Corporate Disclosure of climate change risks, and shareholder action by BCGEU on sustainability

The British Columbia Government and Services Employees’ Union  (BCGEU) issued a press release on April 20 to announce its partnership with the global advocacy group SumOfUs (Fighting for people over profits).  Over the summer, on behalf of BCGEU, SumOfUs will file proposals at annual general meetings of Canadian companies,  calling  for greater fairness in corporate governance and increased scrutiny around human rights and labour practices as well as of the impacts of deforestation.

BCGEU President Stephanie Smith stated “As a union, we need to make sure that funds our members count on, such as the strike fund, are financially healthy and this requires careful and responsible investment decisions. …Calling for greater corporate responsibility as a shareholder is not only financially prudent, but it allows us to pursue our values as a labour union as well.”  This is not the first time BCGEU has taken initiative  – in 2014,  the union divested its strike fund and general reserves from fossil fuel equities, and saw in increase in values.

With a similar strategy, the Fonds de Solidarité des Travailleurs du Québec (FTQ), empowered SHARE (Shareholder Association for  Research and Education), to file a shareholder proposal at the April 27 annual meeting of Imperial Oil, requesting better disclosure on its exposure to and management of water-related risks in its oil and gas operations.

Even Canada’s financial regulators are moving in the direction of increased transparency and disclosure for corporations. The Canadian Securities Administration,  concluding a process which had stretched out for over a year, issued a press release on April 5, announcing   CSA Staff Notice 51-354 Report on Climate change-related Disclosure Project.  The report announced  its intention to consider new disclosure requirements relating to material risks and opportunities and “how issuers oversee the identification, assessment and management of material risks.  This would include, for example, emerging or evolving risks and opportunities arising from climate change, potential barriers to free trade, cyber security and disruptive technologies.”

And on April 12, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change announced  the creation of an  Expert Panel on Sustainable Finance. Part of the mandate of the Expert Panel will be to  explore the issue of  voluntary standards for corporate disclosure of the financial risks associated with climate change, and to provide  recommendations to the federal government by the fall of 2018. Full Terms of Reference are here .  The Expert Panel is expected to build upon the work of the CSA Task Force, and the earlier, international Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCDF), led by Michael Bloomberg,  and chaired by  Mark Carney. Canada’s new Expert Panel will be chaired by Tiff Macklem, Dean of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and former Senior Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada; the other three members are Andy Chisholm, member of the Board of Directors of the Royal Bank of Canada; Kim Thomassin, Executive Vice-President, Legal Affairs and Secretariat, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec; and Barbara Zvan, Chief Risk and Strategy Officer, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.

For context on the issue of corporate disclosure, read “Investigation finds nearly half  of Canadian failing to  Disclose Climate-Related Risk” from the National Observer (April 5), and, in the opposite direction in the United States, In ‘Attack on Shareholder Rights,’ SEC Seeks to Sideline Activist Investors .

Bank of Canada sees risks of climate change; Insurers urge end to fossil fuel subsidies

On March 2, in a speech in Montreal, the Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada weighed in on the economic and financial risks of climate change, and the role of the Bank (BoC) .  In Thermometer Rising—Climate Change and Canada’s Economic Future , the Deputy Governor drew on 2011 estimates from the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) when he acknowledged that in Canada alone, “ in the absence of action to address global warming, we would face annual costs of between $21 billion and $43 billion by the 2050s”.   Touching on the role of carbon pricing and green finance such as green bonds, he also states: “enhanced transparency and analytical tools are also needed”  to enable investors to exploit green investment opportunities. However,   “In contrast to some other central banks, the Bank of Canada is not directly responsible for regulating banks, insurance companies and similar financial institutions. …. We do not regulate financial markets and thus do not have the mandate to establish standards of transparency and disclosure in support of green finance…. We do, however, have a broader set of responsibilities to support financial stability, including identifying, analyzing and assessing both imminent and emerging systemic risks. We bring this risk assessment into our discussions with other agencies that control the relevant policy levers.”

