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So much for voluntary reporting: companies fail to come clean over climate risk

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This is where voluntary reporting gets you. Almost a year after the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) released its final recommendations, encouraging companies to come clean over the financial risks climate change poses to their business, barely a handful have acted.

Market Forces has released a study of 73 ASX100 companies that fall into “high risk” categories by the TCFD. Half still fail to identify climate change as a material business risk and only 10 have produced scenario analysis explaining how they expect to be compatible with an economy that holds global warming below 2°C, a key TCFD recommendation.

Three of the Wiggins Island Coal Terminal's miner owners have gone into receivership.

Photo: Glenn Hunt

As a result, investors, regulators and the public have little way of knowing the extent to which our economy is at risk from climate change impacts, or the economic restructuring required to reduce emissions. That should be a major concern, because evidence is growing that these risks are already showing up across Australia’s economy.

Anyone following the unfolding basketcase that is the Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal in Queensland will have an idea what I mean. A $3.2 billion project built at the height of the last coal export boom, the terminal has seen three of its coal miner owners go into receivership, the asset short of throughput and now at risk of becoming unviable.

That’s a taste of “transition risk”, which is what happens as market conditions change and impact the viability of a company or asset. Judging by the amount being spent on developing new fossil fuel projects, there’s plenty more risk where that came from. Research from Carbon Tracker last week identified $US1.6 trillion in planned capital expenditure by coal, oil and gas producers on projects that would become uneconomic if global temperatures are kept below 2°C.

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