In depth

Pensions legislation and case law update: the latest developments week ended 29 October

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Climate change

UK pension investments generate more carbon emissions than entire UK

Make My Money Matter and Route2 joint analysis reveals that UK pension scheme investments contribute to the release of approximately 330 million tonnes of carbon annually. This is greater than the UK's entire carbon output and the results have led to the co-founder of Make My Money Matter asking for the government to make all UK pension schemes adopt net zero commitments.

Climate Change Adaptation Reports from the UK financial regulators

The FCA, the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and the Pensions Regulator have all published Climate Change Adaptation Reports, with the Report from the  Financial Reporting Council (FRC) to follow later this year – see the FCA's, PRA's, FRC’s and TPR's joint statement. 

The reports detail how climate change impacts upon respective responsibilities and what steps are being taken by way of response. They were produced in response to the government's invitation to publish such reports under the Climate Change Act 2008.

Pensions Regulator: Climate Change Adaptation Report emphasises that work is needed to address climate change risk 

TPR’s Climate Change Adaptation Report notes that too few schemes give enough consideration to climate-related risks and opportunities; less than half of DC schemes surveyed accounted for climate change in their investment strategies and more than half of DB schemes surveyed did not set aside sufficient time or resources to assessing climate change risks and opportunities. 

TPR considers schemes have a lot more work to do and so will assist them by:

  • Publishing guidance on how it will approach the climate change regulations made under the Pension Schemes Act 2021.
  • Including modules in its new single code of practice on climate change including the requirement for climate-related risks and opportunities to be assessed as part of a scheme's internal controls.
  • Issuing further guidance for DB schemes on climate-related risks and opportunities as part of a scheme's employer covenant assessment.
  • Recommending that trustees sign up to the 2020 UK Stewardship Code.
  • Monitoring and enforcing compliance by schemes that are required to make climate-change-related statutory disclosures e.g. in the statement of investment principles, implementation statement and if relevant, the TCFD report. 

TPR will continue to work with other financial regulators in respect of climate change risk including the PRA, which has issued its own Report and the FCA, which has also issued a Report.

FCA policy statement on a new authorised fund regime for investing in long-term assets

The FCA published a policy statement on 25 October 2021 on the Long-Term Asset Fund (the LTAF), a new authorised open-ended fund category which will enable funds to invest in long-term illiquid assets such as venture capital, private equity, real estate, and infrastructure more efficiently. The aim of the LTAF is to encourage investors such as DC pension schemes to begin investing in these kinds of assets. 

Changes that have been made to the rules in response to certain feedback

The policy statement follows the FCA's May 2021 consultation. There was general support for the creation of a new type of fund. However, some changes have been made to the rules in response to certain feedback, including with regards to:

  • The criteria by which the depositary will determine the authorised fund manager’s ability to value the fund. 
  • Redemption periods - these rule changes were introduced to make the policy intentions behind LTAFs clear and to prevent LTAFs being used in ways they weren’t introduced for. 
  • Modifying the Handbook provisions on the promotion of non-mainstream pooled investments so that LTAFs can be promoted to high net-worth investors. 

Following feedback that it would be impractical for the depositary to register the title to assets in its own name, the FCA will launch a consultation on amending this requirement in the first half of 2022. Around the same time there are also plans to consult on further broadening the scope of retail investors who can access the LTAF. 

Having an open-ended fund structure such as the LTAF is not the only factor that may be prohibiting productive finance investment and the FCA's policy statement follows the recent report of the Productive Finance Working Group (the industry working group set up to facilitate investment in productive finance) which set out solutions to remove other difficulties that may be preventing DC pension funds from making such investments.

DB scheme consolidation: DB master trust self-certification regime launched by pensions industry working group

On 27 October 2021, the PLSA (the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association) announced the launch of a DB master trust self-certification regime. The regime uses a DB master trust self-certification template which DB master trusts can use to provide certain details including structural and operational information – further details can be found on the PLSA's website.

The regime and template were set up by the Defined Benefit Master Trusts industry working group, headed by the DWP and including the PLSA. The self-certificate allows key details to be provided to assist trustees and employers who are considering master trusts as an option for DB scheme consolidation. However, it should be noted that they are not to be taken as an indicator of scheme quality and there may be other consolidation options for a scheme in addition to a master trust.

The Pensions Dashboards Programme: fourth progress report

On 26 October 2021, the Pensions Dashboards Programme (PDP) published its fourth progress report, confirming that it has now moved from the initial mobilisation phase of the dashboards project into the "develop and test phase". This phase will run until summer 2022.

The PDP, the DWP, the FCA and the Pensions Regulator will continue to collaborate on the secondary legislation and corresponding rules with the aim of making data available via dashboards in 2023

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