Private financial institutions and companies are trying to influence those policy levers – specifically, about fossil fuel subsidies. In a Public Statement addressed to the governments of G20 countries,  a group of 16  investment  and insurance companies managing more than  USD $2.8 trillion in assets states: “Subsidies and public finance supporting the production and consumption of fossil fuels are a key concern to the finance sector. They increase the risk of stranded fossil fuel assets, decrease the competitiveness of key industries, including low‐carbon businesses, and negate the carbon price signals many of us have been calling for. They are also notoriously inefficient from and economics standpoint. They create a significant burden on government budgets, perpetuate income inequality by benefiting the richest consumers while failing to meet the energy needs of those lacking energy access, and damage public health by increasing air pollution.”  The Statement then calls on the G20 governments to commit to “a clear timeline for the full and equitable phase-out by all G20 members of all fossil fuel subsidies by 2020, starting with the elimination of all subsidies for fossil fuel exploration and coal production.”

What would be the  impact of removing fossil fuel subsidies?  The most recent estimate comes from the Overseas Development Institute and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) Global Subsidies Initiative in   Zombie Energy: Climate Benefits of Ending Subsidies to Fossil Fuel Production. It concludes that if  subsidies to fossil fuel production were removed across the globe, the world’s GhG emissions would be reduced by 37 Gt of carbon dioxide  by 2050.  The authors call this “ likely a low-end estimate”, partly because it relies on what they say is  a “conservative estimate of global production subsidies in G20 countries” : $70 billion U.S. annually.   For more on this longstanding issue,  see the Global Subsidies Initiative webpage on fossil fuel subsidies.

Public sector pension administrators are recognizing climate risk, protecting pensions of public employees in Ontario and New York City

OPTrust administers the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU ) Pension Plan, with almost 87,000 members and retirees.  On January 31, it became a leader in Canadian pension plan administration by releasing two documents:   Climate Change: Delivering on Disclosure, a position paper, and OPTrust: Portfolio Climate Risk Assessment, a report by Mercer consultants, which provides an assessment and analysis of the fund’s climate risk exposure .  The  OPTrust  press release  states: “For pension funds, climate change presents a number of complex and long-term risks. In Canada alone, pension funds manage well over $1.5 trillion in assets, which brings a real responsibility to collectively seek innovative approaches to modeling carbon exposure and its impact across portfolios.”   The position paper, Delivering on Disclosure, includes a call for collaboration amongst other financial actors to develop standardized measures for carbon disclosure.  It is noteworthy that OPTrust is governed by a 10-member Board of Trustees, five of whom are appointed by the union,  OPSEU,  and five by the employer, the Government of Ontario.

In a February 2 press release  affecting  the pension plans of New York’s public employees, teachers, firefighters and police,  the Office of the Controller of New York City announced:  “the Trustees of the New York City Pension Funds … will conduct the first-ever carbon footprint analysis of their portfolios and determine how to best manage their investments with an eye toward climate change. In the 21st century, companies must transition to a low-carbon economy, and a failure to adapt to the realities of global warming could present potential investment risks.”  The  New York City pension system  has been a leader in addressing climate change risks, including an initiative called the Boardroom Accountability Project  , which began in 2014 to give investors the ability to ensure boards are diverse and “climate-competent”.

