Regulators Have A Role To Play In Tackling The Global Water Crisis

By Robin Miller 17 July, 2020

Financial regulators must ensure the economic recovery is resilient to climate & water risks. Ceres' Miller expands

Major institutional investors, such as CalPERS & Blackrock, are among the avant garde in recognising the systemic nature of climate & water-related risks and their interlinkages
But to get everyone acting, regulators need to step up; new report lays out 50 sweeping actions for regulators including affirmation and research, prudential supervision, disclosure & coordination
Insurance regulators also need to be involved - water scarcity & pollution present material risk = already USD316bn lost 2018-19; economic recovery must be resilient to climate & water risks

Climate change is intricately interlinked with the global water crisis. In fact, our warming planet is exacerbating water scarcity and pollution in our already crowded, water-hungry world. Water-related risks and the uncertainty they cause are key components of the systemic nature of climate risk.

Many of the actions that regulators need to take right now or are already taking to address climate risk are focused squarely on water risk.

Climate change is intricately interlinked to the water crisis…

…new report lays out 50 actions for regulators

Ceres has long focused its efforts on building the case for greater regulatory action on climate risk as a systemic financial risk. And in a new report, Addressing Climate as a Systemic Risk, we lay out 50 sweeping actions regulators can take to protect the stability of the US financial system. Although the report focuses on climate risk, regulators can and should apply these same steps to tackle water risk.

Climate change, a driver of water risk, is creating systemic risk

For decades, climate change has altered our planet and regional ecosystems – creating physical risks that have led to significant financial impacts for investment returns, companies, communities and households.

Extreme weather creates systemic risks to financial systems

These extreme weather events, including storms, droughts, floods, wildfires and rising sea levels, are increasing in frequency and intensity, combining in devastating ways to create systemic risks to financial systems that impact asset valuations, health and productivity, the predictability of supply chains, and even where people can live and companies can do business.

Many institutional investors and world leaders are already taking action

Major investors, including one the largest US pension funds, CalPERS, and the world’s largest asset manager, BlackRock, are among the avant-garde in recognizing the systemic financial nature of climate risks.

Research underscores that climate change poses significant impacts to investor portfolios across all asset classes. These risks are what prompted some of the largest financial firms, investors and companies to work together on the climate risk disclosure guidelines released by the Financial Stability Board’s Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) in 2017.

Ceres’ Investor Water Toolkit enables investors to evaluate water risks across all asset classes…

…complementing the ongoing work of CWR

At Ceres, we formed the Investor Water Hub, a working group of the Ceres Investor Network, made up of 130 investors with more than $20 trillion (USD) in assets under management to raise more awareness around water risk and launched the Ceres’ Investor Water Toolkit to enable investors to evaluate water risks across all asset classes, design strategies for mitigating water risks in their investment portfolios and complements the ongoing work of China Water Risk. We provide investors with information on engagement priorities, portfolio analysis, and a variety of scenarios to help them integrate water in portfolio management.

Most recently, Ceres launched the Valuing Water Finance Task Force, composed of influential global pension funds and commercial banks, which aims to drive corporate action on water risk. Founding Task Force members include Cathay Financial Holdings and Cathay Life Insurance. The Task Force is keen to embed the physical climate risk dimensions reflected in the TCFD recommendations into the recommendations it is putting together for companies on responsible water use, which will be released in 2021.

Financial regulators must take action

The regulatory authority in the U.S. can address climate risk under existing mandates to protect the stability and competitiveness of U.S. markets to tackle systemic risks, including water risk. Although the report centres recommendations on U.S. regulators, the action steps draw from existing global leadership and can be applied to a variety of geographic contexts:

  • Several banks and financial authorities in Asia, including the Bank Negara Malaysia (Central Bank of Malaysia), the Bank of Japan, the Bank of Korea, the Bank of Thailand, Japan FSA, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, Bank Indonesia, and the People’s Bank of China, are already members of the Network for the Greening of the Financial System (NGFS). NGFS is a group of central banks and supervisors who share best practices and contribute to the development of environmental and climate risk management in the financial sector.
  • The Ministry of Trade, Economy and Industry in Japan published guidance on how companies should implement the TCFD recommendations in January 2018 and held a summit to advance the implementation of the recommendations in October 2019.
  • Canada is linking its pandemic recovery aid to a requirement that recipient companies publish annual climate-related disclosure reports consistent with the TCFD.

Water is the primary medium through which we will feel the effects of climate change.” – United Nations Water

The insurance sector is a prime example of an industry where climate change and water risk intersect.  A global survey of 232 insurance actuaries identified climate change as the top “current and emerging risk” in 2019, ranking it higher than both cyber-security and terrorism.

