In a further signal of the Biden administration's deep commitment to tackling climate issues, the White House on May 20, 2021 issued a new Executive Order setting out a comprehensive approach to measuring and mitigating climate-related financial risks to federal government programs, assets, and liabilities.
Federal regulators are, among other things, directed to:
- assess the impact of climate-related financial risk on the stability of the federal government and the stability of the U.S. financial system;
- report on their plans to improve climate-related disclosures and other sources of data and incorporate climate-related financial risk into regulatory and supervisory practices;
- consider suspending, revising, or rescinding any rules from the prior administration that would have barred investment firms from considering ESG factors, including climate-related risks, in their investment decisions related to workers’ pensions; and
- publish annually an assessment of the federal government's climate-related fiscal risk exposure.
This programme of work tracks closely with recent public announcements from U.S. regulators such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, Department of Labor, and the Federal Reserve in relation to ESG and climate risk. But the recent Executive Order goes further by setting out a "whole-of-government" approach to aligning on climate risk across the various organs of the federal government.
The intensifying impacts of climate change present physical risk to assets, publicly traded securities, private investments, and companies [while] the global shift away from carbon-intensive energy sources and industrial processes presents transition risk to many companies, communities, and workers [...] The failure of financial institutions to appropriately and adequately account for and measure these physical and transition risks threatens the competitiveness of U.S. companies and markets, the life savings and pensions of U.S. workers and families, and the ability of U.S. financial institutions to serve communities. In this effort, the Federal Government should lead by example[.]