On this point, a January 2017 report from Vancouver-based Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE) found that   “… companies in Canada’s most carbon-intensive sectors are not demonstrating ‘climate competency’ in the boardroom.”   The report, Taking Climate on Board: Are Canadian energy and utilities company boards equipped to address climate change? urges greater transparency from boards at publicly-traded corporations, stating “Investors need boards to demonstrate that they are “climate-competent” – that they understand and prioritize climate change risks to long-term value, including the physical, legal, reputational, stranded asset and regulatory risks related to climate change.”   The report is based on a  review of the public disclosures from 52 companies across Canada’s energy and utilities sectors,  using 3 measures: board skills and experience, oversight, and risk disclosure. It concludes that “more companies are starting to talk about climate change in their reporting, but only three boards disclosed any expertise amongst their members on the issue, and no board included climate change knowledge in its board competency matrix.” The full report is here.  (On another note, SHARE has walked the walk by filing shareholder resolutions with Enbridge Inc., and met with TD Bank regarding their environmental and social aspects of their investments  in  the Dakota Access Pipeline. See “The Dakota Access Pipeline and Indigenous Rights.” )

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board lags international financial community on recognition of climate change risks and stranded assets

In what the WWF has called   “a landmark moment for responsible investment in Europe” , the European Parliament voted in November 2016  to mandate that all workplace pension administrators must consider climate risk and risks “related to the depreciation of assets” -stranded assets-  in investment decisions.  It also requires greater transparency about investment policies. Individual governments of the EU now have two years to pass into national law this updated version of the  existing Institutions for Occupational Retirement Provision (IORP) Directive. Currently, the directive would affect occupational pension plans affected covering approximately 20% of the EU workforce, mostly in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Germany .  A September 2016 Briefing Note from the European Parliament  details the administrative/political evolution of the Directive; a December  article from Corporate Knights  or  Go Fossil Free or Reuters  provide summaries.

In December 14, 2016, the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure, chaired by Michael Bloomberg,  released its report and recommendations  to the Financial Stability Board, a G-20 organization chaired by Mark Carney. An article by the two men appeared in The Guardian, capturing the gist of the work:  “We believe that financial disclosure is essential to a market-based solution to climate change. …. A properly functioning market will price in the risks associated with climate change and reward firms that mitigate them. As its impact becomes more commonplace and public policy responses more active, climate change has become a material risk that isn’t properly disclosed.” The Task Force calls for companies to make voluntary disclosure of climate risks to their business,  to help  investors, lenders and insurance underwriters to manage material climate risks, and ultimately to make the global economic and financial systems more stable.   A 60-day public consultation period began with release of the report; an updated report, incorporating that input,  will be released in June 2017.  The Task Force report was summarized in   “Climate disclosure framework creates a better environment for investors” in the  Globe and Mail Bloomberg News also reported on another recommendation, “Carney Panel Urges CEO Compensation Link With Climate Risk ” , stating that the time has come for organizations to provide detailed reporting of how manager and board member pay is tied to climate risks.  (See a Dec. 1 Reuters article about Royal Dutch Shell’s moves to link CEO bonuses to GHG reduction).

In Canada, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, which administers the assets of the national public pension fund, seems to be standing on the sidelines.  A recent article in the Globe and Mail was written by the director of the CPPIB Sustainable Investment department , which is described in  more detail in their 2016 Report on Sustainable Investing . The report states (page 11)   “ CPPIB has established a cross-departmental Climate Change Working Group to consider how physical risks, as well as technological, regulatory and market developments will impact climate change-related risks, and create opportunities, in the future. …. This review, which will take some time, is being done from a long-term perspective in light of how the gradual transition to a lower-carbon global economy might unfold….  On the topic of divestment and climate change, research has shown that investors with longer horizons tend to be more engaged with the companies that they invest in, and CPPIB is a case in point. As responsible owners, we believe that in many cases selling our shares to investors who might be less active in terms of considering material risks, including climate change, would be counterproductive.”   In light of this very slow approach, Friends of the Earth (FOE) has been frustrated in its divestment campaign for the CPPIB in 2016 ;  FOE maintains a petition website, Pensions for a Green Future, which calls for the CPPIB to, among other things,  “report immediately to its 19 million members on the carbon footprint and exposure to climate solutions of our CPP investment portfolio” and “to replace climate polluting investments with those in green energy, technologies and infrastructure that support Canada’s commitment to act to avoid 1.5°C of warming.” The CPPIB discloses the companies it is invested in here  .

