Climate Change and Financial Regulation: Challenges for the Financial Sector Following the Global Financial Crisis
Griffith Law Review, Forthcoming
2 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2011
Date Written: July 12, 2011
Regulation has played a significant role in shaping the financial services sector in Australia over the past few decades. Regulatory changes have included the establishment of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), floating the Australian dollar, allowing foreign financial institutions to operate domestically, the introduction of the superannuation guarantee charge, and the removal of interest rate controls. As the economy emerges from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, a new force of change that is recognised as one of the most significant sources of risk and opportunity facing the business community in the foreseeable future has come to the forefront: climate change. Climate change is expected to be a significant change agent in the financial services sector as extreme weather patterns, sea level rises and atmospheric changes impact on asset values (both investment and lending), project finance and risk products. The financial services industry will particularly be affected by these developments, both as a provider of financial products (capital, credit, investment, advice and insurance) and through its powerful influence on the economy in terms of capital allocation. In addition, industry constituents will be impacted significantly by government regulation in this area (reporting, emissions trading and environmental policies) with respect to both their own business practices and those of their clients. This study reports the results of interviews conducted with senior members of the finance sector working in the sustainability area to gauge their perceptions of the challenges facing the sector with respect to climate change. Our results confirm that that regulatory intervention will be critical to climate change response gaining traction and momentum. In particular, regulatory certainty will promote engagement, especially in relation to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS), with other developments needed in terms of information disclosure, performance and remuneration, and incentive programs. Accordingly, the significant potential risks and opportunities that climate change presents to the sector, and to the broader economy, will in part be managed/realised only if a swift and significant regulatory response is achieved.
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