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Race to net zero

Seeing the world in an investment portfolio

To help investors navigate the portfolio decarbonisation process, our short guides explore the options available, as well as the related advantages and challenges along the way.

Transitioning towards a more climate-aware investing portfolio

Climate risk is fiduciary risk. As the environmental consequences to the world economy have become more salient, the investment research and decision-making process can no longer ignore the impact of the climate crisis. Consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement to keep global average temperature rises to well below 2.0°C, more investors are committing to transition their investment portfolios. For example, the Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance had 74 members with $10.6 trillion in assets under management as of July 2022, pledging to a net zero pathway by 2050 or earlier. Even if investors do not embark on a net zero trajectory, many are doing more to reduce the carbon footprint of their portfolios while maintaining similar risk-return characteristics.

Yet climate-aware investing can be highly uncertain, with trade-offs between reducing the portfolio’s emissions and the emissions of the real economy. Many find it difficult to grapple with questions such as the following:

  • What level of climate ambition is appropriate for the organisation?
  • How can a portfolio carbon footprint be measured?
  • What investing strategies will help to reach decarbonisation ambitions?
  • How can climate investing decisions be more forward-looking when much of the data and analytics are based on historical trends?

About our series on climate-aware investing

To help manage the portfolio decarbonisation process, we provide short guides for investors to begin mapping and implementing a portfolio decarbonisation pathway in “Race to net zero: Setting climate-aware ambitions” and “Race to net zero: Implementing a portfolio decarbonisation pathway”, respectively. Below, we also delve deeper into specific asset classes and share more of our views around climate-aware investing during other stages of the journey.

Decarbonising a fixed income portfolio

Investors are being called upon to demonstrate their commitment to fighting climate change by reducing the carbon emissions financed by their investments. Traditionally, such efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of an investment portfolio have focused on equities. But this is changing. More organisations are also setting decarbonisation targets for their fixed income holdings.

Fixed income offers investors more opportunities to address the climate crisis that can complement the progress they are making in equities. In both cases, decarbonisation strategies generally fall under three categories - active fundamental, systematic and thematic (see below chart). In fixed come, however, they need to be implemented with consideration for the risk-return differences and higher complexity characterised by the asset class.


Decarbonising a direct real estate portfolio

Perhaps more than any other asset class, real estate stands at the crossroads between climate physical and transition risks. It is also responsible for about 37% of the global energy-related carbon emissions. In Europe alone, fossil fuels supply about 80% of the energy demand from buildings. That should make the sector a priority for investors to address climate change.

When implementing a decarbonisation strategy in real estate, investors need to consider the whole life-cycle carbon emissions of a building. Such an approach accounts for both operational emissions and embodied emissions, with the latter referring to construction-related emissions. As demonstrated in the below chart, refurbishments aimed at decarbonising an existing building typically emit less carbon than new green buildings. In our view, investors should prioritise refurbishments to help mitigate the effects of the climate crisis in real estate at scale. However, they also need to manage climate-linked investing risks such as regulatory changes, a lack of reliable data and the potential of assets to become obsolete.



Tracking net zero progress: Too little, not too late

2022 was unprecedented in many ways. From new temperature records to a war-induced energy crisis and bold policy action, it brought both climate urgency and energy security into sharp relief. This paper examines the latest developments on corporate action, technology and policy, and looks at the progress needed for the world to transition to net zero by 2050.

Read more

Implementation stages


Source: Fidelity International, September 2022.


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