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Commerce and consumer affairs minister David Clark and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Parliament in Wellington, New Zealand, in 2018. Photo: Mark Tantrum/Getty Images

New Zealand passed a "world-first" law requiring financial institutions to disclose and act on climate change impacts concerning their businesses, officials announced Thursday.

Why it matters: About 200 of the "largest financial market participants in New Zealand" will have to "disclose clear, comparable and consistent information about the risks, and opportunities, climate change presents to their business," per a statement from commerce and consumer affairs minister David Clark.

  • This includes banks with "total assets of more than NZ$1 billion [$718.9 million]," Reuters notes.

Of note: Climate change minister James Shaw noted in a statement that the legislation makes New Zealand the "first country in the world to introduce mandatory climate-related reporting for the financial sector."

  • NZ has "an opportunity to pave the way for other countries to make climate-related disclosures mandatory," he added.

Details: The law will require disclosures for financial years beginning in 2023, subject to the publication of climate standards from New Zealand’s independent accounting standard-setter, the External Reporting Board (XRB).

The big picture: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's government has committed to a series of policies aimed at tackling climate change and reducing emissions, including making the public sector carbon neutral by 2025.

Go deeper

Updated Nov 22, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on financial inclusion

On Monday, November 22nd, Axios co-founder Mike Allen and executive editor Aja Whitaker-Moore discussed how the public and private sectors are expanding access to capital and services for those who’ve been excluded from the financial system, featuring Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Women’s World Banking president and CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian.

Sen. Tim Scott explained how he came to understand the importance of financial literacy, what the U.S. government can do to promote financial inclusion, and the primary issues that underbanked populations face.

  • On the role of financial literacy in setting up for future success: “Financial literacy has so much to do with your future success and your present opportunities, and having not learned those lessons early in life, I wanted to make sure that a part of my focus is on making sure that Americans today, no matter what their income, they have access to financial literacy.”
  • On helping credit worthy individuals have access to more financial opportunities: “We think about those folks who today are credit worthy, but they are credit invisible, so we want to make sure that more of your information finds itself into the credit scoring agencies’ hands, so that if you’re credit worthy, you have access to more products within the portfolio because you’ve earned it.”

Mary Ellen Iskenderian illustrated which populations are most impacted by divides in economic opportunity, how to reach women and help them gain better access to financial resources, and the rise of digital technology in banking.

  • On how the pandemic impacted economic inclusion for women: “I think one of the really seminal, important takeaways...was just how women in every geography, every age, every economic segment have really been disproportionately affected by both the health aspect of the pandemic...but also in the economic part of the pandemic. We saw unemployment rates across the globe 2 percentage points higher everywhere for women than for men.”
  • On disparities in access to digital banking: “So much of financial inclusion, financial outreach, to underserved populations today is being done through cell phone technology. But still, we’ve got a 15% gender gap in ownership of smartphones in particular.”

Axios VP of Finance and Accounting Abby Clawson hosted a View from the Top segment with TransUnion president and CEO Chris Cartwright, who conveyed ways to help more Americans become full participants in the financial ecosystem.

  • “There are a variety of non-loan financial activities that we believe should be included in the modern credit reporting system in order to expand access to that system for the tens of millions of Americans who currently don’t have it.”

Thank you TransUnion for sponsoring this event.

2 hours ago - Health

WHO: Not yet known whether Omicron leads to more severe disease

Photo illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Sunday said that it is not yet clear whether the newly discovered Omicron variant is more transmissible than other strains of the COVID-19 virus.

Why it matters: The agency's statement comes as the variant, discovered in South Africa, has already been detected in European and Asian countries.

7 hours ago - Health

Fauci: Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned on Sunday that the COVID-19 Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in the United States.

Driving the news: Fauci, Biden's chief medical adviser, told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" that U.S. officials will meet with colleagues from South Africa later on Sunday to try to determine the severity of the cases, as countries scramble to learn more about the variant.