastrophic and irreversible impacts that would make quantifying financial damages impossible”, say the authors.

“Avoiding this requires immediate and ambitious action towards a structural transformation of our economies, involving technological innovations that can be scaled, but also major changes in regulations and social norms.”

In other words, in non-banking terminology, expect the unexpected. Unless major international action is taken, climate change is going to cause lasting damage to the global economic and financial systems.

The “green swan” in the book’s title is a mutation of the concept of the “black swan” made famous by Nicholas Taleb in a 2007 book of the same name.

Key differences

Taleb used the term black swan to characterise random, unexpected events such as terrorist attacks or natural catastrophes and their impact on economies and financial systems. Uncertainty becomes a major factor: calculating risk in such circumstances is a very difficult, if not impossible, business.

This book’s authors characterise climate change in a similar way, talking of green swan events. But they draw some important distinctions.

Though the effects of global warming are highly uncertain, there is a high degree of certainty that major change is on the way. There is also certainty about the need for urgent action.

“Climate catastrophes are even more serious than most systemic financial crises”, say the authors.

“The complex chain reactions and cascade effects associated with both physical and transition risks could generate fundamentally unpredictable environmental, geopolitical, social and economic dynamics.”

The authors warn about central banks being caught in what they refer to as the uncharted waters of climate change. If government and other agencies don’t take action, the world’s central banks might not be able to ensure financial and price stability.

Ending fossil fuel

Fossil fuel companies could go to the wall. While this might be good for the climate, it would create financial turmoil.

“Green swan events may force central banks to intervene as ‘climate rescuers of last resort’ and buy large sets of devalued assets, to save the financial system once more.”

The warnings from the BIS are only the latest broadside from central bank authorities on the dangers of a warming world. Late last year the Bank of England, the UK’s central bank, announced it would be subjecting the country’s banks and insurance companies to a climate change-related stress test.

In recent days Singapore’s central monetary authority has introduced similar measures to test finance institutions’ preparedness in the face of global warming.

The overall message is clear: if you see a green swan, beware. A big climate change event is happening, and turmoil is on the way. − Climate News Network

* * * * *

The green swan: Central banking and financial stability in the age of climate change

An ebook by Patrick Bolton et al. published by the Bank of International Settlements/Banque de France

The green swan brings a clear message from people who should know: bankers say the climate crisis means major change lies ahead.

LONDON, 10 February, 2020 − There’s more than a touch of déjà-vu about The green swan, another alarm call from the serious world of senior bankers about what the future is likely to hold.

Way back in 2006 the British economist Lord Nicholas Stern wrote his review warning of the serious impacts of climate change, in particular its effect on the global economy and the world’s financial systems.

For a brief period it seemed people were listening. Then, in 2008, the global financial crisis came along – a crisis caused, not by climate change but primarily by reckless bank lending, weak regulation and a sustained bout of greed.

World leaders panicked as the financial sector went into meltdown. Multi-billion dollar rescue packages were thrown about like confetti. Amid the panic, Stern’s warnings were largely forgotten.

It’s only recently that bankers and financiers have been revisiting his work and waving their own red flags about the dire consequences of a warming world.

The publisher of this book – the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) – is the central bank to the world’s central banks, its goal to preserve overall global monetary and financial stability. It is a conservative, some might say staid, institution, its utterances normally carefully calibrated and moderate in tone.

“Green swan events may force central banks to intervene as ‘climate rescuers of last resort’ and buy large sets of devalued assets”

The green swan is different: it graphically describes the sense of urgency now evident in banking boardrooms about global warming, the dire state of the planet and the consequent effects on the finance sector.

“Exceeding climate tipping points could lead to catastrophic and irreversible impacts that would make quantifying financial damages impossible”, say the authors.

“Avoiding this requires immediate and ambitious action towards a structural transformation of our economies, involving technological innovations that can be scaled, but also major changes in regulations and social norms.”

In other words, in non-banking terminology, expect the unexpected. Unless major international action is taken, climate change is going to cause lasting damage to the global economic and financial systems.

The “green swan” in the book’s title is a mutation of the concept of the “black swan” made famous by Nicholas Taleb in a 2007 book of the same name.

Key differences

Taleb used the term black swan to characterise random, unexpected events such as terrorist attacks or natural catastrophes and their impact on economies and financial systems. Uncertainty becomes a major factor: calculating risk in such circumstances is a very difficult, if not impossible, business.

This book’s authors characterise climate change in a similar way, talking of green swan events. But they draw some important distinctions.

Though the effects of global warming are highly uncertain, there is a high degree of certainty that major change is on the way. There is also certainty about the need for urgent action.

“Climate catastrophes are even more serious than most systemic financial crises”, say the authors.

“The complex chain reactions and cascade effects associated with both physical and transition risks could generate fundamentally unpredictable environmental, geopolitical, social and economic dynamics.”

The authors warn about central banks being caught in what they refer to as the uncharted waters of climate change. If government and other agencies don’t take action, the world’s central banks might not be able to ensure financial and price stability.

Ending fossil fuel

Fossil fuel companies could go to the wall. While this might be good for the climate, it would create financial turmoil.

“Green swan events may force central banks to intervene as ‘climate rescuers of last resort’ and buy large sets of devalued assets, to save the financial system once more.”

The warnings from the BIS are only the latest broadside from central bank authorities on the dangers of a warming world. Late last year the Bank of England, the UK’s central bank, announced it would be subjecting the country’s banks and insurance companies to a climate change-related stress test.

In recent days Singapore’s central monetary authority has introduced similar measures to test finance institutions’ preparedness in the face of global warming.