In contrast to the CPPIB, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ),  the second largest pension fund manager is Canada,  is highlighted in a new report by the World Economic Forum  as “ one of the most important institutional investors in wind power” for its investment of  close to $2.5 billion (US) in both onshore and offshore wind projects in Europe and North America, starting in 2013 with a tentative investment in the Invenergy , and now including the London Array wind farm in the outer Thames estuary.  The Caisse statements on environmental and social responsibility are here ; it is a signatory to the U.N.  Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), a member of the Carbon Disclosure Project and the Carbon Water Disclosure Project, and endorses the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative , which monitors the oil and gas industry .

U.S. Climate Policy Considers Health Effects of Climate Change, Including Occupational Health

On April 7th, the Obama administration announced a series of new initiatives which will highlight the health risks of climate change, especially for children, the elderly and the vulnerable. In the companion Climate and Health Assessment report released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, outside workers are identified as exceptionally vulnerable to heat extremes. ” Certain occupational groups that spend a great deal of time exposed to extreme temperatures such as agricultural workers, construction workers, and electricity and pipeline utility workers are at increased risk for heat-and cold-related illness, especially where jobs involve heavy exertion… Lack of heat illness prevention programs that include provisions for acclimatization was found to be a factor strongly associated with death”. The report cites numerous other reports on heat  effects, including a 2014 report from the Centers for Disease Control, “Heat Illness and Death Among Workers – United States, 2012-2013”.

Ethical Supply Chains: Different View Points

Supply Chain Sustainability Revealed: A Country Comparison, 2014-2015 was commissioned by CDP (a member of the We Mean Business coalition) and authored by Accenture consultants. The report reveals how the suppliers of 66 CDP-member corporations (who spend $1.3 trillion in procurement) are approaching risks and opportunities related to climate change and water. Supply chains in the U.S., China and Italy are considered “vulnerable”. Suppliers in India and Canada are judged as not doing enough to manage climate change risks. Indian companies, in particular, demonstrate a low propensity to report on emissions, and suppliers in Brazil have done the least to manage climate exposures and recent water shortages. A profile of Canadian suppliers is provided on page 14. A more business-oriented report, Beyond Supply Chains: Empowering Responsible Value Chains was jointly authored by the World Economic Forum and Accenture consultants. It highlights 31 supply chain practices which, it is claimed, can increase revenue by up to 20% for responsible products, reduce supply chain costs from 9%-16% and increase brand value by 15%-30%. This commercial success, combined with improved environmental impact and better local economic conditions, is called the “triple supply chain advantage”. The report states that “Adopting the triple advantage can also shrink carbon footprint by up to 22% while enabling companies to contribute to local development”.

Chilly Climate re Climate Change continues in Canada

In the U.S., the White House National Security Strategy document was released on Feb. 6,  stating that climate change is a significant risk to Americans at home and abroad, along with terrorism and a nuclear Iran. Here in Canada, the intelligence community appears to see things differently. A threat assessment document by the critical infrastructure intelligence team of the RCMP, written in January 2015 and leaked to the press in February, seems skeptical of the world’s understanding of climate science and states: “There is a growing, highly organized and well-financed, anti-Canadian petroleum movement that consists of peaceful activists, militants and violent extremists, who are opposed to society’s reliance on fossil fuels”. See coverage in  The Toronto Star (Feb. 17); The Globe and Mail (Feb. 17); or The Guardian (Feb. 18). For reaction by Greenpeace, one of the groups high on the RCMP’s radar, see “Caring for the Climate is not a Crime in Canada. Yet”, which puts the RCMP document in the context of Bill C-51, Canada’s Anti-terrorism Act, introduced to the House of Commons on January 30, 2015.

