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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Financial services stand to gain most from low-carbon transition

The financial sector is set to gain most from creating new sustainable products and services in response to climate change, a groundbreaking international study has revealed.

Financial opportunities in low-carbon transition ©iStock

It forecasts potential revenues of $1.2trn (£1trn) for financial services, far more than the $338bn predicted for manufacturing firms that successfully make the low-carbon transition.

However, the study warns that the world’s 215 largest companies are exposed to $1trn worth of climate risks, with the financial sector reporting almost 80% of the risk value.

This comes amid growing pressure on businesses to report their vulnerability to climate change from the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).

The study was carried out by CDP, which runs the global disclosure system for environmental information, and is based on feedback given by 6,937 companies in 2018.

“The majority of financial implications reported are concentrated in the financial services industry – they are disclosing these risks more readily than others,” the researchers said.

“The sector is experiencing an increasing focus on climate-related risks. This could explain the higher numbers of risks and opportunities being identified in this sector.”

In total, the study predicts that $250bn of the £1trn in potential climate change losses will be experienced in the form of stranded assets, such as coal plants no longer offering returns.

Many of the losses are likely to hit in the next five years, with $500bn of the costs rated as “likely to virtually certain”. Higher operating costs due to legal changes are seen as a significant risk.

However, the climate-related opportunities are almost seven times the cost of achieving them on average. Combined revenues of $2.1trn could be achieved at a cost of $331bn.

"It is hugely encouraging that companies are reporting that the potential value of climate opportunities far outweigh the costs of investing in the transition," CDP director of climate change, Nicolette Bartlett, said.

"The goalposts for climate action have never been clearer for companies – regulators and investors should take note, and all companies from all industries need to step up.”

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