“Climate change is an emerging threat to the financial stability of the United States.” So begins a recently issued Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) Report, identifying climate change as a financial risk and threat to U.S. financial stability and highlighting a need for coordinated, stable, and clearly communicated policy objectives and actions in order to avoid a disorderly transition to a net-zero economy.

The FSOC’s members are the top regulators of the financial system in the United States, including the heads of the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Their charge is to identify risks facing the country’s financial system and respond to them. This new Report supports steps being taken by various financial regulators in the U.S.

The Report suggests four steps necessary to facilitate an orderly transition to a net-zero economy.

  1. Regulators must develop and use better tools to help policy makers. “Council members recognize that the need for better data and tools cannot justify inaction, as climate-related financial risks will become more acute if not addressed promptly.” The FSOC Report highlights the tool of scenario analysis, “a forward-looking projection of risk outcomes that provides a structured approach for considering potential future risks associated with climate change.” The FSOC recommends the use of sector- and economy-wide scenario analysis as particularly important because of the interrelated and unpredictable development of climate impacts and technologies necessary to address them. Each of these technologies may have an unexpected impact on a part of the economy.
  2. Climate-related financial risk data and methodologies for filling gaps must be addressed.  The FSOC Report noted that its members lacked the ability to effectively access and use data that may be present in the financial system. The FSOC Report also noted potential risks to lenders, insurers, infrastructure, and fund managers caused by physical and transitional risks of climate change and the need to develop tools to better understand those risks.
  3. As has been highlighted by the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) movement, disclosure by companies of their climate-related risks is a key piece of data not only for investors but also for regulators and policy makers. Disclosure regimes that promote comparable, consistent, or decision-useful data and impacts of climate change are necessary, according to the Report, and also regimes that cover both public and private entities. The Report highlights various ongoing discussions on this topic, including possible regulations by the SEC.
  4. To assess and mitigate climate-related risks on the financial system, methods of analyzing the interrelated aspects of climate change are necessary. The Report details the developing thoughts around scenario analysis as a tool to help predict the many aspects of climate change on the financial system but notes that clearly defined objectives and planning are essential for decision useful analysis.

If you have questions about climate-related risk disclosure, please reach out to any member of the Schiff Hardin ESG Working Group.