The year 2020 proved to be a clarion call for global society. There is no longer doubt that increasingly we are experiencing unpredictable events, known as ‘black swans’, ranging from pandemics to financial meltdowns. One of the ’climate black swans’ against which experts have cautioned is the financial crisis caused by climate change. In this context, the Australian case of McVeigh v Retail Employees Superannuation Trust for the first time tested climate risk and the fiduciary duties of retail pension funds. Settled in November 2020, the case has already raised the bar for climate risk practice in pension funds. In particular, McVeigh suggests that courts, as well as out-of-court settlements, may articulate a duty, rather than grant permission, for pension funds to consider climate-related financial risk in their investment decisions.
The article builds on McVeigh to ask two questions. Firstly, what is the role of climate change litigation in promoting climate regulation by pension funds? Secondly, what is the relative importance of pension funds for the risk management of climate-related financial risk via due diligence compared with risk assessment via disclosure? Fundamentally, the article explains climate-related financial risk as a cultural phenomenon and argues that a discussion on pension fund fiduciary duties must consider disclosure in addition to due diligence. It argues that McVeigh articulated the need for a normative approach to pension fund disclosure duties and an extension of the field of climate-related risk disclosure to embrace climate-related risk due diligence.
Esmeralda Colombo, From Bushfires to Misfires: Climate-related Financial Risk after McVeigh v Retail Employees Superannuation Trust, Transnational Environmental Law, https://doi.org/10.1017/S204710252100025X. Published online by Cambridge University Press: 1 September 2021.