Is climate change a financial and investment risk?

31 October 2019

The Aotearoa Circle is a unique partnership of public and private sector leaders, unified and committed to the pursuit of sustainable prosperity and reversing the decline of New Zealand’s natural resources. Climate Change is a key priority, particularly for business.

In order to focus board directors, fund managers and trustees on the importance of this issue for New Zealand companies and managed funds, Chapman Tripp has been engaged as a Circle member, to provide a legal advisory opinion on the following question:

"To what extent (if at all) are New Zealand company directors and managed scheme providers permitted or required to take account of climate change considerations in their decision-making?" ​

Chapman Tripp has proudly worked with The Aotearoa Circle as this key organisation today released two major publications regarding the pursuit of sustainable prosperity for New Zealand.

Interim Report of the Sustainable Finance Forum

Chapman Tripp Partner Penny Sheerin is a member of the Circle’s Sustainable Finance Forum Leadership Group, and Partner Emma Sutcliffe is a member of the Technical Working Group.

The Forum is exploring how New Zealand’s financial system can be re-designed to support the transition to a sustainable economy. Its aim is to produce a roadmap by mid-next year, to be provided to the Government, with recommendations on re-shaping financial policy, regulatory and market frameworks to shift New Zealand to a sustainable financial system.

The Forum is co-chaired by Matt Whineray (NZ Super Fund) and Karen Silk (Westpac). Others involved in the Leadership Group are Simon Mackenzie (Vector), Paul Goodwin (ANZ), Sir Stephen Tindall (Tindall Foundation and Warehouse Group), Mark Peterson (NZX), Paul Newfield (HRL Morrison & Co), Bryce Davies (IAG), and independent directors Julia Hoare, Debbie Birch and Jenny Gill.

The Interim Report is available here.

More information about the Forum can be found here.

Legal opinion on climate change risk implications for company directors and fund managers

In addition, Chapman Tripp partner Daniel Kalderimis and senior associate Nicola Swan were engaged by the Circle to prepare an opinion on the duties of company directors and managed investment scheme providers regarding climate change risk. The preparation of a general legal opinion on these topics is a significant development for New Zealand.

You can read the legal opinion here.

Although the fact of the opinion is significant, its conclusions are not controversial, but reflect applied common sense. We say that climate change is now (whether directly or indirectly) a potential financial risk; and viewed as such, it needs to be considered by company directors and fund managers in the same way as any other financial risk. The law works slightly differently for the two classes of professional, but a guiding principle is that where a financial risk is material – which will depend on the assessment and circumstances of each company and fund – it should usually be taken into account.

Our firm is also a strong opinion shaper in the climate change debate and we invite you to read more on our climate change series below.

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