Today’s investment decisions, for example concerning energy supply, will also determine the quantity of greenhouse gases that will be emitted in the future. In the 2015 Paris Agreement, the international community set three main objectives, including making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development. This means that in the future, more money will be invested in environmentally friendly and future-oriented technologies and energy sources, and less in greenhouse gas-intensive technologies and energy sources. As a signatory to the Paris Agreement, Switzerland is committed to this objective. Today’s investment behaviour supports global warming of 4 to 6 °C. The broad participation of insurance companies and pension funds in voluntary climate compatibility tests suggests that climate awareness within the Swiss financial sector is steadily growing.
Finance flows include assets under management in Switzerland. At the end of 2017, these totalled over CHF 7,200 billion. They come, for example, from private savings deposits at banks, insurance capital, and savings in pension funds and Old Age and Survivors Insurance. It is in the interest of savers and pension schemes for financial institutions and institutional investors to invest money in the most profitable funds possible. If the way in which investment and financing affect the climate is made transparent, everybody will be able to make knowledgeable, climate-relevant decisions.
Voluntary measures and regular measurement
Financing and investments are considered climate compatible when they are in line with the internationally agreed climate target of keeping global warming under 2 degrees. This objective should be implemented through voluntary measures taken by the financial sector. The federal government wants to record periodically the impact of voluntary efforts on the climate.
In 2017, the FOEN and the SIF initiated the first pilot tests to analyse the climate compatibility of financial portfolios. All Swiss pension funds and insurance companies were able to have their portfolios of stocks and corporate bonds tested, voluntarily, anonymously and free of charge, for their compatibility with global warming of less than 2 °C. The pension fund association ASIP and the Swiss Insurance Association SVV supported the tests carried out by the think tank 2° Investing Initiative. Further information about the model can be found at www.transitionmonitor.ch. The model is now available unlicensed on the market.
The next climate compatibility test is due to be initiated in 2020, for pension funds, insurance companies, asset managers and banks. The existing model will be expanded to cover, for example, global loans or Swiss real estate investments. Qualitative aspects such as investor dialogue with companies (engagement) will also be taken into account. The tests are being coordinated internationally under the title 'PACTA Initiative 2020' (PACTA stands for Paris Agreement Capital Transition Assessment).
If the voluntary measures fail to have an impact, the Federal Council will consider further options for achieving its goals. In addition, a long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategy will be developed for all relevant economic sectors, in compliance with the Paris Agreement. This will include measures to ensure the climate alignment of financial flows.
Findings obtained from the tests
79 pension funds and insurance companies, representing about two thirds of the total market as measured by assets under management, tested their portfolios for climate compatibility in 2017. The volume of the assets under examination and the participation of various sizes of pension funds and insurance companies made a representative analysis possible. The results show that investments currently support global warming of 4 to 6 °C. There are, however, great differences between individual insurance companies and pension funds. Some are already making climate-friendly investments, while others favour particular sectors or classes of investment. However, in other sectors, such as the expansion of renewable energies, the average investor tends to lag behind the world market. The tests may contribute to a further rethinking within the Swiss financial sector.
See the report “Out of the fog: Quantifying the alignment of Swiss pension funds and insurances with the Paris agreement”, which summarises the results of the anonymised metadata. A summary of the report is also available in German and French. Also available are the test results, as received by the participants, using the figures of an average portfolio.
Risks of current investment behaviour
Climate impacts such as flooding and heat waves can affect property values (physical climate risks). In the event of global warming of 4 to 6 °C, the projected value lost is much greater than if warming is successfully contained below the critical threshold of 2 °C compared with pre-industrial levels. If measures are taken around the world (e.g. a CO2 levy) to limit fossil fuel use or directly make fossil fuels more expensive, the affected companies can lose value (transition risks).
In order to recognise such risks at an early stage, an expert group led by the industry and set up by the Financial Stability Board recommends carrying out 2 °C scenario analyses (FSB TCFD 2017). By participating in the climate-impact tests, several Swiss insurance companies and pension funds have implemented this for the first time.
Return on climate-friendly investment strategies
Even with climate-friendly investment strategies, market-compliant returns can still be achieved. A FOEN study (2016) shows that the emissions intensity associated with investments could be reduced by 10 to 90%. Climate-friendly indices that implement the appropriate strategies already exist. Ten of the eleven cases studied showed higher returns for these investment strategies. Eight of the eleven climate-friendly strategies achieved a better return-risk ratio compared to their respective conventional benchmark indices.
The Confederation supports standardised measurement methods
An international ISO standard (14097) is being developed to measure the climate impact of financial portfolios.
The Confederation supports these and other efforts to develop standardised indicators, and contributes its findings from the various basic studies to international bodies. This will also enable the public to obtain a consistent picture of the indirect impacts of financing and investments on the climate.
National and international efforts
In France, institutional asset owners have been obliged to report on the climate compatibility of their financial assets and their climate strategies since 2017. Sweden is especially active in issuing national recommendations, and the supervisory authority of the Bank of England warns about potential liability risks for boards of directors in the finance and insurance sectors.
On the recommendation of the High Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance, the European Commission published an Action Plan containing 10 measures in March 2018, and is currently discussing various regulatory changes.
In 2014, the Swiss Sustainable Finance Association was founded, with the goal of strengthening Switzerland’s position in the international sustainable finance market through information and education. The FOEN collaborates with the association on various environmental issues.
Klimafreundliche Investitionsstrategien und Performance (PDF, 1 MB, 08.11.2016)CSSP – Center for Social and Sustainable Products; South Pole Group, im Auftrag des BAFU (in German)
Kohlenstoffrisiken für den Finanzplatz Schweiz (PDF, 1 MB, 23.10.2015)CSSP – Center for Social and Sustainable Products; South Pole Group, im Auftrag des BAFU (in German)
Trails for Climate Disclosure – a regulatory review (PDF, 2 MB, 08.11.2016)2°Investiting Initiative, supported by FOEN, 2016
Measuring Progress on Greening Financial Markets (PDF, 1 MB, 10.06.2016)2°Investiting Initiative, supported by FOEN, 2016
Investor Climate Disclosure, Stitching together best practices (PDF, 1 MB, 10.06.2016)2°Investiting Initiative, supported by FOEN, 2016
Last modification 01.02.2019