Climate risks are a sticky issue. Not necessarily because some activist groups elect to physically glue themselves to various public spaces, much to the chagrin of an entirely different group of concerned citizens, who dislike the casual inconvenience this might cause them. However, this blog entry won’t discuss the finer points of whether such glue-y activism is really furthering the cause. I merely wanted to open with a pun!
Are we missing something?
At Erste AM we have recently had our annual internal long-term outlook event, where we shed light on various issues which are driving the markets and will continue to do so in the future. The overarching theme was perceived scarcity, and naturally climate risks was among them. Lack of intention, ideas, profits, regulation, and rationality can all to some extent be attributed to the public discourse around climate change and its plethora of risks.
The only thing that is not lacking, is evidence of climate risks itself. The visualization below summarizes the conundrum we are facing. Current policies and lacklustre 2030 targets will put us on a warming trajectory somewhere between 2.4 °C to 3.5 °C. There is much uncertainty with regard to the actual warming potential, but climate scientists (the real ones) are unequivocal in calling this a major disaster.
To be precise: image D on the right of the graph highlights the actions necessary to have a chance of meeting 1.5 °C-consistent targets. Not only would this require massive decarbonisation already today, but scientists have estimated that the probability of staying within that range is approx. 50%
So how are we dealing with this dire reality?
Apart from seriously starting to listen to climate scientists, if you are investing your money with a long-term horizon, you ideally want to have a better understanding how to avoid certain risk factors, which could potentially render your investments less valuable. So, as an investor you might want to ask some inconvenient questions to companies. In German you could paraphrase the famous Gretchenfrage and ask your favourite corporate counterpart: “Nun sag, wie hast Du’s mit der Dekarbonisation?”, which roughly translates to “How do you feel about decarbonisation?”. Ideally, companies feel great about it and show their devotion by having third-party approved stringent net-zero targets in place. At Erste AM we routinely ask about this aspect in the course of engaging with companies.
Wishful thinking or not?
In reality, the current state of decarbonisation might be out of its infancy, but certainly still lacks the maturity needed to take swift action. Research conducted on a broader market index about its constituents reveals a mixed picture:
By pure number of companies, only roughly one in three companies has net-zero targets. Going by market capitalisation, the picture becomes a bit better: here, it is roughly half the index. And if you look at it by emissions, a very slim majority of emissions is pledged away until 2050. The flip side of this is that we are currently still stuck with an unpledged 50%. These laggards might cause major headaches to climate-savvy investors, but also to those who do not like their capital squandered by investing in companies that face legal challenges, rising tallies for carbon emissions via taxes and emissions trading systems, rising costs of capital, asset write-downs and impairments, to name but a few challenges. These risk factors can be mitigated, though. Looking at the climate-readiness of companies might therefore be prudent. In essence: yes, please, let’s look at another ESG factor.
Read more articles from the ESGenius Letter on the topic of “Climate Risks” here!
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