By Jeff McMahon
The transition from fossil fuels to clean energy is so established already that it would be difficult to reverse it, an official from the White House Office of Management and Budget said Monday.
And companies representing most of the world’s capital realize it, said Ali Zaidi, associate director for natural resources, energy, and science at OMB, which watchdogs climate risk for the government’s $440 billion in annual purchases.
“We’ve gotten to a point on clean energy where the costs are coming down so quickly, the uptake is happening so rapidly, and the jobs are so clear and palpable for communities all around the United States that it’s hard for the political economy to swing around to the other side,” Zaidi said at an Atlantic Council forum on corporate disclosure of climate risk.
“People aren’t just betting on the upside; the upside’s here.”
More than 5,800 companies, representing 60 percent of global market cap, are assessing and disclosing their vulnerability to climate change and its mitigation, Zaidi said, because international agreements and the falling price of solar and wind have made it clear to corporate leaders that the world is moving away from carbon-emitting fuels.
“We’ve kicked into a different gear, and I think people who are taking that into their corporate decision making are going to come out ahead.”
But those are not the only forces motivating companies to disclose climate risk.
G-20 Official: Climate A Mainstream Investment Issue
“This is not a new issue any more, this is mainstream,” said Mary Schapiro, former chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. “Investors, lenders and underwriters need this information.”
Schapiro now serves as secretariat of the G-20 Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, which is developing guidelines for companies worldwide to disclose climate risk to investors.
“The demand for this information is not diminishing. Whether it’s a financial stability issue or not—and I think many central bankers think that it is, many finance ministers think that it is—nonetheless investors are demanding this information so they can do the best job possible for the beneficiaries on whose behalf they’re working.”
Currently, institutional investors assess climate risk by sending companies questionnaires. But those responses remain private. Schapiro called for public disclosures, in public documents like those already required by the SEC, using a common baseline scenario to ensure information is comparable between companies.
“The disclosure needs to be there and it needs to be comprehensive and it needs to come out publicly in the public documents.”
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