Australia: Systemic risk climate change poses to bonds

Australian Treasury has acknowledged the systemic risk that climate change poses to government bonds, it said in a statement on Thursday.

Global warming “presents significant risks and opportunities for Australia’s economy” and could affect the long-term value of bonds, it said.

“As a consequence, there is uncertainty about whether the fiscal impacts of climate change may affect the value of government bonds,” the agreed statement, which also outlined the actions the government is taking on the climate crisis, said.

“The government’s intention is that these reforms will assist investors to align their investment decisions with net zero emissions targets.”

The acknowledgment was part of a settlement in a class-action lawsuit brought by a group of climate activists, who alleged the government was misleading investors by failing to inform them that climate change could hurt the value of bonds.

The suit was filed in 2020 by Kathleen O’Donnell, then a 23-year-old law student, who agreed to drop a request for a declaration the government had engaged in misleading conduct under the terms of the settlement.

“When I purchased these bonds as a 23-year-old in 2020, the government did not mention climate change. This was remarkable given that my bonds mature in 2050 and by that time Australia will be facing increasingly serious climate impacts,” O’Donnell said in a statement on Wednesday.

The settlement was an “important recognition” in realizing the economic threat of climate change, she said. ■

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