TCFD - What is The Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures

March 8, 2023
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Terminology

To function properly, financial markets must have access to more reliable information on climate change that is comparable and comprehensive.

When it comes to making educated and efficient capital-allocation choices, one of the most important responsibilities of financial markets is to price risks.

Operating and financial outcomes must be reported accurately and in a timely manner in order to achieve this. The physical and transitional effect of climate change, on the other hand, is one of the most serious, and maybe most misunderstood hazards that organizations are now confronting.

The Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) is a guideline framework that assists corporations in voluntarily disclosing climate-related financial risks to investors, lenders, and insurers.

Frameworks are a collection of concepts and rules that govern the structure and preparation of information, as well as the major themes addressed.

TCFD was established in recognition that climate change poses a considerable danger to the global financial system, with a potential loss of up to USD $5 trillion. 

The suggestions of the TCFD are centered on governance, strategy, risk management, as well as measurements and objectives, among other things.

The TCFD was formed by the Financial Stability Board (FSB), an international organization formed with assistance from G20 members to strengthen global financial stability.

According to the Financial Stability Board, the TCFD was created to enhance guidelines for more efficient climate-related disclosures that could encourage more informed investment, credit, and insurance underwriting judgements and, consequently, enable stakeholders to better comprehend the concentration of carbon-related assets in the financial sector as well as the financial system's exposures to climate-related risks and uncertainties.

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Limitations of TCFD

While the framework is a pivotal point in the context of sustainable guidelines, several limitations emerge in relation to the framework.

No uniformity in disclosures

Given the flexibility of the TCFD principles, especially in terms of scenarios, corporate climate disclosures have differed widely amongst organizations. To achieve one of the primary aims of the TCFD framework, which is to allow more comparable and uniform disclosures, additional guidelines and standards are required on a sector-by-sector basis about how such exercises should be undertaken and reported upon. 

Lack of data on climate physical risks

TCFD 2021 Status Report shows that physical metrics, such as ‘weather-related losses for real assets’, are far less represented than emissions-related metrics and that the quantitative disclosure of potential impacts is “less common, and most often found for forward-looking transition risks than forward-looking physical risks”. Furthermore, “discussion of physical impacts was typically in the form of qualitative descriptions rather than quantitative information.” 

It will become more necessary to develop new tools as more professionals undertake analysis across both forms of risk. It is also critical that parties working on these problems continue to share information.

Another issue that investors have when attempting to compare TCFD reports is that most of the material is qualitative rather than quantitative, making it difficult to convert to a spreadsheet.

Ineffective communication

More effort must be made to effectively communicate the financial benefits of climate resilience investments. Since resilient infrastructure may provide soft advantages that are recognized over a long period or can avert damages from climatic disasters, defining and quantifying such benefits can be challenging, as can reporting them. It is necessary to standardize important resilience indicators across economic sectors and other qualitative means of reporting the worth of such investments. Standardization of major resilience indicators throughout economic sectors is also necessary. 

Unclear Materiality

Companies want more clarity on what constitutes a "material" climate risk in their operations. As a result of the extended timescales connected with climate change, stakeholders continue to have divergent views on what constitutes "materiality." The task force, regulators, and others must work together to explain the problem of materiality for businesses in the context of climate change mitigation and adaptation. 

Short-term data against long-term consequences

Climate forecasting is not without flaws, due to the scarcity of historical data that may be used to analyze the long-term effect of climate change and to estimate its prospective financial impact under a variety of different scenarios. 

From scenario planning to financial impact

Companies are expected to take the results of climate scenario modeling and translate them into financial impact, potential impact on business performance, and mitigation strategies, which must be stress-tested against various climate scenarios in order to be successful. It is challenging to identify and quantify physical dangers associated with climate change, particularly in the context of future risk. Companies with complicated worldwide supply chains will need to take into account the risks associated with certain geographical locations.

TCFD today

Since 2017, disclosure of climate-related financial information has risen, but progress must be maintained.

The TCFD presently has over 1,700 signatory organizations globally, including some of the top asset managers in the world. Approximately 60% of the world's 100 biggest public corporations either endorse the TCFD or report following its guidelines. 

The initial reaction to the framework has been overwhelmingly favorable; nevertheless, several discussions have revealed areas where enhancements to the framework should be made.

Several companies have expressed concern about the lack of creation of industry-specific 2°C warming scenarios and their need for additional direction on how to apply them. In its own admission, the TCFD recognizes that this is a continuing process, but believes that wider adoption and enhanced openness will eventually result in higher reporting standards as well as a better understanding of the financial system's sensitivity to climate-related risks.

Global support for the Task Force's activities has increased dramatically in the last year. 

Numerous countries have introduced or approved legislation and rules requiring disclosure per the TCFD guidelines, with some taking effect as early as 2022. The TCFD guidelines also serve as the foundation for developing global standards for climate risk disclosure by international accounting standard setters.

These changes occurred against the backdrop of a larger worldwide attention on climate-related risk, as the effects of climate change have continued to cause palpable and severe physical suffering.

Simultaneously, various governments and private sector groups are putting public promises to shift to a low- or zero-carbon economy into practice. Transparency on climate-related concerns is becoming more crucial for stakeholders to make educated economic choices in an ever-changing climate risk picture.

One significant recent development is that TCFD will integrate the newly created ISSB.

On November 3 2021, the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation (IFRS Foundation) officially announced the formation of the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB), with the goal of developing a new baseline for sustainability disclosures that would suit the expectations of investors.

The ISSB is the consolidation of the Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB) and the Value Reporting Foundation (VRF - which houses the Integrated Reporting Framework and the SASB Standards).

The ISSB will be supported by a Technical Readiness Working Group (TRWG) whose mission is to develop disclosure requirements, notably on climate, based on the existing work of the TCFD.

Learn more about TCFD...

TCFD - What is The Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures

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