Emissions trading: Illustration from Pixaby by AS_Appendorf

Emissions trading and more: Researchblog #146

Emissions trading: 16x new research on fossil subsidies, ECB eco policy, GHG disclosures, supplier ESG, workforce ESG, geospatial ESG data, ESG reputation and performance, investor driven greenwashing, sustainable blockchain, active management, GenAI for asset management and more

Emissions trading (ecological) research

Fossil subsidies: IMF Fossil Fuel Subsidies Data: 2023 Update by Simon Black, Antung A. Liu, Ian Parry, and Nate Vernon from the International Monetary Fund as of Oct. 4th, 2023 (#11): “Fossil fuel subsidy estimates provide a summary statistic of prevailing underpricing of fossil fuels. … falling energy prices provide an opportune time to lock in pricing of carbon and local air pollution emissions without necessarily raising energy prices above recently experienced levels. For example, even with a carbon price of $75 per tonne, international natural gas prices in 2030 (shown in Figure 1) would be well below peak levels in 2022. Energy price reform needs to be accompanied by robust assistance for households, but this should be both targeted at low-income households (to limit fiscal costs) and unrelated to energy consumption (to avoid undermining energy conservation incentives). Assistance might therefore take the form of means-tested transfer payments or perhaps lump-sum rebates in energy bills“ (p. 23). My comment: Total subsidies for Germany for 2022 amout to US$ bln 129 (or 3% of GDP, see table p. 27), one of the largest amounts worldwide.

ECB policy model: Climate-conscious monetary policy by Anton Nakov and Carlos Thomas from the European Central Bank as of Sept. 29th, 2023 (#23): “We study the implications of climate change and the associated mitigation measures for optimal monetary policy in a canonical New Keynesian model with climate externalities. Provided they are set at their socially optimal level, carbon taxes pose no trade-offs for monetary policy: it is both feasible and optimal to fully stabilize inflation and the welfare-relevant output gap. More realistically, if carbon taxes are initially suboptimal, trade-offs arise between core and climate goals. These trade-offs however are resolved overwhelmingly in favor of price stability, even in scenarios of decades-long transition to optimal carbon taxation. This reflects the untargeted, inefficient nature of (conventional) monetary policy as a climate instrument. In a model extension with financial frictions and central bank purchases of corporate bonds, we show that green tilting of purchases is optimal and accelerates the green transition. However, its effect on CO2 emissions and global temperatures is limited by the small size of eligible bonds’ spreads” (abstract).

Pollution trade? Are Developed Countries Outsourcing Pollution? by Arik Levinson as of summer 2023: “… in general, the balance of the evidence to date does not find statistically or economically significant evidence of regulations causing outsourcing. For all the talk of outsourcing pollution in the media and politics, there is surprisingly little empirical evidence that high-income regions increasingly and disproportionally import products of the most polluting sectors“ (p. 107).

Emission trading (1): Emissions trading system: bridging the gap between environmental targets and fair competition by Massimo Beccarello and Giacomo Di Foggia as of Aug. 27th, 2023 (#22)“The effectiveness of the European Emissions Trading System in supporting a level playing field while reducing total emissions is tested. While data show a robust impact on the environment as a steady decrease in carbon emissions is observed, it is reported that its ability to internalize emission costs may improve to better address the import of extra European generated emissions that negatively impact the economy when not properly accounted for. Analyzing data in six European countries between 2016 and 2020, the results suggest competitive advantages for industries with higher extra-European imports of inputs that result in biased production costs that, in turn, alter competitive positioning” (abstract).

Emissions trading (2): Firm-Level Pollution and Membership of Emission Trading Schemes by Gbenga Adamolekun, Festus Fatai Adedoyin, and Antonios Siganos as of Sept. 18th, 2023 (#7): “Our evidence indicates that firms that are members of ETS emit on average more carbon than their counterparts that are not members of the scheme. Members of emission trading schemes are more effective in their carbon reduction efforts. Firms that are members of an ETS emit significantly more sulphur and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than their peers that are not members of an ETS. We also find that members of ETS typically have more environmental scandals than their counterparts that are non-members. … We also report that firms that choose to exit the scheme continue emitting more than their counterparts. … new entrants initially do not emit more than their peers at the beginning, but they increase their emissions in the years following” (S. 24/25).

