IN TWO WEEKS world leaders — maybe even our ScoMo — will fly to Glasgow for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (or “COP26”).
There will be a lot of talk — but Australian investors should watch a few things closely, says Pendal Credit ESG analyst Murray Ackman.
“This is not your typical gab-fest,” says Ackman.
“The pressure on countries to act is very real as we’ve seen recently with the Morrison government’s turnaround on a 2050 emissions target.”
Murray says Aussie investors should pay attention to three things:
Coal accounts for about half of energy-related CO2 emissions and will have to be phased out to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Many are pushing for this COP to include a commitment on ending coal power.
Increasing uptake of renewables in Australia is coinciding with reduced coal use — but we still export a lot of coal.
Businesses that produce coal (eg Whitehaven), transport it (eg Aurizon) or ship it (eg Port of Newcastle) would be severely impacted by a global decision to phase out coal, Murray says.
New national targets to cut greenhouse emissions by 2030 will be announced at Glasgow — as required under the Paris Agreement.
Many developed countries have already flagged stronger targets.
But Australia has been without a substantial climate policy for nearly a decade — which could start to cause problems for us, says Ackman.
“The carbon intensity of an economy may be a differentiator for future investments.
“We’ve already seen some investors avoid businesses and government bonds due to a perceived weakness in climate policy.
“They’re now known as ‘brown markets’ as opposed to ‘green markets’.
“If Australia’s national targets are not regarded as ambitious enough, this divestment trend may continue.”
A faster shift away from fossil fuels presents obvious challenges for Australia, since they relate to a quarter of our exports.
But change can also lead to significant opportunities.
“There is a very clear path to reduce Australia’s domestic emissions which will require substantial infrastructure investment,” says Murray.
“There will be a lot of spending on the electricity supply of the future with transmission lines, interconnectors and energy storage.
“There are also opportunities for export, whether that’s green hydrogen (produced by renewables), minerals required for electric vehicle batteries and even copper.”
Credit ESG analyst Murray Ackman joined Pendal in 2020 to provide fundamental credit analysis and integrate Environmental, Social and Governance factors across credit funds.
Murray has worked as a consultant measuring ESG for family offices and private equity firms and was a Research Fellow at the Institute for Economics and Peace where he led research on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Pendal’s Income and Fixed Interest boutique is one of the most experienced and well-regarded fixed income teams in Australia. In 2020 the team won the Australian Fixed Interest category in the Zenith awards.
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