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June 21, 2021

[MONEY] Sustainable finance is rife with greenwash. Time for more disclosure

[The Economist, 22 May 2021] Investors are all too familiar with the rise of Tesla. Shares in the electric-vehicle maker are now worth nearly nine times what they were at the start of 2019. But it is not an exception. As political leaders across the world start to send clearer signals about their willingness to tackle climate change, the private sector is getting enthused, too, and a green boom is under way.

Over 40 green firms have seen their share prices triple since the start of 2019. Six have outperformed Tesla. The beneficiaries include all manner of emission-sparing companies, from solar-panel firms to makers of hydrogen fuel cells.

Meanwhile many big companies in other industries have taken to boasting about their green credentials. Renewable-energy shares have paused in recent weeks, in part because investors worry about the prospect of higher interest rates, but other assets have taken off. In Europe the price of carbon has soared to a record high. The prices of metals, such as copper and lithium, that are used in electric cars, are spiking as well.

The boom reflects soaring demand from investors. Everyone from oil majors to day-traders on WallStreetBets is splurging on climate-friendly projects and securities. Meanwhile the asset-management industry is marketing a style of investing that purports to take into account environmental, social and governance (esg) factors. So far this year, inflows into esg funds accounted for about a quarter of the total, up from a tenth in 2018. On average, two new esg funds are launched every day.

Unfortunately the boom has been accompanied by rampant “greenwashing”. This week The Economist crunches the numbers on the world’s 20 biggest esg funds. On average, each of them holds investments in 17 fossil-fuel producers. Six have invested in ExxonMobil, America’s biggest oil firm. Two own stakes in Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil producer. One fund holds a Chinese coal-mining company. esg investing is hardly a champion of social virtue either. The funds we looked at invest in gambling, booze and tobacco.

Governments are starting to pay attention. Under Donald Trump, American regulators tried to hobble esg investing, which the White House saw as a left-wing conspiracy. By contrast, President Joe Biden’s administration sees it as a potentially useful weapon to fight climate change. The Securities and Exchange Commission, Wall Street’s regulator, worries that esg funds are misleading investors.

What should governments do? One possibility is to follow the European Union’s approach. Its latest Green Deal includes lots of new rules about sustainable finance. Underpinning them is an elaborate state-directed taxonomy which covers some 70 different activities and aims to tell investors what is green and what is not. Inevitably, the effort has run into trouble. Countries have been furiously lobbying the European Commission to ensure that their favoured source of energy is labelled as green. Poland and Romania, among others, want natural gas to be added to the green list, because they are planning to use it to replace coal.

Rather than the eu playing God, investors can decide for themselves what is green. But they need a big improvement in corporate disclosure. The current system of largely voluntary reporting is riddled with problems. Firms disclose reams of irrelevant puffery, while often failing to reveal the few things that matter. Ideally, an asset manager would be able to work out the carbon footprint of their portfolio and how it might change over time. But many firms fail to disclose their emissions rigorously and often the measures made public by individual firms overlap, leading to double-counting when you add them all up.

A better system would force companies to reveal their full carbon footprint, including emissions from the products they sell and the goods and services they buy. It would help if big polluters also revealed how they expect their footprint to change and the amount of capital expenditure that goes toward low-carbon investments. That way an investor could work out how much pollution their portfolio is responsible for today and how it might look tomorrow.

The results of such disclosure may come as a surprise. We estimate that listed firms that are not state-controlled account for only 14-32% of the world’s emissions—so green investing can be only part of the answer. About 5% of these firms account for over 80% of the total emissions. They are mostly oil producers, utilities, cement firms and mining companies. Better disclosure would also show that only a tiny number of firms are investing heavily in renewable energy or breakthrough technologies.

The combined effect would be to expose as bunk the idea that swathes of the corporate world and asset-management industry are planet-saving heroes. And it would help investors put their money into truly green firms, ensuring a better allocation of capital and a faster energy transition.

Learn more at The Economist.

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category : Topics

June 15, 2021

[FOOD] Fish 'not as carbon friendly' as previously thought

BBC News, 24 May 2021, By: Darin Graham

Previous research indicated that seafood has a smaller carbon footprint than other animal proteins, because fishing doesn't require farmland or the care of livestock.

But a new study claims that catching fish using heavy nets that drag across the seabed - known as bottom trawling - emits about the same amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) globally as the aviation industry.

