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Keeping you in-the-know on environmental, social and governance developments

Yesterday, I wrote about a few takeaways from the latest 3,000+ page IPCC report. Here is a Top 5 list from Bloomberg. Their #4 (Behavior Matters) lays very general groundwork for some ways companies may find new business opportunities in climate risk management.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued its 118-page white paper Climate Risk Exposure: An Assessment of the Federal Government’s Financial Risks to Climate Change. How does Uncle Sam think climate change will impact his own operations and finances?

“… we remain in the early stages of quantifying the total potential risk for American taxpayers and Federal programs. In several critical areas, quantitative projections of specific climate impacts are not yet available. Additionally, where climate impact measures do exist, estimating the impact on the Federal budget can be challenging due to the need to tie those risks to future decisions (e.g., estimating the extent to which the U.S. government will provide disaster aid or take on other liabilities). The report examines the Federal Government’s climate risk exposure through six program-specific assessments that consider a handful of the out-year potential damages to these programs: crop insurance, coastal disasters, Federal healthcare, Federal wildland fire suppression, Federal facility flood risk, and flood insurance.

A preliminary OMB/CEA report on this topic was published in 2016, which estimated that annual Federal expenditures could increase by $34-$112 billion per year by later century due to the impacts of climate change, along with significant potential for economic and Federal revenue losses (OMB, 2016). This assessment expands upon, and updates, that 2016 assessment.

The six individual assessments described in this paper reflect only a small portion of potential future financial risks to the Federal Government, but clearly illustrate that Federal financial risks will increase and create a demand for increased Federal expenditures…

The increased expenditures from these assessments total between an additional $25 billion to $128 billion per year by late century.” 

Speaking of Bloomberg, this article from them does a good job of parsing shortcomings of assessing the “S” in ESG. Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:

“…investments billed as socially conscious bought into a regime that’s now being accused of war crimes. 

On the eve of the invasion, about $9.5 billion in funds meeting European environmental, social or governance standards were in Russia, often on the basis of ratings from companies such as Sustainalytics and MSCI Inc. While ESG raters weren’t alone in misjudging Russia’s belligerence, their exposure is particularly awkward given their analysts are paid to focus on factors such as democracy, human rights and other social and governance factors.” 

In reality, most of the “600 standards and frameworks, data providers, ratings and rankings that are working to measure ESG-related risks” focus on environmental issues – and even then that tends to be limited to climate, water use and recyclability/circular economy matters. Granted, some industries (like mining) have a handful of other highly specific issues. Other than DEI, the social risk aspect of ESG has always tended to be more ambiguous and less rigorous. This is now being made painfully obvious whereas just a few weeks ago, it was rather hidden and ignored.

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The Editor

Lawrence Heim has been practicing in the field of ESG management for almost 40 years. He began his career as a legal assistant in the Environmental Practice of Vinson & Elkins working for a partner who is nationally recognized and an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Texas Law School. He moved into technical environmental consulting with ENSR Consulting & Engineering at the height of environmental regulatory development, working across a range of disciplines. He was one… View Profile