AusNet own and operate the Victorian electricity transmission network, which is mainly powered by brown coal in the Latrobe Valley. Since Australia needs to keep 95% of its coal in the ground to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of holding global warming well below two degrees, this means the company’s $11 billion of electricity and gas distribution assets are susceptible to shifting policies and technologies in response to climate change.
So it’s unsurprising that climate change featured heavily today at AusNet’s annual general meeting.
A shareholder asked: ‘Our company currently does not disclose information on climate-related issues in line with the Task Force for Climate Related Financial Disclosures (the TCFD). This is despite our company having $11 billion in assets that are susceptible to climate change impacts and climate change related policy. Is our company willing to sign up to the TCFD within the next year? If not – why not?’
Chairman Peter Mason would not say whether the company would sign up. He assured shareholders that ‘climate change is a matter that we have to take into account and it is certainly a priority as far as we are concerned’, but he refused to commit to the TCFD recommendations stating, ‘this is a public forum, it is not a matter for the time being that we need to engage beyond you knowing that it’s a matter that has great attention.’
While it is good that the board acknowledge the importance of climate change – actions speak louder than words. The TCFD was specifically designed to provide a consistent framework for companies to disclose those climate-related financial risks to investors, lenders, insurers, and other stakeholders. It’s important that all companies on the Australian Stock Exchange – especially those in high risk sectors such as energy – sign onto the TCFD so that investors can understand the potential risks to investment caused by climate change.