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The Investment Implications of Climate Risk – An Investment Manager’s View

In the final release of its three part series on climate risk, leading independent fixed income manager, Cameron Hume, looks at how attitudes to climate risk can be factored into long term investment decisions and whether those investment decisions can be used to drive the direction of travel with a global response to climate risk.

It is widely accepted that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must be decreased in order to avoid a potentially catastrophic increase in global temperature.

If we also accept that a global response is required to achieve a global reduction in GHGs, but that countries will act according to their own discretion, then the next piece of information we have is the recognition that companies will face different regulatory and legal regimes depending on which part of the world they operate in.

It is a complicated set of factors to consider and it can be tempting to put off any decision making. However, the Financial Stability Board has made it clear that action is required now.

The 2017 report by the Taskforce of Climate Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), stated: “The large-scale and long-term nature of the problem makes it uniquely challenging, especially in the context of economic decision making. Accordingly, many organizations incorrectly perceive the implications of climate change to be long term and, therefore, not necessarily relevant to decisions made today.”

In a bid to help navigate the difficult process of taking on appropriate exposure to climate risk, the TCFD recommends the implementation of tried and tested methods that financial market participants are already familiar with. Improving disclosure is a key input to supporting better management of climate risk. The TCFD recommend considering climate risk in a framework consisting of Governance, Strategy, Risk Management and Metrics & Targets.

For Cameron Hume, Governance means that there is an agreed investment policy that all stakeholders are in agreement with. Strategy should therefore support development of policy and systems which incorporate informed Risk Management. Metrics & Targets must be built into portfolio measures, client reporting and disclosures to bodies such as the PRI.

The Cameron Hume Global Fixed Income ESG Fund, launched in 2018, follows the TCFD methodology while selecting issuers judged to manage their ESG risks better than their peers.

Chief Investment Officer, Guy Cameron, explains: “In Cameron Hume’s view, a key indicator of an issuer’s sustainability is the quality of its governance and risk management framework, which we know must take into account climate risk.

“A company that already has low emissions will be more likely to maintain low emissions in the future than a company with a stated aim of lower emissions but a bad track record of delivering on promises. Even those who reliably commit to a transition plan require access to significant funds, technology or personnel to make such a major shift in operations.

“Similarly, as many governments introduce legislation to reduce GHG emissions, inability to achieve the legally mandated targets may weigh on companies even as they transition.

“As the likelihood of governments imposing tough targets on emissions differs from country to country, we believe the best way to manage risk is to invest in the companies with the lowest current net emissions, accounting for gross emissions and mitigating factors. Such issuers will likely have the governance framework, risk management capability and strategy in place to allow them to embrace any new rules effectively.

“For these reasons, the Cameron Hume Global Fixed Income ESG Fund favours companies with lower net emissions currently, rather than those requiring significant changes.”

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