[Skip to content]

Sign up for our daily newsletter
The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Three-fold increase in pension schemes considering climate risks

There are three times as many European pension funds considering how climate change could impact investments than there were last year, new research has found.

Energy efficiency improvements will impact oil & gas prices © iStock
Energy efficiency improvements will impact oil & gas prices © iStock

A survey of 912 institutional investors with a combined €1.1trn (£0.98trn) in assets reveals that 17% now acknowledge climate risks, up from just 5% in 2017 and 4% in 2016.

Around a third cited regulation as driving environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations, while almost a fifth mentioned the views of individual trustees and reputational risks.

Consultancy firm Mercer, which carried out the research, said nudges by the UK’s Pensions Regulator, the EU and the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) were driving engagement.

“However, at 17% of respondents, there is further to go in terms of serious investor engagement on this issue,” said the company’s global director of strategic research, Phil Edwards.

“We expect the industry-led approach of the TCFD to continue to drive awareness of the issue.”

This comes after a study by Cambridge University warned that energy efficiency improvements and renewable power are set to cause a steep decline in the price of oil and gas by 2035.

Detailed simulations show this is likely to result in a ‘carbon bubble’ built on long-term investments to burst, leaving vast reserves of fossil fuels as ‘stranded assets’.

This could cost the global economy up to $4trn compared to the $0.25trn loss that triggered the 2008 financial crash, with investors urged to pull out of companies at risk. 

“It may be that, in time, a lack of consideration of ESG risks will be seen as a breach of fiduciary duty,” principal in Mercer’s responsible investment team, Kate Brett, said.

“A proactive approach can open up investment opportunities in the green fields of the low-carbon economy. 

“Inactivity by pension schemes brings risks from stranded assets and physical climate risks, as well as reputational risk.”

Sign up to our free newsletter here and receive a weekly roundup of news concerning the actuarial profession