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In World First, New Zealand Law Will Force Banks to Disclose Climate Impacts of Investments

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People exit the "Beehive" building at the New Zealand Parliament on Lambton Quay in downtown Wellington, New Zealand, November 28, 2017. Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

New Zealand officials on Thursday heralded passage of a groundbreaking law requiring financial institutions to disclose climate-related risks.

"This is a landmark day," Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister David Clark said in a speech to Parliament.


At issue is the Financial Sector (Climate-related Disclosures and Other Matters) Amendment Bill, which had its third reading Thursday.

A summary of the measure from the Business Ministry touts the bill as a step toward making the country's "financial system more resilient" and reaching New Zealand's goal of net zero CO2 emissions by 2050. According to the ministry, the goals of the bill are to:

  • Ensure that the effects of climate change are routinely considered in business, investment, lending, and insurance underwriting decisions;
  • Help climate reporting entities better demonstrate responsibility and foresight in their consideration of climate issues; and
  • Lead to more efficient allocation of capital, and help smooth the transition to a more sustainable, low emissions economy.

A joint statement Thursday from Clark and Climate Change Minister James Shaw frames the bill, which will require the annual disclosures starting in 2023, as the first of its kind across the globe.

"This bill will require around 200 of the largest financial market participants in New Zealand to disclose clear, comparable, and consistent information about the risks, and opportunities, climate change presents to their business," Clark said in the statement. "In doing so, it will promote business certainty, raise expectations, accelerate progress and create a level playing field."

Shaw, for his part, said the measure would "encourage entities to become more sustainable by factoring the short, medium, and long-term effects of climate change into their business decisions."

"New Zealand is a world-leader in this area and the first country in the world to introduce mandatory climate-related reporting for the financial sector," added Shaw. "We have an opportunity to pave the way for other countries to make climate-related disclosures mandatory."

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.

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