Financial firms seek better climate information

OSLO Wed Jan 12, 2011 5:25pm GMT

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OSLO (Reuters) - Major financial firms feel they lack information about climate change to help clients manage increasing risks ranging from heatwaves to rising sea levels, a U.N.-backed study showed on Wednesday.

"Climate expertise is an emerging factor of competition," according to the survey of 60 insurers, banks and asset managers including Aviva, Banco Santander, Deutsche Bank, Mitsubishi UFJ and Citigroup.

"More than half of the respondents feel that the level of information today is not sufficient," according to the study by the U.N. Environment Programme's (UNEP) Finance Initiative, sponsored by the German Ministry of Education and Research.

Better information could help financial institutions to assess and adapt to increases in floods, heatwaves and droughts as well as creeping threats such as higher sea levels and the encroachment of desert, projected by the U.N. panel of climate scientists.

Respondents reckoned the risks of climate change were likely to increase.

"To date, the key role financial institutions and other private sector decision-makers can play in increasing the climate resilience of economies and societies has been neglected at best," said Paul Clements Hunt, head of UNEP's Finance Initiative.

MATTER OF TRUST

"The relevance of climate data and their interpretation for business purposes will play a more and more important role," Ernst Rauch, head of the corporate Climate Center at Munich Re, said in a statement.

Respondents most wanted to know how far they could trust predictions and statements about the climate, closely followed by calls for more detailed regional climate projections.

The study showed 89 percent of financial groups operating in Africa felt inadequately informed about the regional climate risks. Percentages were lower on other continents, with just 56 percent feeling inadequately informed in Europe.

Respondents reckoned there was a lack of knowledge about the impacts of climate change on individual business sectors, including healthcare, chemicals, tourism and mining.

The credibility of the U.N. panel of climate experts has suffered after its latest report in 2007 exaggerated a thaw in the Himalayas. Expert reviews, however, have endorsed its main conclusion that climate change is very likely man-made.

(Editing by David Hulmes)

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