Mark Carney wants companies to list climate-related financial risk

Task force will show companies how to voluntarily disclose the information to investors

By Kyle Bakx, CBC News Posted: Dec 05

Mark Carney and Michael Bloomberg are teaming up to launch a new task force to come up with a way for investors and policymakers around the world to know what impact climate change could have on individual companies.

Carney, the current governor of the Bank of England, announced the new task force at the UN climate change conference in Paris through his role as chair of the Financial Stability Board. The former governor of the Bank of Canada suggests climate-related risks for companies are likely to grow over time and that’s why there needs to be a consistent method of accessing high-quality financial information about those risks.

“This is an issue and it’s an issue that investors are unable to express a view on,” said Carney. “It’s a way to judge management. Do you have a strategy for this?” 

‘These oil companies are going to have to understand they have a business to run and they have a world to live in and they’ll figure out some balance’– Michael Bloomberg, former New York mayor

The Financial Stability Board co-ordinates financial regulation for the G20 economies, which the organization says account for around 85 per cent of global emissions.

Answering a question from a pension fund manager, Carney said “one of the biggest challenges is diversifying away from carbon.”

Carney’s push for companies to disclose this type of information is relevant to Canada since natural resources make up about 20 per cent of the country’s economy. Specifically, Canada is the fifth largest oil and natural gas producing country in the world. 

Mark Carney and Michael BloombergMark Carney and Michael Bloomberg appear at the U.N. climate conference in Paris on Friday. (UNFCCC)

The financial risks relate to whether some fossil fuels will be left in the ground, therefore coal, oil and natural gas could become stranded assets.

Former Calgary oil executive Donna Kennedy-Glans isn’t surprised by today’s announcement. In the 1990s, while she was with Calgary-based Nexen, she said the company began reporting on its impact in communities and about human rights. She said this is the next step in the natural evolution.

“If you’re going to be in a particular space, especially a public company, the expectation is you’re going to have to report on this,” said Kennedy-Glans in an interview from the Paris climate conference.

Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, will lead the task force. While industry is taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through investments in clean energy and innovation, Bloomberg suggests there is too little transparency about the financial risks of climate change.

“It’s exactly what we need,” he said. “Real information collected honestly, fairly and without a bias, making it available and putting it out on a comparable basis.”

No business person can survive without saying climate change is real, said Bloomberg, adding “these oil companies are going to have to understand they have a business to run and they have a world to live in and they’ll figure out some balance.”

The initiative comes one month after the New York attorney general launched an investigation into Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest publicly-traded international oil and gas company, to determine whether it misled the public about the risks of climate change or to investors about how such risks might hurt its bottom line.

Exxon Mobil has rejected the allegations. U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has said the U.S. Justice Department should investigate the failure of Exxon Mobil to disclose climate change data.

The task force is expected to come up with specific recommendations for voluntary disclosure principles and leading practices by the end of 2016.