Climate and financial markets

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. As of the end of 2016, these totalled over CHF 6,500 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 climate compatibility tests

In 2017, the FOEN and the SIF initiated 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.

79 pension funds and insurance companies, which represent about two thirds of the total market as measured by assets under management, accepted this invitation. The volume of the assets under examination and the level of participation of various sizes of pension funds and insurance companies made a representative analysis possible. Further information about the model can be found at www.transitionmonitor.ch. The model is now available unlicensed on the market.


Findings obtained from the tests

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 climate-impact tests carried out in 2017 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. In other sectors, such as the expansion of renewable energies, however, the average investor tends to lag behind the world market. The tests can 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.

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.

Further information

Documents

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

Reports 

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Last modification 12.11.2018

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