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PG&E bankruptcy: “the biggest warning yet of financial risks of climate change”


Without diminishing the stark human tragedy of the horrendous recent California wild fires — lives lost, lives unalterably damaged — there is also this:

What, and who, is to blame.

PG&E, the giant western electric utility, is baring the brunt of blame. Faced with potential liabilities of $30 billion, it plans to file for bankruptcy. And its CEO has resigned.

The heart of the PG&E defense: the long-term effects of climate change.

Capsule of a Bloomberg report on the case:

“… more than a decade ago, severe weather bankrupted an electric company in New Orleans. Then it helped take down one in Houston. Now, in California, it has pushed PG&E Corp. to the brink…

 “… for many months, PG&E has pointed to the culprit of a shifting climate that led to devastating fires and, now, crushing liabilities. ‘It’s a real wake-up call’ for business across the country, said Ian Monroe, chief executive officer of the socially responsible investment firm Ethos Capital.

 “Whatever their exact cause, the California  fires – and the utility’s response – have turned PG&E into a poster child for climate-change dangers. A bankruptcy would make it the largest company to seek protection while blaming the effects of a warming planet for the situation.”

Without a doubt a PG&E bankruptcy , and, potentially many other business  climate-change cases in the courts and in public discourse, will play out for many years. So this Bloomberg report conclusion with its risk management assessment for investors — and for all of us: 

 “When the extraordinary wildfires raged in California’s Napa and Sonoma counties in 2017, the attitude was that it was a ‘terrible scenario but a one-off’, said Michael Wara, director of Stanford University’s climate and energy policy program. Then, ‘when the Camp Fire happened, it was, ‘Oh no, this is the normal.’ And now, they’re insolvent.’