Climate impacts on insurance sector clear: USD316bn lossess from disasters in 2018-19

The impacts of climate change on the insurance sector are clearer than ever. According to Swiss Re, the world’s largest reinsurer, total losses from natural disasters and “man-made disasters” totalled more than USD316 billion in 2018 and 2019. As a result, financial regulators are growing more aware of the physical climate risks that often manifest in water-related events.

Ceres recommends the ecosystem of insurance regulators acknowledge the significant risks climate change poses to the insurance sector and pledge coordinated action to address them. Additionally, we call on regulators to mandate that insurance companies in their jurisdictions disclose climate risk using the TCFD recommendations.

Regulators must ensure economic recovery is resilient to climate & water risks

Our global economy, now weakened by the impacts of COVID-19, is even more vulnerable to additional shocks from the compounding climate and water crises. Financial regulators must play an essential role in ensuring the economic recovery is resilient to climate and water risks if they take bold steps, now.

To learn more, read the full Ceres report, Addressing Climate as a Sustainable Risk, and listen to a webinar recording on the report here.


Further Reading

  • No-Sense Climate Strategies: From DSD To HSBC – Hong Kong’s shortsighted & unrealistic climate plans will leave key assets & infrastructure exposed that mean the government, companies, investors and the public are even more exposed. China Water Risk’s Dharisha Mirando & Debra Tan expand
  • HK Submerged? Is This Map For Real? – Rising sea level is a catastrophe waiting to happen but we have to avoid alarmism & choose the right map to visualise the risks. Getting the right scenarios also matter. Find out more in our review
  • Why Hong Kong Needs A Meat Tax – Want to help stop Amazon deforestation? How about better health? With Asia’s climate action looking bleak, Greenqueen’s Ho sees a meat tax as HK’s chance to become a regional leader
  • I Want You To Panic – As we edge closer to a climate crisis, Thanos from Avengers Endgame doesn’t seem so crazy anymore. Hear what China Water Risk’s Woody Chan has to say for his generation & children everywhere
  • Managing Transboundary Water Supply Risks: HK vs Singapore – Does Hong Kong’s commercial contract for Dongjiang water offer as much security compared to the international water agreement between Singapore and Malaysia? Chenlin Zhao from the City University of HK explains why

More on Latest

  • COVID-19 Heightens Water Problems Around The World – Is water access and quality only a problem of developing countries? Global water gurus Asit Biswas and Cecilia Tortajada rebut this as COVID-19 & the lack of political leadership reveal vulnerabilities worldwide
  • The Coronavirus Climate Profiteers & The Climate Heroes – Which companies and industries are exploiting COVID-19 and which are doubling down on green efforts? Mighty Earth’s CEO Glenn Hurowitz calls them out and calls for a new, better system to be built
  • Fashion Frolicking In Oil – Fashion is practically frolicking in oil as CWR’s Dawn McGregor points out. 2.5% of global oil produced is used by the fashion industry. See why this is and how fashion accounts for 35% of ocean microplastic
  • It Happened – Central Banks And Water Risks – Half a dozen new reports by the NGFS means that CWR has achieved a key milestone in embedding water risks in finance. Debra Tan and Dharisha Mirando expand on these game-changing moves by the central banks. The credit evolution has started
  • Pathway For Hong Kong To Net Zero By 2050 – Hong Kong needs a new plan to decarbonise by 2050 as it only has targets for 2030. ADMCF’s CEO Lisa Genasci shares key findings from a report that shows us how to achieve net-zero and monetised HKD460bn in benefits

Robin Miller
Author: Robin Miller
Robin leads the Investor Water Hub, a working group of the Ceres Investor Network composed of over 100 institutional investors with more $20 trillion in assets under management. The Hub promotes peer-to-peer learning and a how-to-guide on water risk integration called the Investor Water Toolkit. Robin joined Ceres in 2017 as a manager of disclosure with the Capital Market Systems program where she engaged with investors, stock exchanges, securities regulators and other key stakeholders to drive better disclosure practices around environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics. Prior to Ceres, Robin worked as a banker with Citizens Bank and held research roles at the Sustainable Endowments Institute and Breckinridge Capital Advisors. Before discovering her passion for sustainable, responsible and impact investing, Robin spent many years working as an environmental educator and trail crew leader in Massachusetts, California, Oregon and Alaska. Robin holds a joint MBA/Master of Science in environmental science and policy from Clark University, and a bachelor's degree in public administration from Eastern Michigan University. She is also the board president of Miranda’s Hearth, a nonprofit organization building community through creativity that is affordable, approachable and accessible.
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