With regulators keeping close watch, the results underscore the need for ongoing climate risk management investment and adaptation within the financial sector.

By Betty M. Huber, Arthur S. Long, Pia Naib, and Deric Behar

On May 9, 2024, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (FRB) published summary results of a pilot climate scenario analysis (CSA) that explored how resilient six of the largest US bank holding companies (by total assets) are to climate-related financial risks. The analysis is intended to help the FRB “learn about large banking organizations’ climate risk-management practices and challenges and to enhance the ability of large banking organizations and supervisors to identify, estimate, monitor, and manage climate-related financial risks.”

The CSA was first announced in September 2022, and was intended as an exploratory exercise. It does not therefore result in any capital or supervisory consequences for the participating financial institutions.

Guidance for the largest US financial institutions is intended to promote climate risk management consistent with general safety and soundness practices.

By Sarah E. Fortt, Betty M. Huber, Arthur S. Long, Pia Naib, Karmpreet (Preeti) Grewal, Austin J. Pierce, and Deric Behar

On October 30, 2023, the three US federal bank regulatory agencies — the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (FRB), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) (collectively, the Agencies) — jointly finalized Principles for Climate-Related Financial Risk Management for Large Financial Institutions (the Principles).

The Principles are intended to provide large financial institutions (i.e., those with $100 billion or more in total assets) with a high-level framework for understanding and managing exposures to climate-related financial risks, including physical[1] and transition[2] risks. Such “financial institutions” include national banks and federal thrifts, state member banks, FDIC-insured state nonmember banks and savings associations, bank holding companies, savings and loan holding companies, intermediate holding companies, branches, agencies and the combined US operations of non-US banking organizations, and any systemically important non-banks that may become supervised by the FRB.

The Guidance would increase expectations for regulated financial institutions to identify, measure, monitor, and control climate-related financial risks.

By Betty M. Huber, Arthur S. Long, Pia Naib, Austin J. Pierce, and Deric Behar

For the past few years, the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) Superintendent has prioritized setting the pace in climate risk management for financial institutions that it supervises. On December 21, 2022, the DFS proposed Guidance for New York State-Regulated Banking and Mortgage Institutions Relating to Management of Safety & Soundness Risks from Climate Change (the Guidance). The Guidance follows on the DFS’ October 2020 letter to CEOs of its regulated financial institutions, which announced that DFS was developing a strategy for integrating climate-related risks into its supervisory mandate. The letter also announced that DFS would engage with banking organizations (and coordinate with US and international counterparts) to develop effective supervisory practices and guidance to mitigate the financial risks from climate change.

The guiding principles are similar to related proposals from other banking regulators, but will require further clarification through the comment process.

By Nicola Higgs, Betty M. Huber, Arthur S. Long, Pia Naib, Anne Mainwaring, and Deric Behar

On December 2, 2022, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Federal Reserve) published proposed Principles for Climate-Related Financial Risk Management for Large Financial Institutions (the Proposal). The Proposal urges large financial institutions[1] to consider how best to identify, measure, monitor, and control the various risks associated with climate change over a variety of time horizons. It also specifies that large financial institutions should monitor microprudential risks, including credit, market, liquidity, operational, and legal and compliance risks, as well as other financial and nonfinancial risks that could arise from climate change.

The Proposal aims to support financial institution boards of directors and management in incorporating mitigation of climate-related financial risks into their broader risk management frameworks, consistent with safe and sound practices and the Federal Reserve’s rules and guidance on sound governance.

Large financial institutions are defined as those with over $100 billion in assets that are subject to Federal Reserve supervision, including the US operations of non-US banking organizations. The Federal Reserve’s guidance is founded on the premise that climate change poses an emerging risk to the safety and soundness of financial institutions and the financial stability of the United States.

The agency will use the information to take further steps to address climate risks in the commodity derivatives markets.

By Jean-Philippe Brisson, Yvette Valdez, Douglas Yatter, Joshua Bledsoe, Michael Dreibelbis, Qingyi Pan, and Deric Behar

On June 2, 2022, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) issued a Request for Information (RFI) to inform its understanding and oversight of climate-related financial risk relevant to the derivatives markets and underlying commodities market. The CFTC is seeking public feedback on all aspects of climate-related financial risk that “may pertain to the derivatives markets, underlying commodities markets, registered entities, registrants, and other related market participants.”

According to the RFI, public response may be used to inform new or amended guidance, interpretations, policy statements, regulations, or other potential CFTC action. The information will also inform CFTC’s response to the recommendations of the Financial Stability Oversight Council 2021 Report on Climate Related Financial Risk (see Latham’s blog post on the FSOC Report) and inform the work of the CFTC’s Climate Risk Unit (CRU) (see Latham’s blog post on the CRU). Comments on the RFI were originally due by August 8, 2022. On July 18, 2022, the CFTC extended the deadline by an additional 60 days; comments are therefore due by October 7, 2022. 

HM Treasury’s Transition Plan Taskforce aims to influence international standard setting and make the UK the world’s first net zero-aligned financial centre.

