Climate change and financial systems | Inquirer Opinion

Climate change and financial systems

/ 04:10 AM April 22, 2024

The susceptibility of Bangladesh’s financial system to climate change risk is heightened, given its rank as the seventh most climate-vulnerable country in the world. Thus, Bangladesh Bank recently circulated guidelines for Sustainability and Climate-Related Financial Disclosure for the country’s banks and non-bank financial institutions (NBFI). The guidelines require banks and NBFIs to assess and report their assets’ exposure to climate change risks.

Climate change affects financial institutions via two primary avenues: physical risks and transition risks. Given Bangladesh’s low-lying deltaic geography, the nation faces recurrent natural calamities such as flooding, cyclones, erratic rainfall, and droughts that impact property, livelihoods, and people. Consequently, such calamities place at risk the assets of banks and financial institutions in these vulnerable areas. Similarly, if not systematically mitigated, transition risks are anticipated to impact these financial institutions more severely.

Over time, the Paris Agreement and global climate initiatives are poised to phase out businesses and technologies with high emissions. Around 195 nations that endorsed the Agreement have submitted their targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions via their nationally determined contributions (NDC). Thus, green and clean businesses are expected to replace those that are fossil fuel-intensive soon.

The failure of financial institutions to consider the effects of these climate policies, market dynamics, and green technological shifts at the portfolio level could consequently impact their assets. It has been found that banks situated in countries facing elevated climate risk demonstrate diminished levels of financial stability. This is evidenced by heightened probabilities of default, lower Z-scores, increased ratios of nonperforming assets, elevated foreclosure ratios, reduced returns on assets, and lower equity ratios in the aftermath of such disasters.


The adverse impact on banks’ financial stability is attributed to a surge in the nonperforming loan ratio following a disaster. Additionally, the destruction of collateral used by borrowers to secure loans may further contribute to fluctuations in the financial stability of banks. Following a severe natural disaster, banks could confront a survival crisis marked by inadequate liquidity. The aftermath of such an event sees an escalation in the liquidity risk for banks, primarily driven by clients withdrawing existing deposits and savings.

Additionally, affected individuals may seek emergency loans, further amplifying the liquidity challenge for banks. Though there is an upward trend in green and sustainable finance disbursement in Bangladesh, there is a lack of enthusiasm when it comes to identifying and disclosing assets exposed to climate risk due to certain challenges. Assessing a bank’s exposure to the transition risk of climate change is complex, requiring an understanding of borrowers’ responses to climate-related policies.

The identification and assessment of a bank’s exposure to the physical risks of climate change require a clear understanding of location-specific climate vulnerability, which may differ based on levels of exposure. When banks begin to consider lending to these disaster-prone and climate-vulnerable areas, they’re bound to realize the increased risks that their assets are exposed to. Consequently, borrowers in such areas may encounter challenges in securing loans, despite being the ones most in need of financial support.

To address this dilemma, banks must develop financial products that cater to the specific needs of climate-vulnerable areas. In general, the calculation and identification of bank assets exposed to climate change risks present a few technical challenges. It is imperative to establish explicit criteria for evaluating the exposure of banks to both physical and transition risks. Sector-specific emission factor data is crucial for identifying climate risk exposure, and collaboration between the government and relevant parties is essential for acquiring such information.


Banks and financial institutions lack immediate access to future climate scenarios and trends for Bangladesh, which are essential for calculating the exposure of their assets to climate risk. The government, with the help of an international climate research group, can develop region-specific climate scenarios for both the short term and long term to address this. Another significant challenge in identifying the climate risk exposure of a bank’s assets is the shortage of personnel with expertise in ESG (environmental, social, and governance) skills, climate scenarios, emission benchmarking, and banking.

Capacity building among banking professionals is vital for successfully identifying at-risk financial assets. Furthermore, it is crucial to create awareness among banks’ top management about the necessity of disclosing assets exposed to climate change risk. The Daily Star/Asia News Network


Karimul Tuhin is an environmental economist and green finance professional. Reach him at [email protected]

The Philippine Daily Inquirer is a member of the Asia News Network, an alliance of 22 media titles in the region.

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