Funds 'reckless' in managing climate change risks

SUPERANNUATION funds and other long-term investors are handling their climate change risks with "reckless mismanagement", according to the compilers of an international climate investment index.

SUPERANNUATION funds and other long-term investors are handling their climate change risks with "reckless mismanagement", according to the compilers of an international climate investment index.

A survey of the world's 300 largest retirement funds, insurance companies and other big investors found "many didn't even have a climate policy and many that did hadn't changed investment decisions as a result", said John Hewson, pictured, the chairman of the Asset Owners Disclosure Project.

The findings painted "a disturbing overall picture of greenwash and reckless mismanagement", he said.

The AODP said its climate index is the first of its kind to rate funds according to key measures including transparency, risk management and low-carbon investment. Just two funds were deemed to warrant a triple-A rating, one of which was Australia's Local Government Super.

"It's fair to say that the industry is in pretty dire straits when it comes to managing climate risks as a whole," said Julian Poulter, AODP's executive director.

AODP contrasted the involvement in the survey of Local Government Super, with $6.5 billion funds under management, with the $80 billion Future Fund, which it said didn't participate because of "inadequate resources".

A Future Fund spokesman, Will Hetherton, rejected the claim, saying it took environmental, social and governance issues including climate change "very seriously".

"We get a lot of requests and we have to be selective, and we took the view that participating in this particular survey wasn't going to be valuable," Mr Hetherton said.

Just 17 of more than 1000 of the world's biggest investors responded to the survey directly, while AODP compiled data on the other funds from publicly available information.

The poor response came despite many of the funds regularly calling for listed companies to reveal their climate exposure to such surveys as the Carbon Disclosure Project.

"It's a double standard that can't survive for long," said John Connor, the chief executive of the Climate Institute and a member of the AODP board.

Mr Poulter said super funds and fund managers were leaving themselves vulnerable to a "carbon re-pricing event" over the next five to 20 years that would trigger a sharp revaluation of fossil-fuel holdings.

"We don't know how a low-carbon economy will occur but we do know that when it does, it's likely to produce a tipping point that will resemble the subprime crisis," Mr Poulter said.

"Nobody will be able to stock-pick their way out of climate change."

Australian firms accounted for seven of the 17 respondents to the survey, including Care Super, Australian Super and NAB's staff super.

"If you think there's even a 20 per cent chance of a climate change repricing event in the 2020s occurring, you need to plan for it now," Mr Poulter said.

"We don't know what shape the repricing event will take around climate change, and we don't know what's going to trigger it, but we do know it's coming and so do the funds."

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