World’s biggest firms foresee $1tr in climate cost

Survey suggests many companies have underestimated the dangers

Reuters June 05, 2019
Representational image. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON: More than 200 of the world’s largest listed companies forecast that climate change could cost them a combined total of almost $1 trillion, with much of the pain due in the next five years, according to a report published on Tuesday.

Even so, the findings by charity CDP suggested many companies still underestimated the dangers as scientists warn that earth’s climate system is on course to hit catastrophic tipping points without rapid cuts in carbon emissions. “Most companies still have a long way to go in terms of properly assessing climate risk,” said Nicolette Bartlett, CDP’s Director of Climate Change, who authored the report.

Founded in the early 2000s, CDP - formerly known as Carbon Disclosure Project - is a respected voice in a growing coalition of pressure groups, fund managers, central bankers and politicians who believe global warming poses a systemic risk to the financial system.

By pushing chief executives to confront risks to their operations, advocates of greater disclosure hope to spur enough investment in cleaner industries to cut carbon emissions in time to meet global climate goals. In its latest study, CDP analysed survey data from 215 of the largest companies, ranging from Apple and Microsoft to Unilever, UBS, Nestle, China Mobile, Infosys, Sony and BHP.

The companies anticipated a total of $970 billion in extra costs due to factors including hotter temperatures, chaotic weather and pricing of greenhouse gas emissions. About half of these costs were seen as “likely to virtually certain.”

Many companies also saw a huge potential upside if the world can de-carbonise in time to avert the bleakest climate scenarios, which scientists see as an existential risk to industrial civilisation.

The companies in the CDP study, which have a combined market capitalisation of roughly $17 trillion, saw potential opportunities worth $2.1 trillion, spanning faster-than-expected demand for electric vehicles to investments in renewables.

Investor concerns over climate risk have risen sharply in parallel with an upsurge in climate activism in many countries as heat waves, droughts, wildfires and super-storms fuelled by climate change have become harder to ignore.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2019.

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