How research into the humble pāua could change finance

ANZ’s Head of Sustainable Finance for New Zealand Dean Spicer explains why businesses can no longer ignore their impact on nature and must invest in science.

Pāua has long been a prized delicacy in New Zealand - thinly sliced and fried with butter or served as a fritter - this unique species of abalone has always had a special place in our hearts (and on our plates).

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Photo: Tom McCowan, Pāua Industry Council Ltd

Seafood New Zealand estimates exports of the shellfish are worth more than NZ$50 million each year.

"Now, more than ever, nature must be a part of all decision-making, including financial, economic, political and business decisions.”

Add to this the domestic market and recreational value and it becomes clear how much of a taonga it is for local communities, quota owners and the economy.

But like many of our other marine species, pāua are susceptible to our rapidly changing climate.

As the planet warms, the Ministry for the Environment predicts New Zealand will experience frequent and more severe marine heatwaves, along with murkier waters.

Pāua are known to be affected by both and that’s why an innovative study is under way to look at pāua populations on the North Island’s south eastern coast.

In partnership with Terra Moana Ltd, Upholding the value of pāua quota – part of the Sustainable Seas National Challenge - seeks to identify and assess the risks of climate change and other environmental stressors on the industry.

It aims to show stakeholders, including quota owners, investors and financers, what and where they will need to invest to mitigate these risks.

As one of New Zealand’s largest lenders to the seafood sector, ANZ is part of the research team.

We can see to adequately understand the risks, and ensure the sustainability and resilience of the pāua industry, it is vital that we collect and analyse data on these environmental changes.

These data can help inform better decision making and give us the opportunity to consider how we can mitigate those risks.

Although this research is focusing only on pāua, it is clear similar work is needed across our many other primary industries.

According to the Sustainable Business Council, 13 of our top 20 export commodities, and more than 70 per cent of our entire export earnings, depend on nature.

New Zealand’s natural bounty and our endemic biodiversity are a significant part of what we all love about the country, how we see ourselves, and how the world sees us.

In te ao Māori, this connection to the land and the natural world runs deep - our relationship to the environment is vital to our health and well-being on all levels.

Our strong national environmental and climate-related regulations and our ‘clean green’ image have worked well for us, delivering significant opportunities and wealth over the decades.

But unless we take urgent action now to protect and enhance our natural environment, we cannot expect to stay in this privileged position for much longer.

Now, more than ever, nature must be a part of all decision-making, including financial, economic, political and business decisions.

From 2024, the Ministry for the Environment will require about 200 of New Zealand’s largest financial institutions to report on their climate-related risks and opportunities.

But because climate and nature are intrinsically linked, these disclosures also present businesses with the opportunity to gather data and analyse their impact – both positive and negative – on the environment.

Viewed in a global context, the need to understand the impact of climate change on the natural world is even more urgent.

It’s estimated nature underpins not only the food security and livelihoods of billions of people but also more than half of the global economy.

The threat posed by climate change to nature and global biodiversity was one of the topics discussed at the annual UN climate conference in Egypt this month.

Part of that debate has focused on the role business can play in the on-going collection and analysis of relevant environmental data.

It has also laid the groundwork for another climate conference being held in Montreal next month at which a proposal will be discussed to make it mandatory for businesses to assess and report their impact on nature by 2030.

Other global initiatives, such as the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), also play an important role.

This initiative aims to shift global financial flows away from nature-negative outcomes, towards becoming nature-positive.

It seeks to do this by providing a risk management and disclosure framework for organisations, including businesses, to report and act on their nature-related risks and opportunities, in a similar format as the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).

As part of the TNFD Forum, ANZ is keen to recognise and support the contribution it is making to drive widespread and improved disclosure of biodiversity impacts.

The TNFD - which was set up only last year - is still a work in progress but it is already clear it has the potential to change the way investors think about nature and how they factor it into their decision-making.

At times of extraordinary change, it is tempting to rely on the things you know.

In this case, we know well - and should never forget - the role nature plays in our lives and in our economies, the health and environmental damage pollution causes, and the great loss a reduction in biodiversity represents.

As businesses, and as a nation, we must take urgent action to protect, restore and enhance our natural environment.

A genuine move towards nature-positive business and finance is no longer something we can put on a wish list or delay for the future.

Dean Spicer is Head of Sustainable Finance at ANZ New Zealand

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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