As for the media, consider the facts presented by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (Feb. 12) in “Do you know who’s writing your climate change news”. The article notes the case of Andrew Weaver, described in more detail in “B.C. MLA Andrew Weaver wins defamation suit against National Post”The Globe and Mail (Feb. 6). PICS puts the Weaver case in a wider context by reporting on the dismissal by Postmedia of both Margaret Munro (nominated for a World Press Freedom Award for her stories on the muzzling of federal government scientists) and Mike De Souza (who wrote about the oil sands and exposed examples of bribery, undeclared conflicts of interest and withheld information relating to the federal government’s energy policy). Energy and oil industry news coverage will now be “centralized” at the  National Post, according to “Postmedia cuts National Writer Jobs, Offers Newsroom Buyouts” in the Globe and Mail (Feb. 5).

Cities Making Progress in the Fight against Climate Change

A new global network, The Compact of Mayors, was announced at the New York Climate Summit in September, to expand city-level GHG reduction strategies; make existing targets and plans public; and make annual progress reports using a newly-standardized measurement system that is compatible with international practices. The new Compact will work with existing organizations and global networks of cities (C40, Cities Climate Leadership Group, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, and United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG). See a summary at: http://www.iclei.org/details/article/global-mayors-compact-shows-unity-and-ambition-to-tackle-climate-change-1.html, read The Compact document at: http://www.iclei.org/fileadmin/user_upload/ICLEI_WS/Documents/advocacy/Climate_Summit_2014/Compact_of_Mayors_Doc.pdf, or see the World Resources Institute blog at: http://www.wri.org/blog/2014/09/compact-mayors-cities-lead-tackling-climate-change-un-summit/.

At their annual meeting on September 23, the B.C. Mayors Climate Leadership Council reviewed their accomplishments since the group was founded 5 years ago. Climate Action Plans have been established in 50% of municipalities in British Columbia, covering 75% of B.C.’s population. 31 local governments achieved carbon neutrality for their operations in 2012. See the press release at: http://www.toolkit.bc.ca/News/BC-Municipalities-Marching-Ahead-Climate-Action. For more information about action in cities across Canada, see the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Partners for Climate Protection latest National Measures Report at: http://www.fcm.ca/Documents/reports/PCP/2014/PCP_National_Measures_Report_2013_EN.pdf (the PCP is part of the global ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability). See also Best Practices in Climate Resilience from Six North American Cities (from City of Toronto, June 2014) at: http://www1.toronto.ca/City%20Of%20Toronto/Environment%20and%20Energy/Programs%20for%20Businesses/Images/16-06-2014%20Best%20Practices%20in%20Climate%20Resilience.pdf.

The Carbon Disclosure Project surveyed 207 cities worldwide in its new report, Protecting Our Capital: How Climate Adaptation In Cities Creates a Resilient Place for Business. The survey included the following Canadian cities: Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Brandon, Winnipeg, Burlington, Hamilton, London, Toronto, and Montreal. The report attempts to identify the alignment of how companies and the cities in which they operate perceive climate-related risks. It finds most commonality in recognizing risks from increased temperatures and heatwaves, which have immediate impacts across the public and private sectors. It is assumed that cities that develop reasonable risk assessment and reduction strategies will be better positioned to attract and retain business. See https://www.cdp.net/CDPResults/CDP-global-cities-report-2014.pdf.

Climate Compensation: Considering the Liability of Oil and Gas Companies on the Toronto Stock Exchange

CLIMATE COMPENSATION: CONSIDERING THE LIABILITY OF OIL AND GAS COMPANIES ON THE TORONTO STOCK EXCHANGE
A report released on October 9 by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and West Coast Environmental Law considers the total potential liability of five oil and gas companies currently trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange-EnCanada, Suncor, Canadian Natural Resources, Talisman, and Husky. Informed by a discussion of the liability claims against the tobacco industry, the authors provide an overview of possible legal approaches to climate compensation, and conclude that those five TSX-listed companies alone could be incurring a global liability as high as $2.4 billion per year for their contribution to climate change.

