Top Stories

September 23, 2020


Big Four accounting firms unveil ESG reporting standards 

The leaders of the Big Four accounting firms have come together in an unusual joint initiative to unveil a reporting framework for environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards. If the initiative is successful, it would mark the first truly co-ordinated approach to ESG reporting and could prompt investors to move more money into the sector, which is currently thought to total about $32tn under the broadest definitions of ESG. While environmental factors are being measured by some companies, social metrics are considered harder to measure with precision. Some leading accountants warn it could be hard for US companies to report on social metrics since that could raise potential liability risks. The drive to create a common accounting framework has been sparked by rising frustration among investment groups over the plethora of competing systems for measuring sustainability. (Financial Times) 

Climate Change 

China sets sights on climate neutrality by 2060 

China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has for the first time signalled its intention to build a net zero emissions economy, with President Xi Jinping today pledging to ensure the country’s emissions peak before 2030, before then delivering ‘climate neutrality’ by 2060. It marks the first long-term decarbonisation commitment from China, which had until today only pledged under the Paris Agreement to peak its emissions by around 2030 and cut the carbon intensity of its economy by 60-65 per cent from 2005 levels. The announcement was immediately hailed as a crucial commitment in the fight against climate change, and one which could have a significant bearing on the level of decarbonisation ambition brought forward by other major economies ahead of next year’s critical COP26 UN summit in Glasgow. (Business Green) 

Corporate Reputation 

Facebook suspends environmental groups despite vow to fight misinformation  

Facebook has suspended the accounts of several environmental organisations less than a week after launching an initiative it said would counter a tide of misinformation over climate science on the platform. Groups such as Greenpeace USA, Climate Hawks Vote and Rainforest Action Network were among those blocked from posting or sending messages on Facebook over the weekend. Many of the accounts have now been restored, but a handful are still blocked, with no fuller explanation coming from Facebook as to why. In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said: “Our systems mistakenly removed these accounts and content. They have since been restored and we’ve lifted any limits imposed on identified profiles.” The suspensions came just a few days after the social media giant said it was launching a “climate science information centre” to counter widely shared but misleading posts that reject the established science of the climate crisis. (The Guardian 

Climate Change 

EU aims to cut aviation emissions by 10% with more direct flights 

The European Commission hopes to cut carbon dioxide emissions from the aviation industry by up to 10% by making flight paths more direct and reducing delays due to congested airspace. In 2019, such routes and delays cost the bloc 6 billion euros ($7.1 billion) and pushed out 11.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, the Commission said. The Commission suggested air navigation charges should be based on the environmental impact of a flight and a greater role for network manager Eurocontrol. It also called for a European market for air traffic data services. The reforms would update the Single European Sky initiative of 2004 that sought to end the fragmentation of European airspace and improve safety and cost-efficiency. The proposals will need approval from the European Parliament and the EU’s 27 countries to enter into force. (Reuters) 

Policy & Research 

Australian scientists say suppression of environment research is getting worse 

Environmental scientists in Australia say that they are under increasing pressure from their employers to downplay research findings or avoid communicating them at all. More than half of the respondents to an online survey thought that constraints on speaking publicly on issues such as threatened species, urban development, mining, logging and climate change had become worse in recent years. Two hundred and twenty scientists in Australia responded to the survey, which was organized by the Ecological Society of Australia. The results show that government and industry scientists experienced greater constraints from their employers than did university staff. Among government employees, about half were prohibited from speaking publicly about their research.  Just under half of the survey respondents reported being harassed or criticized for speaking out. (Nature)