After the publication of recommendations by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) in June 2017, C2ES issued a September 2017 report, Beyond the Horizon: Corporate Reporting on Climate Change. In that report, C2ES identified areas where more work was needed to support companies in implementing the TCFD’s recommendations – one such area included helping companies use scenario analysis to assess climate-related risks and opportunities.
In addition, a growing number of shareholder proposals ask companies to consider the financial impact of different climate scenarios. Companies that proactively conduct and report the results of climate-related scenario analysis will likely be better positioned for conversations with shareholders and other stakeholders.
This report identifies best practices that companies are employing to meet this aspect of the TCFD recommendations. It also includes a discussion of some challenge areas, including how companies are navigating a more complex disclosure landscape, addressing legal concerns related to disclosure, and taking a holistic look at both transition and the physical risks of climate change.
Make use of publicly available scenarios and leverage them by customizing corporate scenario exercises around company-specific risks and opportunities. Stakeholders are familiar with the parameters and assumptions in publicly available scenarios, but companies need to explain how those scenarios were modified and used to stress test their particular portfolio and circumstances.
Focus scenario exercises and disclosures on a few key variables associated with long-term climate-related risks and opportunities that could have a material impact on the business. Stakeholders want to understand how companies manage the uncertainty and long-term risks of climate change. It is not intended to be a predictive exercise, nor an exhaustive one. Rather, it provides an opportunity to evaluate potential strategies compatible under a range of outcomes to make companies more financially resilient.
Use a range of scenarios when conducting a scenario-based risk analysis, including those that do not meet 2 degrees C. Exploring a broad range of futures and testing those against a company’s strategy will help illustrate financial resilience under a variety of climate-related outcomes. Beyond assessing the risks and opportunities related to an energy transition, companies should also consider the physical impacts of climate change and analyze them along the entire value chain.
Scenario exercises should be reviewed on a regular basis as part of a strategic management process. Outcomes from scenario exercises are unlikely to change significantly from year to year if assumptions and inputs remain stable, but companies should regularly monitor signposts that might indicate a potential need to change strategy or positioning on a regular basis.
Not all outputs from a company’s climate-related risk analysis are appropriate for inclusion in financial filings, but companies should make relevant, non-material information easily accessible to stakeholders. Companies will continue to make materiality determinations regarding what is reported in financial filings on a case-by-case basis, but the TCFD framework can also guide the type of information companies choose to share more broadly.
Demand for climate-related data is rapidly growing, but simple data points are sometimes insufficient to accurately portray a company’s climate-related risk profile. Relating context is an important part of the disclosure process, particularly around quantifiable metrics. Companies need to make sure stakeholders have the information needed to contextualize information disclosed about the outcomes of their scenario exercises.
The financial community is still determining what data is needed to accurately assess climate-related financial risks and opportunities and how to interpret the information currently available. Ongoing communication between and among stakeholders will be an important part of improving data and disclosures related to scenario analysis. Better communication and education will help to clarify expectations about how such information will be used.
To date, most corporate climate scenario exercises have focused on assessing the transition to a low-carbon economy rather than the physical impacts of climate change. To better identify potential physical risks, more actionable science is needed. Global climate models are good at predicting large-scale changes like average temperature, but not capable of predicting localized impacts such as where an extreme weather events will occur. However, global models can estimate changes in frequencies of some kinds of weather events, and downscaled climate data can be used by companies to assess highly localized, asset-level climate-related vulnerabilities.