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Stalling on Climate Change Action May Cost Investors Over $1 Trillion

(Bloomberg) -- Delays in tackling climate change could cost companies about $1.2 trillion worldwide during the next 15 years, according to the United Nations.

That’s the preliminary analysis of a UN Environment Finance Initiative project that brought together 20 global fund managers to measure the impact of climate change on 30,000 of the largest listed companies. The group has created a guide for investors to assess how their holdings would respond to different levels of global warming and policy making.

“Investors have a central role to play in moving the world to a low-carbon future,” said Maurice Tulloch, chief executive officer of Aviva Plc, one of the participants in the project. “This collaboration shows how we can all take better decisions, for our customers and for the environment.”

Extreme weather events, including floods, tropical cyclones, and extreme hot and cold days are already hitting business operations. Should governments install tougher policy in the push for cleaner technology, emission-intensive companies will increasingly struggle to compete.

Increase in Use of Chemical Fertilizers on Croplands. The high usage of nitrogen-rich fertilizers has tremendous effects on the heat storage of cropland which has like 300 times more heat-trapping capacity. In addition to this, due to over-fertilization the nitrate levels in the groundwater is another cause for serious concern for human health.

As well as Aviva, the investor group included companies such as Manulife Asset Management, M&G Prudential Ltd. and DNB Asset Management AS. The work was guided by advisory and modeling firms Carbon Delta AG and Vivid Economics Ltd.

Investors are playing an increased role to protect financial stability against climate change. The research work will enable them to better understand climate-related risks and opportunities, in line with the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, a part of the Financial Stability Board global regulator, the UN said. The task force is chaired by Michael Bloomberg, the majority owner of Bloomberg LP.

To cut investor risks, governments probably need to put in place consistently rising carbon taxes or markets that will spur a shift to cleaner technology, Christopher Hope, a policy modeling expert expert at the University of Cambridge, told funds managers gathered in London on Friday.

That means prices of $310 per ton of carbon dioxide, 11 times the current levels in the European Union. To make such a plan politically palatable, the U.K. government could, for example, slash basic income tax by half, to 10%, and bolster support for the poor and the elderly, Hope said.

There is observational evidence for an increase of intense tropical cyclone activity in the North Atlantic since about 1970, correlated with increases of tropical sea surface temperatures. There are also suggestions of increased intense tropical cyclone activity in some other regions where concerns over data quality are greater. There is no clear trend in the annual numbers of tropical cyclones.

But such programs to return new carbon revenues to the population have already been proposed and failed in Australia and in the Canadian province of Ontario, for instance. Such high prices for carbon are “mind blowing” for funds managers, let alone industry executives who would need to deal with them and government officials who suffer the political fallout, Sasja Beslik, Nordea Asset Management’s head of sustainability, said in an interview.

Pension investors are fond of their existing old-economy revenue streams and will probably struggle to move quickly enough to help solve the long-term market failure that climate change is, he said.

“It’s too far away,” he said. “The financial industry is inherently, sickly, short sighted.”

(Updates with comments from academic, funds manager in final five paragraphs.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Mathew Carr in London at m.carr@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net, Andrew Reierson, John Harney

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