COP26: 'Climate risk is investment risk', says BlackRock ESG lead

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“Climate risk is investment risk,” the ESG lead at investment heavyweight BlackRock has said, as the UN’s Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) outlines not only what countries need to do to hold back climate change, but what they are likely to achieve.

To meet the Paris Agreement’s goals, countries will need to retire unabated coal by 2035, phase out fossil fuel cars by 2040, shift to clean energy by 2045 and end deforestation by 2025, PRI’s latest Inevitable Policy Response (IPR) forecast report said.

The Paris Agreement, set out in 2015, stipulates that global warming must be kept to 1.5C to avoid a climate crisis.

PRI, which works with BNP Paribas Asset Management, Goldman Sachs Asset Management and Fitch Ratings alongside BlackRock, revealed that bank and investors which have already committed to aligning with net zero by 2050, collectively host $90 trillion in funds and assets – highlighting the investment power behind the cause.

An increasing number of funds, like HSBC’s £36bn pension scheme earlier this month, have formally made climate commitments as ESG climbs higher on the investor agenda.

‘Forward looking scenarios are critical’

“Climate risk is investment risk and assessing climate risk on the path to net zero requires credible scenarios outlining not only what is possible but what is likely,” head of ESG investment at BlackRock’s Global Fixed Income arm, Ashley Schulten said.

“The detailed policy forecasts in this work help the market conceptualise the key changes that could occur in energy and land systems across the world if the forecasted climate policy acceleration occurs.”

The UK’s phasing out of fossil fuel vehicles by 2035, both heavy and light duty, is due to arrive at the right time, according to the report.

While phasing out coal use by 2025 in the UK, which comes ahead of most other countries, also meets the PRI’s expectations – with the UK forecasted to meet the commitment before fellow G7 states Canada and Japan

However, the report highlighted that the UK needs to phase out fossil fuel heating systems five years before it is expected to in 2035 – the same time that Australia, which has refused to set a net zero target, is expected to.

Power coming full from clean sources will be necessary by 2035, though the report forecasts it will be achieved in the UK by 2040. Though countries such as India and Indonesia could be waiting until 2060 for a wholly renewable grid.

The UK emerges as a leader in terms of climate policy, but PRI urged that an acceleration of climate-focused policy is still required to achieve the Paris Agreement.

Global head of sustainability research at BNP Paribas AM, Alex Bernhardt said: “Forward-looking scenarios are critical in a changing world. This new analysis from IPR provides a wealth of information to support company and sector analysis, portfolio construction and guide stewardship initiatives as we navigate the economic transition underway.

“The discrepancy between the forecast and required policy scenarios reiterates the fact that we’re not going to get to 1.5C without serious action: companies, investors and governments committed to achieving net zero by 2050 must accelerate their efforts now more than ever. That is the key message heading into COP26.”

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