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Climate change: PRI develops ‘inevitable policy response’ forecast

Investors should be braced for governments to act forcefully but in an uncoordinated fashion on climate change within the next five years, according to the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI).

The organisation last week released major research papers related to modelling the financial impact of what it has called the ‘Investable Policy Response’ (IPR).

Introducing a panel dedicated to the IPR work at the PRI’s annual conference, Sagarika Chatterjee, director of climate change at the PRI, said: “Signatories around the world are very concerned that markets are not pricing in climate risks and investors tell us that they believe it’s not about if governments will act but when, how and with what impact.”

The project is a collaboration between the PRI, Vivid Economics and Energy Transition Advisors, with contributions from 2° Investing Initiative, Carbon Tracker and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.

One of the main parts of the IPR work is a “Forecast Policy Scenario”, which the project partners say is primarily aimed at demonstrating latent risk in investor portfolios. It is said to differ from climate scenarios in that it does not work back from a pre-defined target temperature, but works up from probable policy and technology developments.

Speaking on the conference panel, Jason Eis, executive director at consultancy Vivid Economics, emphasised that a forecast was not a hypothetical future scenario but “a hard-nosed business planning tool to really prepare corporate action, corporate investments and also investor action and investor decisions for what is likely to happen in the future”.

According to the project organisations, the forecast of an IPR provided an alternative to the widely used International Energy Agency (IEA) “New Policies Scenario” as a business planning case for investors, regulators and companies.

Critics of the IEA NPS see it as a ‘business-as-usual’ scenario that is out of line with the ambition of the Paris Agreement goals.

According to the Forecast Policy Scenario, there will be an acceleration of policy announcements related to climate change in 2023-25, coinciding with a stocktake of all announced policy agreements that is foreseen under the Paris Agreement.

Other developments forecast by the IPR work include a ban on internal combustion engine cars in “first mover countries” by 2035, and carbon pricing of $40-60 per tonne of carbon dioxide by 2030, also for first movers. 

Sharon Hendricks, chair of CalSTRS, the US public pension fund for teachers in the state of California, said the IPR was “critical”.

“This work helps us on the policy level because ultimately as board members we’re not investors – we direct our staff, we have lots of policies that guide us and it’s the board’s job to modify and change policy,” she said.

“I would say the biggest thing we’re talking about right now is making sure our policies include language around the materiality of climate change and making sure we are thinking about that in terms of the risk and returns of our portfolio”.

The PRI released five papers last week, one explaining the Inevitable Policy Response, one covering the policy forecasts themselves, another providing “a unique meta-analysis of public corporate support” for the low carbon transition, another focusing on renewable energy, and another on the need for a just transition.

Modelling results about the impact of the forecasted policy scenario are due to be released from later this month.  

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