This review concludes that Australia’s current corporate disclosure legislation is compatible with the adoption of the TCFD recommendations.
Australia does not have express legislation capturing the full extent of climate risk disclosure recommended by the TCFD. However, Australian corporations are governed by a number of regulations requiring disclosure of information relevant to operations, financial positions, business strategies and any matter considered to be material to the value of an entity’s securities.
Given Australia’s particularly vulnerable position when it comes to the impacts of climate risk, the adoption of a reliable and transparent climate disclosure framework will be a central element to its smooth transition to a low carbon economy and maintaining the stability of financial markets in the meantime. With investor and general public demand for climate risk disclosure set to continue, there are a number of areas where stakeholders can undertake reforms to support companies in implementing the TCFD recommendations.
Practical actions for better climate disclosure in Australia
- The Government of the Commonwealth of Australia should endorse the TCFD’s recommendations.
- The Government should nominate a single government entity to provide for a coordinated government response to the TCFD recommendations.
- The Government should also commit to implementing express legislative provisions within Australian corporate law on the requirement for companies to disclose climate risk and how to implement that disclosure in alignment with the TCFD recommendations.
- Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) update SPS 530 (and equivalent prudential standards or guidance applicable to its regulated banks and insurers) to clarify to superannuation funds that climate risks may be material to risk and return analysis. Climate risks therefore should be incorporated alongside other material risk and return factors in investment decision making.
- The FSC should continue to work with Australian asset managers to strengthen stewardship expectations including implementation of the TCFD recommendations. Stewardship expectations could be formalised through the development of a code that extends this expectation to climate risk disclosure, in alignment with the TCFD recommendations. In addition, Australian asset owners should incorporate such stewardship expectations in the selection, appointment and monitoring of asset managers.
- In line with the above, FSC consider revising the Blue Book to take into account the TCFD recommendations specifically and to provide practical and comprehensive guidance on their implementation.
- ASIC review its guidance to directors to ensure that it provides a proper understanding of the manifestations of carbon risk including recent Memorandums of Opinion and statements from APRA with respect to exercising fiduciary duties. ASIC should also monitor the quality of climate risk disclosure.
- ASX should continue to enhance corporate reporting and consider the development of guidance that specifically addresses how to implement the TCFD recommendations. Specifically, ASX should consider providing guidance on the circumstances in which a listed entity’s exposure to carbon risk requires disclosure under Recommendation 7.4 of the ASX Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations.
- In line with recent guidance issued by APRA and the legal Memorandum of Opinion on Directors’ Duties and Climate Change, Australian companies should adopt the TCFD’s recommendations as a comprehensive voluntary framework for consistent climate-related disclosures to investors in line with current reporting and disclosure laws. Sharing of good practice will assist in overcoming implementation hurdles, with convergence of reporting frameworks needed in the longer term.
- Australian asset owners and managers should adopt the TCFD’s recommendations as a useful voluntary framework for climate-related financial disclosures. PRI signatories are encouraged to pilot TCFD recommendations to build internal capacity on TCFD and evolve industry good practice. Signatories can pilot TCFD drawing on the 2018 PRI Reporting Framework pilot climate reporting indicators94 and PRI Guidance on PRI Climate Reporting.
- To support investor education, trustee boards should ensure capacity and competence on climate-related financial risk and such risk disclosures under the TCFD recommendations.