It is now an accepted fact that global warming is one of the most pressing threats facing the world today. The unusual weather patterns that result not only cause natural disasters and health hazards, they also impact production, productivity and efficiency. The industries affected by weather volatility are countless, from agriculture and construction to transport, energy, travel, leisure, retail and events.
The Intergovernmental Panel of Experts on Climate Change(IPCC) is well aware of the problem and of its consequences. Indeed, taking into account various demographic, technological and geopolitical hypotheses, the IPCC states in its recent report that the average increase in temperature on earth will be between 1.5° C and 4° C by 2100; a situation which is undoubtedly alarming.
In a world of increasing weather extremes, the question no longer is whether climate change is actually happening, but rather how can businesses protect themselves from it.
Weather derivatives were, as a result, created for the purpose of reducing the volatility of turnovers created by weather risk. The first weather derivatives deal was introduced in August 1996 in the context of a purchase of electric power from Aquila by Con Edison that was dependent on the August weather situation. Following that small introduction in the market, weather derivatives started to be traded in 1997 on the over-the-counter market and on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME).
Weather derivatives are financial instruments that enable the management of risk associated with adverse weather conditions. There are different types of products: options, futures, swaps and more.
The products are based on a range of weather conditions in more than 47 cities in the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia and Asia, with hurricane products geared to nine US regions. Weather derivatives don’t take into account the damages but enable companies or individuals to hedge themselves according to their own predictions.
In fact, just like all the other options, weather derivatives are a sort of bet that you make on the upcoming weather according to your own expectations, based on the underlying temperature, cloudiness or the rainfall data. They are therefore potentially subject to individual speculation.
How does this product work? Let’s concentrate on the most commonly used product, the weather option. The trickiness in these products lies in their underlying asset, which is absolutely random and not scientifically predictable and very risky because of the controversy surrounding the climate change/global warming debate. This underlying asset has another issue as well: it is non-tradable, and thus inapplicable to the Black Scholes valuation model used for the other options. Therefore, weather options are valued either through the Burn analysis, which is based on historical data, or Monte Carlo-based statistical computer simulations.
Weather derivatives also enable protection against production cost increases. For example, a factory that uses some water in its process of production can protect itself against un favorable rainfall levels.
To trade weather options the following parameters must be determined:
• The contract type (call or put)
• The contract period
• The underlying index
• An official weather station from which the data is obtained
• The strike level
• The tick size
• The maximum payout (if there is any)
It is very similar to an insurance product. There are two types of weather options indices: “cooling degree day” (CDD) and “heating degree day” (HDD).
The number of CDDs on a single day is the difference of the daily average temperature from 65 degrees Fahrenheit. CDDs and HDDs are never negative. If the daily average temperature is less than 65° F, then the difference between the daily average temperature and 65° F is the number of HDDs. Over the course of a month, one might accumulate both CDDs and HDDs. The CME contracts therefore are based on the total number of HDDs or CDDs in the month.
Weather derivatives, now a multi-billion dollar industry, were originally created and traded in the US. Despite their use globally, these products have still not caught on in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)region and no major contract has been launched in the area.
Nevertheless, since weather derivatives are increasingly attracting energy companies, it has been said that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) countries are starting to consider them in order to manage the increase in global demand resulting from the world’s changing weather conditions.
But the fact remains that energy companies are not the only ones concerned by weather shocks. The food sector is perhaps the most affected, through the impacts on agricultural production and decreasing supply coupled with increasing demand. It will therefore be important for African nations to consider weather derivatives to manage their food crises. In 2008, the World Bank launched a $1.2 billion financing facility to help developing countries in the region to overcome food shortages. This facility was meant to grant support mainly to Djibouti, Haiti, Liberia, Togo, Yemen, Malawi and Tajikistan by investing in multiple risk management tools.
In 2009, Malawi chose to use these funds to access the international weather derivatives market with the World Bank acting as an intermediary. In this context, Malawi was protecting its cereals production from projected harsh weather conditions. The new weather derivatives product created in June 2009 for Malawi was structured as an option based on a rain fall index. If rainfall drops under a certain level, a payout occurs; if rain fall doesn’t go beyond that certain level there is no payout. The amount was set to a maximum of $4.385 million as a start in order to test the market.
As African countries and the international weather derivatives market start becoming more familiar with each other, the World Bank is expecting more individual transactions of that type to occur in the region within the framework of global risk management strategies.
Eventually, the MENA region will have to embrace weather risk management tools in order to offset their weather correlated risks, particularly in the energy and food sectors.
Neyla Merheb is an associate in investment banking at Gazprombank-Invest