RBI Drafts Rules for Climate Risk Disclosure by Financials

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has taken a commendable step towards environmental sustainability in the financial sector by proposing mandatory climate risk disclosure for regulated entities. This move, outlined in the draft framework titled “Disclosure Framework on Climate-related Financial Risks, 2024”, signifies India’s commitment to integrating climate considerations into financial decision-making.

A Four-Pillar Approach to Transparency

The framework outlines four key pillars that financial institutions like commercial banks (excluding Local Area Banks, Payments Banks and Regional Rural Banks), select cooperative banks (Tier-IV Primary Urban Cooperative Banks), All-India Financial Institutions (EXIM Bank, NABARD, NaBFID, NHB and SIDBI), and all large non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) must address in their disclosures:

  • Governance: Transparency in how these institutions identify, manage, and oversee climate-related risks is crucial. This pillar delves into details like board oversight, management responsibility, and the integration of climate considerations into internal policies and processes.

Going Beyond the Basics

The draft goes beyond simply mandating the existence of climate risk management structures. It emphasizes the importance of competence within the institution. Disclosures should outline how the board and relevant committees are equipped to handle climate-related issues. Additionally, the framework necessitates outlining specific roles and responsibilities within the management structure for overseeing climate risks.

  • Strategy: The framework necessitates outlining comprehensive strategies for managing both climate risks and opportunities. Disclosures should detail how these institutions plan to adapt their business models and financial planning to a changing climate landscape. This includes aspects like:
    • Scenario analysis: The draft emphasizes the need for financial institutions to consider different climate scenarios (e.g., physical risks from extreme weather events, transition risks from moving to a low-carbon economy) and assess their potential impact on the business.
    • Integration into strategic planning: Disclosures should outline how climate considerations are factored into the institution’s overall business strategy and financial planning.
  • Risk Management: Effective risk management is paramount. Disclosures in this section will focus on the specific processes financial institutions have in place to mitigate climate-related threats to their financial stability. This includes aspects like:
    • Risk identification and assessment: The framework mandates outlining the processes used to identify and assess climate risks across different business lines, sectors, and geographical locations.
    • Risk mitigation strategies: Disclosures should detail the specific actions financial institutions are taking to mitigate these risks, such as portfolio adjustments, risk-based pricing, and engagement with clients on climate-related issues.
  • Metrics and Targets: Assessing climate risks requires robust measurement. This pillar mandates the disclosure of metrics used to evaluate these risks, alongside any targets set for mitigating them. It’s noteworthy that disclosures for metrics and targets will have a staggered implementation timeline compared to the other pillars (one year later for commercial banks, AIFIs, and NBFCs, and two years later for UCBs). Metrics may include factors like greenhouse gas emissions financed (Scopes 1, 2 & 3), exposure to climate-vulnerable sectors, and the number of green financing initiatives undertaken.

Phased Implementation for a Smooth Transition

The RBI acknowledges the need for a smooth transition and has proposed a phased approach for implementing the framework. Disclosures related to governance, strategy, and risk management will be mandatory for the financial year 2025-26 onwards. Metrics and target disclosures will follow a year later for commercial banks, All-India Financial Institutions (AIFIs), and NBFCs, with Urban Cooperative Banks (UCBs) following suit a year after that.

Promoting Transparency and Market Discipline

The RBI’s initiative holds significant weight for the future of sustainable finance in India. Here’s how it can create positive change:

  • Proactive Risk Management: By mandating climate risk disclosures, the RBI encourages financial institutions to proactively assess and manage these environmental threats, potentially leading to more resilient financial systems.
  • Informed Decision-Making: Stakeholders like investors and depositors will have access to crucial information about the climate impact of their financial choices. This transparency can empower them to make informed decisions that align with their environmental values.
  • Market Accountability: Climate risk disclosures hold financial institutions accountable for their environmental footprint. This market discipline can incentivize them to adopt more sustainable practices.

The draft framework is currently open for public comment until April 30, 2024. Finalization and implementation are expected to position India as a leader in climate-conscious financial practices. This paves the way for a future where financial growth and environmental responsibility go hand-in-hand, creating a more sustainable financial system for India and the world.

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