Thursday, October 31, 2019

Climate Change: Disclosing the risks

The climate crisis is going to mean some pretty big changes in our country, both from its impacts and the policies required to address them. Most obviously, whole suburbs are going to be underwater by 2100, meaning people and businesses are going to have to relocate to higher ground. But also, anything which uses fossil fuels is likely to attract significant costs, and may become a stranded asset. This is obviously going to affect business. And now, the government is going to force them to disclose those risks:

Listed New Zealand companies could soon be required by law to make any climate change-related risks to their businesses known to their shareholders.


Shaw said the law, if passed, would mean companies would be required to assess and report on any of their climate-related financial risks to shareholders.

For example, if an airport was built on a waterfront which would likely be affected by climate-change-induced sea level rises, the company that owns the airport would be required to provide appropriate information to its owners.

The law would also mean companies would have to disclose any risk of stranded assets – assets that may suffer from unexpected value write-downs – as a result of climate change to their shareholders.

For example, shareholders would need to be informed that an investment in a coal mine could lose them money, given the Government's policies to move to 100 per cent renewable energy.

The logic here is simple: shareholders don't like losing money, so forcing transparency on these risks will drive change. And at the least, it seems like providing some basic protection, to stop companies from lying to their owners about their viability. And once information is provided, it should result in businesses either cleaning up or being dumped.