See Payback Time? What the Internationalization of Climate Litigation Could Mean for Canadian Oil and Gas Companies at the CCPA website at: https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/payback-time.

Proposed Carbon Tax Model Forecasts Job Increases; Hank Paulsen Calls Urgent Action Against Climate Change, Including a Carbon Tax

A new report models the effects of a carbon tax in the U.S. at the point of extraction, beginning in 2016 at a rate of $10 per metric ton of carbon dioxide and escalating at $10 per year until 2035. All proceeds from the carbon tax would enter into a “fee-and-dividend” (F&D) system that would refund money to all American households on a monthly basis, based on the number of people in the household. The report forecasts that by 2025, there would be: 2.1 million more jobs under the F&D carbon tax than in the baseline; 33% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from baseline conditions; 13,000 premature deaths avoided because of improved air quality. The report was prepared for the Citizen’s Climate Lobby by consultants Regional Economic Models (REMI) and Synapse Energy Economics.
Models and research about carbon taxes may assume higher prominence as the U.S. business community becomes more and more open about discussing the possibility.

In an OpEd in the New York Times on June 21, Former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Hank Paulsen, a Republican, states that climate change is the challenge of our times and “The solution can be a fundamentally conservative one that will empower the marketplace to find the most efficient response. We can do this by putting a price on emissions of carbon dioxide — a carbon tax…. Putting a price on emissions will create incentives to develop new, cleaner energy technologies.“ Paulsen, along with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and billionaire Tom Steyer, founded a business-oriented research initiative called Risky Business. Their high profile report is scheduled to be released on June 24, and will expand on the themes of Paulesen`s OpEd: the urgency of action and the risks of delay in fighting climate change.

LINKS:
The Economic, Climate, Fiscal, Power, and Demographic Impact of a National Fee-and-Dividend Carbon Tax is at http://citizensclimatelobby.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/REMI-carbon-tax-report-62141.pdf
“The Coming Climate Crash“ in New York Times OpEd (June 21) is at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/22/opinion/sunday/lessons-for-climate-change-in-the-2008-recession.html?ref=opinion
Risky Business website is at http://riskybusiness.org/

Divestment Still a Necessary Strategy as ExxonMobil Reports on Stranded Assets

The largest oil and gas company in the world, ExxonMobil, agreed under pressure from activist shareholders to publish a “Carbon Asset Risk” report on their website, to provide information to shareholders on the risks that stranded assets pose to the company’s business model, and how the company is planning for a low-carbon world. Stranded assets for Exxon are the carbon reserves which would need to remain in the ground if the world were to follow a carbon budget to keep below 2 degrees of global warming.

Some environmentalists are claiming this transparency as a victory – GreenBiz described it as “a pivotal milestone on the road to a low-carbon economy”. Bill McKibben, noting that the Exxon report was released on the same day as the IPCC Report, said it is “probably at least as important in the ongoing battle over the future of the atmosphere”. But McKibben sees “consummate arrogance” in Exxon’s statement that “we are confident that none of our hydrocarbon reserves are now or will become stranded”. For McKibben, the solution remains a divestment campaign – a strategy that Archbishop Desmond Tutu also urged in an April essay in The Guardian.

See “Exxon, Stranded Assets and the New Math” at GreenBiz: http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2014/03/24/exxon-stranded-assets-and-new-math, and an article in the Wall Street Journal Market Watch at: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/landmark-agreement-with-shareholders-exxonmobil-agrees-to-report-on-climate-change-carbon-asset-risk-2014-03-20. But see also Bill McKibben’s article in The Guardian on April 3rd, “Exxon Mobil’s Response to Climate Change is Consummate Arrogance” at: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/apr/03/exxon-mobil-climate-change-oil-gas-fossil-fuels?CMP=twt_fd&utm_content=bufferfc5c8&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer, and Desmond Tutu, “We Need an Apartheid-style Boycott to Save the Planet” at: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/10/divest-fossil-fuels-climate-change-keystone-xl.

