Given the complexity of the data and assumptions required for transition and physical risk research, we are taking two distinct approaches: For the estimation of transition risk and chronic physical risk, we are using the second iteration of the scenarios designed by the Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS), a group of 66 central banks and supervisors. And for the estimation of acute physical risk, we are leaning into our firm’s research partnership with Woodwell Climate Research Center to develop a methodology similar to an expected credit loss calculation. In light of the long-term nature of climate change and the 10-year horizon of our CMAs, we expect transition risk to have a greater impact than physical risk. We plan to introduce our climate-aware CMAs and our findings in early 2022.
Pillar 2: Climate-aware asset allocation
This pillar is focused on adding relevant climate metrics to the other metrics we include in our asset allocation optimization process. By quantifying the carbon intensity of the various potential allocations, for example, we can undertake analysis around climate exposure similar to our approach to other risk exposures. In particular, we can understand the exposure of each asset allocation, identify the optimal climate-aware portfolio for a given return, and target a carbon emission level on a relative (versus a reference benchmark) or absolute (emission constraint) basis.
While our research in this area is ongoing, we can generally take one of two approaches. The first incorporates specific climate guidelines (e.g., restrictions on the carbon intensity of an allocation) into the optimization process. This approach is scalable and makes climate considerations an inherent part of the asset allocation process. Alternatively, exposures can be tilted after the optimization process is conducted, based on climate priorities — an approach that is more flexible and allows for very deliberate decisions about how to shift exposures.
Pillar 3: Climate-aware implementation
The third pillar is focused on the impact of using climate-aware strategies to express the asset allocation. For instance, could the use of climate-aware strategies introduce structural biases (sector, style, or factor)? And could the pursuit of specific outcomes (e.g., defensiveness or income in an equity portfolio) be affected by the simultaneous pursuit of climate goals?
Climate-aware strategies include a wide range of approaches, with many of the definitions still in flux. Some strategies, for instance, seek to generate excess returns while being exposed to fewer emissions than their benchmark (e.g., “negative screening” and “ESG integration” strategies). Others seek to generate returns by exploiting changes and opportunities brought about by climate change (e.g., “impact investing” and “thematic” strategies).
Regardless of the approach, members of our Fundamental Factor Team have found that investors should indeed be aware of the potential for structural effects, though these differ across regions and objectives. For example, looking at European equity portfolios, they found that income is generally a space with high relative carbon intensity, and therefore greater carbon constraints were associated with a steadily decreasing yield. In terms of structural biases, the team found that as carbon constraints rose in European income strategies, the portfolios became less overweight value and less underweight growth and quality.
On the other hand, integrating carbon constraints in European defensive portfolios (i.e., portfolios targeting minimum absolute volatility) did not meaningfully limit the opportunity set until the constraints became quite restrictive. And while the impact on biases was minimal until carbon constraints became more aggressive, there was a similar pattern as with income: Greater constraints eventually led to less value exposure and more growth and quality exposure.
Read more on the team’s research here, and watch for a paper on our climate-aware CMAs in the new year.