Climate change has already been shown to have a negative impact on people’s quality of life, their food supply, and the prices they pay at the gas pump. Now, it may be taking its toll in a new way—affecting their ability to borrow money. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, bond rating agencies like Moody’s Investors Service and S&P Global Ratings are considering adjusting the grades they give companies and governments in places “particularly susceptible to climate change.”
The headline-grabbing events of 2017 are weighing heavily into this decision. Hurricane Maria, for example, brought devastation to Puerto Rico—and with much of the island flooded and without power, some of the island’s bonds lost more than 40 percent of their value. Texas, Florida, and California also saw major climate-related events last year that impacted them economically.
The thinking is that investors, when they go into business with a public or private organization in a vulnerable area, need to know what risks they’re up against.
“We don’t know if they’re looking at every power plant and their relationship to rising sea levels, and we don’t know if they’re looking at rising temperatures and their impact on productivity,” asset manager Jonathan Bailey said, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. “We want it to be clear how it’s being done.”
This decision by the rating agencies is part of a larger movement to better warn investors about climate risks and their effect on the ability to borrow money. Powering this movement are groups like Principles for Responsible Investment, a U.N.-backed organization that holds regular dialogues about environmental, social, and corporate governance factors in investment.
It’s worth noting that the impact of climate change on a company’s bond rating can be positive or negative. For a company in a vulnerable area, they’re likely to take a hit, but for one that actually benefits from climate change—such as an electric car manufacturer—borrowing costs can decrease.
Photo: A couple looks at a badly damaged house and lot after Hurricane Maria swept through the island of Puerto Rico in November of 2017. Credit: Shutterstock