For an overview of Stranded Assets, see Unburnable Carbon: Wasted Capital and Stranded Assets at:
http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/publications/Policy/docs/PB-unburnable-carbon-2013-wasted-capital-stranded-assets.pdf.

American Scientists Frame Climate Change as a Risk Management Issue

In the war for public support for action against climate change, a new campaign from the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science was launched with the document: What we Know: The Reality, Risks and Response to Climate Change (at: http://whatweknow.aaas.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/AAAS-What-We-Know.pdf). From the AAAS press release: “Scientists have developed a solid understanding of how the climate is responding to the build-up of greenhouse gases, but they recognize the considerable uncertainty about the long-run impacts – especially potential economic damages. Economists understand how to create incentives to limit pollution production with maximum effect and minimum collateral damage, but crafting the appropriate response is a complex valuation process that requires quantifying those same uncertainties…To do so requires scientists and economists to work together, ask tough questions, and break the boundaries of their professional silos. That’s what’s this initiative aims to do”.

New Research Initiatives Underway

1) In the U.S., a new research initiative led by hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, former U.S. Treasury secretary Henry Paulson, and outgoing mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg aims to calculate the true financial cost of climate change. In a report expected in summer 2014, “Risky Business” will “combine existing data on the current and potential impacts of climate change with original research to reveal the most vulnerable sectors and assist with preparation”. According to Bloomberg Markets Magazine, the team also hopes to show that the eventual consequences of “business as usual” will outweigh its short-term benefits. See http://riskybusiness.org/about or http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-10-01/climate-change-rescue-in-u-s-makes-steyer-converge-with-paulson.html  

2) Launched on September 24, the new Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, co-chaired by Nicholas Stern, will conduct a “year-long, $9 million study to analyze the economic costs and benefits of acting against climate change”. The study will use macroeconomic modeling techniques to analyze possible outcomes, factoring in potential policy mechanisms, economic growth, investment, employment, poverty reduction, income distribution, and the need for improved health, energy, and food security. The commission hopes to uncover pathways to a resilient, resource-efficient, low-carbon economy. See http://newclimateeconomy.net/

3) Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario will launch a Centre for Sustainable Food Systems on November 14, to bring together researchers from the departments of Geography and Environmental Studies, Psychology, Biology, Global Studies, Religion and Culture as well as the School of Business and Economics. From their website at: https://www.wlu.ca/homepage.php?grp_id=13686: “Our vision is to conduct research that is both grounded in practice and theoretically informed, and to disseminate this co-generated knowledge through local, national and global networks to advance opportunities for and educate about more sustainable food systems.”

How Climate Change is Changing the Job of Professional Engineers

A feature article in the March issue of PE Magazine discusses how professional engineers in the U.S. are coping with the impacts of climate change and extreme weather on public infrastructure.  The article notes several local projects and describes the Climate Change Educational Partnership of the U.S. National Academy of Engineer’s Center for Engineering, Ethics, and Society, founded in 2011.  David Lapp, who serves on Canada’s Public Infrastructure Engineering Vulnerability Committee, is quoted for his thoughts on the potential for liability for those engineers who fail to take climate change adaptation into account.

LINK

“Change in the Weather” by Matthew McLaughlin, in PE Magazine (published by the National Society of Professional Engineers) March 2013 at  http://www.nspe.org/PEmagazine/13/pe_0313_Change.html?utm_source=Newsletter+Distribution+List&utm_campaign=dfdf19f1ac-Newsletter_Apr_25_2013&utm_medium=email

Canada Public Infrastructure Engineering Vulnerability Committee website of Engineers Canada is at http://www.pievc.ca/e/index_.cfm