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Climate Risk: What Gets Measured

15/12/2016 16:10 GMT | Updated 15/12/2016 16:10 GMT

There are few directors on the boards of British companies who do not know how this phrase concludes: "What gets measured, gets managed."

But what if you don't know what risks you need to measure? What if there is not even a standard system of measurement? In order to properly measure the impacts of climate change on our Financial system they must first be identified and disclosed.

Today's publication of the Financial Stability Board Taskforce's Report into financial risks related to climate change must be the start of the better identification, disclosure and management of those financial risks.

Today's recommendations for businesses on how to provide reliable information about their exposure to climate risk that will be vital for investors, insurers and the public to see how prepared companies are for the global transition to a low-carbon transition - that has been promised by 194 governments' signatures to the Paris Climate Agreement .

It will also inform investors where the smart money should go if they want to back forward looking companies who are gearing up for the challenges of the energy revolution and the industrial revolution that will accompany it.

The direct risks from climate change are obvious: as changing weather patterns cause extremes of flood and drought, hurricanes and typhoons. These damage the physical infrastructure of buildings and bridges roads and railways. They are violent and disruptive. But they pale into insignificance when compared to the potential for the trillions of dollar losses that could result from the sudden crashes in stock markets around the world if companies fail to respond in an orderly and transparent way to the financial risks they face.

These risks include: climate-induced land use change, the impact of desertification on supply chains, and the stranded assets of companies whose infrastructure is based on the old fossil fuel technology but whose stock value currently reflects the old value that infrastructure previously held in a fossil fuelled world not it's new value in a global economy moving to a low carbon future.

The International Energy Agency has established that oil companies have identified proven reserves that are so large they would break the 2 degrees Celcius threshold of dangerous climate change five times over. It cannot therefore be correct to value the stock of those companies as if they can all bring to market the totality of those reserves. Not unless the market is betting heavily upon regulatory failure.

Today's report makes climate risk a mainstream financial concern: Mark Carney, the World Economic Forum and the Financial Stability Board have all warned about the financial risks related to climate change. Major businesses across the world are now leading this transition and surging profitably forward; innovating to create the high-tech solutions that will build the low-carbon world.

Investors are already flocking to the opportunities created by the low-carbon transition. It is one of the more fascinating statistics surrounding this issue to see that the $286bn invested in clean energy last year is more than double the spending on coal and gas projects.

That's why I, along with over 100 other parliamentarians from More than 30 countries have issued a joint letter to the directors of our respective Stock Exchanges, calling for them to embrace the FSB Taskforce's recommendations as the gold standard that all financial managers should adhere to.

This is not about telling businesses what to do; it is about supporting good business practice.

But this is not job done. Too much of our global economy is still embedded in the dirty energy that is driving the climate crisis. As this winds down we must allow investors the transparent information upon which all good investment decisions are made. This will drive thinking at board level to manage those risks successfully.

Because we know "What gets measured gets managed".

And we do this not just because of the physical impacts of catastrophic climate change, but because the security of our economic system requires it. Make no mistake. This is about our pension funds and our mortgages our jobs and our well being. Not the normal domain of environmentalists perhaps; but the clear responsibility of those environmentalists who are also political leaders. Our call today to the stock exchanges of the world is to make it clear to their members that they must embrace proper disclosure and transparency of these climate related and sustainability risks. If they do not; they should know that we as politicians will be waiting with regulation.