By Paul A. Davies, Michael D. Green, Nicola Higgs, Anne Mainwaring, James Bee, and Dianne Bell

On 25 April 2022, HM Treasury (HMT) announced the launch of the UK Transition Plan Taskforce (TPT) to help drive decarbonisation by ensuring that financial institutions and companies prepare plans to achieve net zero, as well as to support efforts to tackle greenwashing. This move is an important step connected with the UK’s development of the new Sustainability Disclosure Requirements (SDR) regime that Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced at his Mansion House speech in July 2021. HMT’s stated aim is to develop “a gold standard for climate transition plans” and for the UK to become the world’s first net zero-aligned financial centre.

An increasing number of companies are making public commitments to decarbonise their operations and reach net zero emissions, but transition plans announced so far are, according to the TPT, “varied in detail and quality”,[i] thereby limiting the ability of stakeholders to assess the credibility of such transition plans. Proposed rules announced by the Chancellor at COP26 would require large companies and certain financial sector firms to publish a transition plan from 2023. The TPT will, over the next two years, develop: (i) a sector-neutral framework for private sector transition plans; (ii) a sector-specific guidance for finance and other sectors; and (iii) recommendations regarding the preparation and use of transition plans. The TPT’s expectations are for such transition plans to be science-based and to help inform the UK’s SDR. (See Latham’s recent briefing for an outline of the SDR regime.)

A wide-ranging report encourages regulators to take a concerted approach to combat climate-related risks to the US financial system.

By Jean-Philippe Brisson, Paul A. Davies, Nicola Higgs, Malorie R. Medellin, and Deric Behar

On October 21, 2021, the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) published a lengthy report on Climate-Related Financial Risk (the Report), marking the first time that FSOC has officially identified climate change as an emerging and increasing threat to US financial stability. FSOC issued the Report pursuant to a directive in President Biden’s May 2021 Executive Order on Climate-Related Financial Risk, which tasked FSOC to assess and collaboratively address climate-related impacts on US financial system stability.

The Report is another building block in the Biden Administration’s “whole of government” approach to combating climate change and the climate-related risks that threaten the US economy. The Report comes just days after the Administration issued “A Roadmap to Build a Climate-Resilient Economy” (the Roadmap), which heralded the Report as “the first step in a robust process of US financial regulators developing the capacity and analytical tools to mitigate climate-related financial risks.” (See this Latham post for more information.)

The strategy sets out plans to reduce emissions from key sectors of the UK economy to ensure that the UK remains on track for net zero by 2050.

By Conrad Andersen, John Balsdon, David Berman, Paul A. Davies, Nicola Higgs, Sam Newhouse, Simon J. Tysoe, Michael D. Green, James Bee, and Anne Mainwaring

On 19 October 2021, the UK government published its climate change strategy, “Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener” (the Strategy), which outlines plans to support the UK economy’s transition to a greener and more sustainable future. On 31 October, the UK will host the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, in Glasgow.

Last year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out a 10-point plan for a “green industrial revolution”, which laid the foundation for a green economic recovery from the impact of COVID-19. The Strategy builds on that approach to align the UK with its carbon budget and nationally determined contribution to the Paris Agreement, both of which aim to reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 68% by 2030 and 78% by 2035, compared to 1990 levels. Further, the Strategy details the UK’s vision for a decarbonised economy by 2050.

A new national strategy report aims to combat climate-related risks to the US financial system.

By Jean-Philippe Brisson, Paul A. Davies, Nicola Higgs, Malorie R. Medellin, and Deric Behar

On October 14, 2021, the Biden Administration issued “A Roadmap to Build a Climate-Resilient Economy” (the Roadmap), a national strategy report with tangible initiatives that build on ideas set out in the May 2021 Executive Order on Climate-Related Financial Risk. The Roadmap is an ambitious and wide-ranging reflection of the Administration’s “whole of government” approach to combating climate change and the climate-related risks that threaten the US economy.

A new proposal would amend changes made to ERISA less than a year ago that have proved to be detrimental to ESG investing.

By Jean-Philippe Brisson, Paul A. Davies, Nicola Higgs, Malorie R. Medellin, and Deric Behar

In a sweeping reversal of Trump-era policies, the US Department of Labor (DOL) has issued a proposed rule, Prudence and Loyalty in Selecting Plan Investments and Exercising Shareholder Rights (the Proposal), that would allow retirement savings plans to choose investments using analyses that incorporate climate change risks and other environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria.

The Proposal, if adopted, would amend the DOL rule Financial Factors in Selecting Plan Investments (the Rule), which was published in November 2020. The Rule adopted amendments to certain provisions of the “investment duties” regulation under Title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (ERISA), and required fiduciaries of pension plans (and other benefit plans covered by ERISA) to choose investments “based solely on pecuniary factors” relevant to a particular investment. In effect, the Rule was premised on the idea that ESG factors are at odds with financial factors and fiduciary responsibilities of plan sponsors, and therefore plan fiduciaries should be restricted from making investment decisions based on ESG factors that are not primarily “pecuniary in nature” (see this Latham post for more information).