Different disclosures: Climate Disclosure: A Machine Learning-Based Analysis of Company-Level GHG Emissions and ESG Data Disclosure by Andrej Bajic as of August 24th, 2023 (#39): “One of the key findings of the study indicates that larger firms tend to exhibit a greater tendency to disclose both ESG (partial disclosure) and GHG data (full disclosure) … more profitable and carbon-intensive firms tend to disclose data more frequently. Furthermore, we find that companies from Western, Northern, and Southern demonstrate a stronger propensity towards disclosing GHG emissions data, whereas those from North America, particularly the US, have a higher tendency to provide general ESG data (partial disclosure), but not as much transparency regarding their GHG emissions“ (p. 25/26). My comment: I try to convince small- and midcap companies to disclose GHG scope 3 emissions, see  Shareholder engagement: 21 science based theses and an action plan – (prof-soehnholz.com)

No intrinsic ESG? Do Major Customers Affect Suppliers‘ ESG Activities? by Feng Dong, John A. Doukas, Rongyao Zhang, Stephanie Walton, and Yiyang Zhang as of Sept. 20th, 2023 (#18): “Our empirical findings show a significantly negative relation between customer concentration and suppliers‘ ESG engagement, indicating that firms with major customers have fewer incentives to engage in ESG activities to improve their social capital, thereby attracting other customers. Instead, they cater to (maintain) their current major customers by allocating capital resources to other activities aiming to increase their intangible asset base … firms tend to maintain higher levels of ESG engagement when their principal customers exhibit greater financial leverage and bankruptcy risk. … Additionally, we find that suppliers with concentrated customer bases and customers facing lower switching costs tend to have higher levels of ESG engagement, while suppliers with non-diversified revenue streams also exhibit higher levels of ESG activities” (p. 32/33). My comment: Regarding supplier ESG effects see Supplier engagement – Opinion post #211 – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)

Social research

Green flexibility: More Flexibility, Less Sustainability: How Workforce Flexibility Has a Dual Effect on Corporate Environmental Sustainability by Tobias Stucki and David Risi as of Sept. 24th, 2023 (#6): “Research suggests a strong link between corporate environmental sustainability and workforce flexibility. On the one hand, forms of workforce flexibility, such as job rotation and temporary employment, are relevant for organizational learning and absorptive capacity. On the other, organizational learning and absorptive capacity influence the adoption of environmental management systems (EMS) and green process innovation. … we hypothesize that (a) workforce flexibility positively affects green process innovation because it stimulates absorptive capacity and that (b) workforce flexibility has a negative moderating effect on the relationship between EMS (Sö: environmental Management systems) adoption and green process innovation … Empirical tests based on two representative datasets support our premises” (abstract). My comment: For the above mentioned reasons I include temporary work providers in my SDG-aligned portfolios and in my fund (see e.g. Noch eine Fondsboutique? – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)). I could not find many other investors with a similar approach, though.  

Responsible investment research (Emissions trading)

Geo-ESG-Caching? Locating the Future of ESG: The Promise of Geospatial Data in Advancing ESG Research by Ulrich Atz and Christopher C. Bruno as of Sept.20th, 2023 (#25): “We reiterate that most contemporary critiques of ESG are appropriate. But this does not contradict the enormous progress we have made over the last ten years in measuring ESG performance. The tension rather highlights that there is no shortcut for establishing the next generation of accounting for sustainability performance. Aggregate ESG scores can never serve more than a narrow purpose. Practitioners need to accept that they have to deal with a menu of ESG performance metrics depending on factors that affect their business, industry, or preferences of their investors. We see the frontier and most promising avenue for better ESG measurements in location-based data“ (p. 9).

ESG image costs: ESG Reputation Risk Matters: An Event Study Based on Social Media Data by Maxime L. D. Nicolas, Adrien Desroziers, Fabio Caccioli, and Tomaso Aste as of Sept. 22nd, 2023 (#73): “… this study is the first to examine how shareholders respond to ESG related reputational risk events and how social media shapes their perception on the matter. … On the event date of an ESG-risk event, we observe a statistically significant decrease of approximately 0.29% in abnormal returns. Furthermore, this effect is stronger for Social and Governance-related risks, specifically “Product Liability”, “Stakeholder Opposition”, and “Corporate Governance”. Environmental-risk events don’t have a significant impact on stock prices, unless they are about “Environmental Opportunities“ (p. 10/11).

