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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Investors blast oil companies for undermining climate goals

None of the world’s top oil and gas companies are aligned with the Paris Agreement’s ambition to limit global warming to 2˚C above pre-industrial levels.

Oil companies creating "major investment" risk ©iStock
"A major source of investment risk" ©iStock

That is according to a new report from the $15trn (£12trn) investor-backed Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI), which accused fossil fuel firms of “dragging their feet” over climate change.

After assessing the carbon performance of 50 oil and gas companies, the TPI also found that just two are aligned with climate targets of national governments – Royal Dutch Shell and Repsol.

This is in stark contrast to the electric sector, with 29 of the 59 electricity firms studied now conforming to the Paris Agreement. EDF and Ørsted are among those set to be nearly ‘zero carbon’ by 2030.

The study also involved assessment of corporate governance, finding that coal is the worst performing sector, with 14 companies failing to recognise climate change as a relevant risk.

Helena Viñes Fiestas, global head of stewardship and policy at BNP Paribas Asset Management, which helps fund TPI’s research, bemoaned a lack of CO2 emission reduction targets.

“We, as a major institutional investor, are concerned that transition risk – the large and growing gap between government targets and company ambitions – is a major source of investment risk,” she said.

“Despite an increasing number of governments having raised their emission reduction ambitions, the majority of companies have yet to establish their 2030 emission reduction targets, let alone set a longer-term vision for their carbon emissions."

Of all the energy firms studied, 22% fall into the bottom ranking for climate risk governance, of which 14 are in the coal sector, six in oil and gas, and nine electric utilities.

The findings come after the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries published a report earlier this year providing guidance on how actuaries should respond to climate change.

It suggests adding climate change risks to risk registers, risk matrices and other risk management systems in place, and continuing to monitor, mitigate and update these.

Actuaries are also urged to help clients and stakeholders quantify qualitative climate change risks to improve understanding, using tools such as scenario analysis.

"Climate change is an actuarial problem and an issue that should be proactively raised with clients and stakeholders," the report states.

"The same actuarial risk management approach applies to climate change risks as with the other actuarial risks that we are involved in."

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