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Banks, Climate Change, and Credit; A New Perspective

New commentary from DBRS Morningstar highlights how the company looks at banks’ management of climate-related risks, in particular, from a credit perspective. 

According to DBRS, banks are exposed to a number of environmental risk factors and the impact of these risk factors on banks’ credit ratings has been very limited to date for banks rated by DBRS. Nevertheless, climate-related risk factors have the potential to be a negative impact on banks’ credit ratings over time and should be preemptively mitigated. 

But even today, large banks are typically balancing a number of different objectives to assess climate-related risks and opportunities. In addition, they generally continue to support clients that are seen to have sufficient plans to transition to net zero emissions now or in the future. 

In terms of banks’ credit ratings, DBRS assesses overall climate-related risks, and how banks are incorporating this evolving risk into their risk management framework. For example, whether banks are developing stress testing tools is an indication of their appetite to adjust as appropriate, and this can be more challenging for smaller and medium sized banks. 

Many other initiatives have been reinforcing and complementing preexisting framework. The Net Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA) framework, for example, allows for a comparison between peers based on targets that are comparable. Once banks commit to the NZBA, they are required to publish interim targets within 18 months, starting from 2030 (or sooner) with intermediary targets to be set every five years. The NZBA covers 41% of assets financed by banks worldwide. 

Monitoring climate-related risks is a quickly evolving field of expertise. Any progress communicated by the banking regulators is important. The first rounds of climate-related stress-tests were presented as learning exercises, and there were no implications in DBRS's credit assessments. 

“As a credit rating agency our core focus is on assessing the credit risk,” said Vitaline Yeterian, Senior Vice President, European Financial Institutions at DBRS Morningstar. “To date, the impact of climate-related risk factors on banks’ credit ratings has been marginal for banks we rate. However, looking ahead, climate-related risks are likely to remain a priority for banks given regulatory pressures.” 

Click here to see the PDF published on this topic by DBRS Morningstar. 

About Author: Kyle G. Horst

Kyle G. Horst is a reporter for DS News and MReport. A graduate of the University of Texas at Tyler, he has worked for a number of daily, weekly, and monthly publications in South Dakota and Texas. With more than 10 years of experience in community journalism, he has won a number of state, national, and international awards for his writing and photography including best newspaper design by the Associated Press Managing Editors Group and the international iPhone photographer of the year by the iPhone Photography Awards. He most recently worked as editor of Community Impact Newspaper covering a number of Dallas-Ft. Worth communities on a hyperlocal level. Contact Kyle G. at [email protected].

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