The overall message is clear: if you see a green swan, beware. A big climate change event is happening, and turmoil is on the way. − Climate News Network

* * * * *

The green swan: Central banking and financial stability in the age of climate change

An ebook by Patrick Bolton et al. published by the Bank of International Settlements/Banque de France

Bank of England unveils climate stress test

Tackling climate change isn’t just about replacing fossil fuels with renewables, or planting more trees. It’s about confronting climate stress across society.

LONDON, 1 January, 2020 – The warming world means climate stress now permeates every part of society. And so an entire financial system which has underpinned the growth of a global economy largely dependent on fossil fuels must be reoriented to deal with what is fast becoming a full-blown crisis.

A campaign to halt or withdraw multi-million dollar investments from industries associated with fossil fuel use is gaining momentum. And the central banks – the institutions responsible for regulating countries’ financial systems – are now taking action.

Leading the charge is the venerable Bank of England (BOE), one of the oldest such institutions in the world. In December it became the first central bank to announce what it terms a banking stress test on climate change.

Under the BOE’s stress test framework, banks and insurance companies will be required to go through their books to evaluate their exposure to the impacts of climate change.

If, for instance, a British bank has loaned money to a company building a coal-fired power plant, the BOE will require the bank concerned to hold a substantial amount of additional capital to cover the risks of the project being abandoned because of new regulations or other climate change-related factors.

“A question for every company, every financial institution, every asset manager, pension fund or insurer is what’s your plan on climate change”

In the same way, if an insurance group has granted cover to houses on a flood plain, or to coastal properties which could be subject to rises in sea level – or if a bank has granted mortgages on such properties – the BOE will require additional capital to be held to cover the financial risks involved.

Other financial institutions are examining ways in which their activities can be protected from the more serious impacts of a warming world.  Several insurance groups have announced plans to withdraw cover from fossil fuel projects.

Central banks are following the BOE’s lead: a body with the somewhat cumbersome title of the Network of Central Banks and Supervisors for Greening the Financial System (NGFS) now has more than 40 members – all involved in monitoring the risks climate change poses to the finance sector.

The BOE’s action has two aims. One is to ensure the financial system can withstand the considerable financial costs posed by climate change. The other is to encourage financial institutions to invest their funds in more sustainable, environmentally friendly projects.

Mark Carney, the outgoing BOE governor who is soon to take up a post as UN special envoy for climate action and finance, describes the BOE stress test as the first comprehensive assessment of whether the financial system is on track to help deliver a transition to a sustainable future.

Worthless assets possible

“A question for every company, every financial institution, every asset manager, pension fund or insurer is what’s your plan (on climate change)”, Carney told the BBC.

He says that unless the finance sector and large companies wake up to the scale of the climate crisis, many of the assets they now hold in fossil fuels and other enterprises will become worthless.

Some financial institutions are taking action, says the BOE governor, divesting from investments in fossil fuels and becoming involved in more sustainable projects, but progress is still far too slow. Time is of the essence.

“The climate emergency continues to build. The next year will be critical”, says Carney. – Climate News Network

Tackling climate change isn’t just about replacing fossil fuels with renewables, or planting more trees. It’s about confronting climate stress across society.

LONDON, 1 January, 2020 – The warming world means climate stress now permeates every part of society. And so an entire financial system which has underpinned the growth of a global economy largely dependent on fossil fuels must be reoriented to deal with what is fast becoming a full-blown crisis.

A campaign to halt or withdraw multi-million dollar investments from industries associated with fossil fuel use is gaining momentum. And the central banks – the institutions responsible for regulating countries’ financial systems – are now taking action.

Leading the charge is the venerable Bank of England (BOE), one of the oldest such institutions in the world. In December it became the first central bank to announce what it terms a banking stress test on climate change.

Under the BOE’s stress test framework, banks and insurance companies will be required to go through their books to evaluate their exposure to the impacts of climate change.

If, for instance, a British bank has loaned money to a company building a coal-fired power plant, the BOE will require the bank concerned to hold a substantial amount of additional capital to cover the risks of the project being abandoned because of new regulations or other climate change-related factors.

“A question for every company, every financial institution, every asset manager, pension fund or insurer is what’s your plan on climate change”

In the same way, if an insurance group has granted cover to houses on a flood plain, or to coastal properties which could be subject to rises in sea level – or if a bank has granted mortgages on such properties – the BOE will require additional capital to be held to cover the financial risks involved.

Other financial institutions are examining ways in which their activities can be protected from the more serious impacts of a warming world.  Several insurance groups have announced plans to withdraw cover from fossil fuel projects.

Central banks are following the BOE’s lead: a body with the somewhat cumbersome title of the Network of Central Banks and Supervisors for Greening the Financial System (NGFS) now has more than 40 members – all involved in monitoring the risks climate change poses to the finance sector.

The BOE’s action has two aims. One is to ensure the financial system can withstand the considerable financial costs posed by climate change. The other is to encourage financial institutions to invest their funds in more sustainable, environmentally friendly projects.

Mark Carney, the outgoing BOE governor who is soon to take up a post as UN special envoy for climate action and finance, describes the BOE stress test as the first comprehensive assessment of whether the financial system is on track to help deliver a transition to a sustainable future.

Worthless assets possible

“A question for every company, every financial institution, every asset manager, pension fund or insurer is what’s your plan (on climate change)”, Carney told the BBC.

He says that unless the finance sector and large companies wake up to the scale of the climate crisis, many of the assets they now hold in fossil fuels and other enterprises will become worthless.

Some financial institutions are taking action, says the BOE governor, divesting from investments in fossil fuels and becoming involved in more sustainable projects, but progress is still far too slow. Time is of the essence.

“The climate emergency continues to build. The next year will be critical”, says Carney. – Climate News Network