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Investors and accountants target corporate climate change disclosure as Copenhagen opens

UK fund, Railpen, to target fund managers on climate change responses; global accountants join reporting call.

A group of major US institutional investors and environmental groups has submitted a new petition to the Securities and Exchange Commission to urge disclosure to shareholders on companies’ climate change matters.
The group originally submitted a request for guidance on climate risk disclosure to the SEC in September 2007 requesting clarity on firms’ obligations to disclose material information about the risks and opportunities they face in association with climate change. In the new request, the investors said the Environmental Protection Agency had introduced new rules last September requiring companies to report on large sources of greenhouse gas emissions.They said the data from these reports would provide a basis for companies to assess their exposure to the considerable physical, policy, and economic developments associated with a changing climate. They also argued that it should trigger an obligation for companies to assess and publicly disclose material emissions data and their analysis of climate risks and opportunities. Ben Westlund, Oregon state treasurer, said: “As a large institutional investor, Oregon can be a leader in helping to bring more clarity abouthow corporations are prepared to thrive in a changing world, and that information will help everyone.”
Separately, Railpen, the £17bn ($28bn) pension fund for UK rail workers, has asked its fund managers to fill out a climate audit explaining how they factor climate change issues into their investment processes.
Frank Curtiss, head of corporate governance at Railpen told Environmental Finance magazine that the 77-question document would be sent to its 50+ external fund managers, but could also be used by other pension funds and investment consultants. He said the results of the audit, created with advice from HSBC and Linklaters, the UK law firm, would be a factor in the ongoing assessment of fund managers.
In another initiative, the world’s biggest accounting boards, in association with the Climate Disclosure Standards Board and HRH Prince Charles, Prince of Wales’ Accounting for Sustainability Project, have written an open letter to the political leaders attending the Copenhagen Convention on Climate Change this week calling for a single set of universally accepted standards for climate change related disclosures.
Link to Railpen climate questionaire