ESG risks: ESG Performance and Stock Risk in U.S. Financial Firms by Kyungyeon (Rachel) Koha and Jooh Lee as of Sept. 25th, 2023 (#45): “This study empirically examines the relationship between ESG performance and firm risks in the U.S. financial services industry. Our findings of a negative relationship between ESG and firm risk (total, idiosyncratic, and systematic) underscore the importance of ESG as both an ethical imperative and a strategic tool to manage risk in financial firms. … Specifically, under-diversified CEOs, with larger stakes in their firms, stand to benefit even more from high ESG performance, reinforcing the negative association between ESG and firm risk. Similarly, the interaction between ESG and leverage provides insight into how ESG can counteract the inherent risks associated with high leverage” (p. 13/14).

Greenwashing differences: Measuring Greenwashing: the Greenwashing Severity Index by Valentina Lagasio as of Sept. 28th, 2023 (#83): “Using a diverse dataset of 702 globally-listed companies … Our findings reveal variations in greenwashing practices, with certain sectors exhibiting higher susceptibility to greenwashing, while smaller companies tend to engage in fewer deceptive practices. … Key implications highlight the importance of transparent ESG reporting, third-party verification, and regulatory frameworks in combating greenwashing” (abstract).

Investor driven greenwashing? Green or Greenwashing? How Manager and Investor Preferences Shape Firm Strategy by Nathan Barrymore as of Sept. 19th, 2023 (#72): “This paper examines how managers’ and investors’ preferences with regards to … pressure … for environmental and social (ESG) responsibility – causes firms to either make substantive changes that result in improved outcomes or to greenwash: adopt symbolic policies. I find that managers’ ESG preferences, as proxied using their language on earnings calls, are associated with both ESG policies and outcomes. However, investors’ ESG preferences are associated with policies, but not outcomes, suggestive of greenwashing. … Greenwashing also correlates with ESG ratings disagreement, providing practical insight for managers and investors“ (abstract). My comment: Unfortunately, having policies often seems to be enough for some self-proclaimed responsible investors. I focus much more on outcomes such as SDG-alignment, see e.g. No engagement-washing! Opinion-Post #207 – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)

Sustainable blockchain? Blockchain Initiatives Dynamics Regarding The Sustainable Development Goals by Louis Bertucci and Jacques-André Fines-Schlumberger as of September 29th, 2023 (#60): “Using an open database of blockchain impact projects, we provide a dynamic analysis of these projects in relation with SDGs. We explain why the Bitcoin blockchain itself can help the development of clean energy infrastructure. … We also show that overall public blockchains are more popular than private blockchain and most importantly that the share of public blockchains as underlying technology is increasing among impact projects, which we believe is the right choice for global and transparent impact projects. More recently a new paradigm is emerging in the decentralized ecosystem called Regenerative Finance (or ReFi). Regenerative Finance merges the principles of Decentralised Finance (DeFi), which has the potential to broaden financial inclusion, facilitate open access, encourage permissionless innovation, and create new opportunities for entrepreneurs and innovators … with regenerative practices. … regenerative finance seeks to build a financial system that generates positive environmental and social outcomes … to fund public goods, encourage climate-positive initiatives and shift current economic systems from extractive models to regenerative ones“ (p. 20/21).

Other investment research (Emissions trading)

More effort, fewer trades? (Not) Everybody’s Working for the Weekend: A Study of Mutual Fund Manager Effort by Boone Bowles and Richard B. Evans as of Sept. 20th, 2023 (#53): “Our measure compares observable mutual fund work activity between regular workdays and weekends. We find that effort (P ctW k) varies over time (there is generally more effort between November and February) and across mutual funds (larger, more expensive, better run funds put in more effort). Further, we find that within-family increases in effort come in response to poor recent performance, outflows and higher volatility. We … find that after mutual funds increase their effort their portfolios are more concentrated, have higher active share, and experience lower turnover. … more effort leads to better performance in the future in terms of benchmark adjusted alphas“ (p.23/24).

GenAI for investments? Generative AI: Overview, Economic Impact, and Applications in Asset Management by Martin Luk frm Man AHL as of September 19th, 2023 (#1974): “This paper provides a comprehensive overview of the evolution and latest advancements in Generative AI models, alongside their economic impact and applications in asset management. … The first section outlines the key innovations and methodologies that underpin large language models like ChatGPT, while also covering image-based, multimodal, and tool-using Generative AI models. … the second section reviews the impact of Generative AI on jobs, productivity, and various industries, ending with a focus on use-cases within investment management. This section also addresses the dangers and risks associated with the use of Generative AI, including the issue of hallucinations” (abstract). My comment see AI: Wie können nachhaltige AnlegerInnen profitieren? – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)

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