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New standards launched for climate-related financial disclosures | Updated: 2016-12-16 19:41

As the Paris COP21 Agreement was officially initiated, the process of promoting multilateral governance of global climate has set out on a new journey. Countries have committed to transitioning to a low-carbon economy to create a new vision of sustainable development at a higher level. Chinese leaders have declared to the world that China will adhere to the development concepts of pursuing "innovative, coordinated, green, open and win-win" progress and actively propel this process. It will integrate climate change issues into its national economic and social development plans and set an example in global energy conservation and emission reduction.

While addressing climate change, we often mention that "information is king". Yet globally we still lack a clear framework to help companies disclose the financial risks and opportunities associated with climate change. I'm pleased to announce that the Financial Stability Board has publicized the Report of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures. It marks a critical step in information disclosure.

In December 2015, the FSB established the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, which Michael R. Bloomberg chairs and of which I work as the unique expert from China. The task force was asked to make recommendations on climate disclosures by Mark Carney, FSB Chair and Bank of England Governor, at the request of the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting. It is the first industry-led effort to take on this task. With one year's effort, the task force made Recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, which meets the requirements of consistency and comparability and is applicable to all institutions and companies across sectors and regions.

Why is this important?

More disclosure will allow investors to make better-informed decisions on where and how they want to allocate their capital. Actors across the financial value chain will be in a better position to evaluate climate-related risks and exposure over the short-, medium- and long-term. This may also enhance companies' ability in assessing, pricing and managing climate-related risks and opportunities so they can control risks and seize opportunities more effectively.

Since the establishment at the beginning of 2016, the task force has carried out studies on identifying gaps between existing frameworks and the best practices of information disclosure. We engaged with stakeholders globally to solicit their views and get feedback on our recommendations. Ultimately, our recommendations and guidance, designed for mainstream financial filings, have four critical benefits:

• Apply to any company in the world, at any level of complexity;

• Designed to disclose information that helps investors and relevant parties make investment decisions;

• Encourage forward-looking information through scenario analysis;

• Put great emphasis on risks and opportunities related to the transition to a low-carbon economy.

We view our recommendations as a way to improve consistency and clarity of climate-related disclosures in financial reports and enhance companies' ability in addressing climate-related risks and opportunities. And we welcome your feedback as part of our public consultation process.

Now the hard work begins

In order to see the global benefits of climate-related financial disclosure, adoption of the task force's recommendations will be critical. We believe that better information will yield innovation, behavioral change and efficiency advantages across all sectors. Let's work together for better, comparable and consistent information and work for more transparent disclosures.

The author is Liu Ruixia, Member of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures and General Manager of the Risk Management Department of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd.

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