As the low-carbon transition accelerates, loans to and investments in carbon-intensive assets, firms and sectors are at risk of not generating the anticipated returns, with implications for individual financial institutions as well as financial markets more broadly. However, research on this topic has largely been focused on high- and upper-middle income economies to date. In this paper, we explore the salience of this issue in India – one of the world's largest emitters and economies – by asking: (1) how extensive is financial-sector exposure to transition risks? And: (2) are finance professionals and financial institutions taking sufficient action to manage those transition risks? Our findings reveal that India's financial sector is much more heavily exposed to low-carbon transition risks than standard borrowing classifications might suggest. For example, our granular assessment of individual loans and bonds finds that three-fifths of lending to the ‘mining’ sector is for oil and gas extraction, while one-fifth of ‘manufacturing’ debt is for petroleum refining and related industries. We also find that electricity production – by far the largest source of emissions – accounts for 5.2% of outstanding credit, but that only 17.5% of this lending is to pureplay renewables. Yet our survey of India's largest financial institutions suggests that there have been limited efforts to identify, measure or manage low-carbon transition risks. Fewer than half of the 154 finance professionals surveyed were familiar with environmental issues including climate change mitigation and adaption, greenhouse gas emissions or transition risks. Only four of the ten major financial institutions surveyed collect information on ESG risks, and these firms do not systematically incorporate that data into business continuity planning, internal capital adequacy assessment processes, credit risk assessments, enterprise risk management frameworks or loan product pricing. Given extensive financial-sector exposure to low-carbon transition risks coupled with the absence of bottom-up action to manage those risks, our findings suggest that financiers, regulators and policymakers in emerging and developing economies should be acting swiftly to ensure an orderly transition to net-zero.
Colenbrander, S., Vaze, P., Vikas, C., Ayer, S., Kumar, N., Vikas, N., & Burge, L. (2023). Low-carbon transition risks for India’s financial system. Global Environmental Change, 78. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2022.102634