State Treasurer presses climate transparency for investors

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Treasurer Westlund seeks more transparency for investors about climate risks to companies
By Oregon State Treasurer Ben Westlund,

SALEM – In life and investing, there’s a truism that “What you don’t know can hurt you.” Oregon State Treasurer Ben Westlund is asking the Securities and Exchange Commission to reduce that uncertainty when it comes to climate change, and how the impacts could help or hinder companies and their bottom lines. Westlund is among the representatives of 20 major institutional investors that jointly submitted a petition Monday to the Securities and Exchange Commission, asking for greater transparency of climate-related risks and also opportunities because investors will ultimately pay — or profit – based on how well situated companies are when it comes to climate change.

“We cannot properly plan for the future without better transparency about climate-related risks and opportunities,” Treasurer Westlund said. “As a large institutional investor, Oregon can be a leader in helping to bring more clarity about how corporations are prepared to thrive in a changing world, and that information will help everyone.”

The petition asks the SEC to provide interpretive guidance outlining “material risks” – such as new regulations, physical impacts, new economic and business opportunities and other climate-related trends – that companies should be disclosing to investors.

The Oregon State Treasury is responsible for the prudent management and investment of public and trust funds, including the $50 billion Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund.

Among some real-world examples of climate-related risks: What will climate change mean to commodities like seed crops? What will it cost to have smokestacks if carbon is taxed? Do companies have expensive facilities in low-lying coastal areas that could be disrupted by rising sea levels?

The 20 signatories to the petition include leading U.S. and Canadian institutional investors managing more than $1 trillion in assets. This week’s supplemental petition is an update to an initial request filed with the SEC in September 2007. A copy of the new request is attached.

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Signatories:

California Public Employees’ Retirement System
California State Teachers’ Retirement System Doug Pearce, Chief Executive Officer/Chief Investment Officer, British Columbia Investment Management Corporation, Canada Alex Sink, Chief Financial Officer, State of Florida Ben Westlund, Treasurer, State of Oregon Jeb Spaulding, Treasurer, State of Vermont Bill Lockyer, California State Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, Treasurer, State of Maryland Janet Cowell, State Treasurer, North Carolina Department of State Treasurer Connecticut Treasurer Denise L. Nappier – Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds Thomas P. DiNapoli, New York State Comptroller John Chiang, California State Controller Andrew M. Cuomo, New York State Attorney General Julie Gorte, Senior Vice President for Sustainable Investing, Pax World Management Corporation Elizabeth E. McGeveran, Senior Vice President, Governance & Sustainable Investment, F&C Management Ltd. Richard Metcalf, Director, Corporate Affairs Department, Laborers’ International Union of North America Lance E. Lindblom, President & CEO, The Nathan Cummings Foundation Michelle Chan, Program Director, Green Investments, Friends of the Earth Environmental Defense Fund