Seabed sediments that act as huge carbon sinks are churned up during this kind of trawling - and this results in CO2 being released.

"The ocean is full of little creatures that we call the plankton, microscopic algae and microscopic shrimp and so forth," says Dr Sala, explorer-in-residence at National Geographic and leader of the study published in Nature.

Speaking to the BBC World Service's, The Climate Question, he says "most of these creatures, when they die, will sink to the bottom of the ocean. And over thousands and millions of years, those little organisms will accumulate first forming mud".

His paper calculates that on average, about 1Gt (gigaton) of carbon dioxide is created because of bottom-trawling activities. "That's about 2% of the global CO2 emissions," he says.

By comparison, it is estimated that aviation emits about 1.04Gt or 2.5% of global emissions each year.

Bottom trawling is one of the most common methods of fishing in the world and the government says it accounts for half of the UK's annual fish catch.

However, The Climate Question spoke to fishing experts who dispute the results of the paper and are concerned that Dr Sala has overestimated the CO2 emissions resulting from bottom trawling.

The South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association says that it is not yet known how much carbon in the ocean gets into the atmosphere.

Dr Sala believes, however, that this information is not as crucial as it might seem. His argument is that if too much CO2 is absorbed into the water from the seabed, then the oceans will be able to absorb less carbon from the air.

"The ocean absorbs a quarter or more a third of our CO2 emissions every year. So if we increase the CO2 in the water, that will diminish the ability of that part of the ocean to absorb more CO2 from the atmosphere, " he says.

Safeguarding the ocean
Protecting parts of the ocean could be one way to stop these emissions, he argues, and many countries have created marine protected areas, or MPAs.

Nearly a quarter of the UK's waters are covered by MPAs, however, the campaign group Oceana, says that most of those areas still allow bottom-trawling.

Minna Epps, the global director of the marine and polar programme at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), says this is because some MPAs allow those kinds of activities to take place.

"There are six different categories which the IUCN sets, basically ranging from the absolute strict, no interference to the lowest category where you are allowed to have bottom-trawling activities within that."

The UK government says it recognises "the important role of marine habitats" and how carbon stored in the seabed supports in the fight against the climate crisis. It says it is committed to reducing the impact of the fishing industry on marine life.

"While trawling can cause carbon to be released from sediments, the processes are complex and the overall impact remains unclear," a spokesperson from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

Defra says the UK wants to increase the number of MPAs, and is leading calls "for a new global target to protect at least 30% of the ocean by 2030".

But some in the fishing industry warn against setting up too many marine protected areas - as bottom trawling might just be displaced elsewhere.

"What are the impacts of where the vessels have been moved to? Not only that, it's likely that somebody else will be fishing there, what are the knock on consequences there?" says Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organizations.

"Like the rest of the citizens of the world, we as an industry take climate change very seriously. And obviously we have to play our part in in addressing it," he says.

"We as a planet need to be able to fish for food and bottom trawling has an important role to play."

Learn more at BBC News.

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category : Topics

June 4, 2021

IGPN Webinar of Green Purchasing Network-A Landscape of Practice to Achieve SCP Held to Active Collaborations

[May 25th,2021] The IGPN webinar of Green Purchasing Network-A landscape of practice to achieve sustainable consumption and production was held in May.

More than 20 participants of IGPN members from Japan, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippine, China, China Hong Kong, and UNEP, ICLEI- Local Government for Sustainability, TCO Development attended the webinar.

The webinar was hosted by the International Green Purchasing Network-IGPN Secretariat, China Environmental United Certification Center-CEC.

Mr. Chen Yanping, Chair of IGPN,presented his speech in opening remarks, “Sustainable consumption and green procurement are important means to promote sustainable development, as well as to promote global carbon reduction and carbon neutral expect to discuss in-depth and reach consensus on the outcomes of the case series output, which bring fresh and meaningful help to members, contribute to the implementation of green procurement in various countries”. Mr. Mark Hidson, vice chair of IGPN, gave his welcome remarks, “this will be the new phase of the IGPN with more collaboration and efforts to promote the green purchasing in the day-to-day work of organizations”.

Key messages and findings of was discussed during the webinar. IGPN Members and representatives who contributed the report shared their precious cases in advocating green purchasing implementation. Meanwhile, the consensus was made that the content of report is comprehensive reflect the application of green purchasing in government, business and private sector, indicates the effective impact of green purchasing to solve the environmental problems locally, nationally, and regionally. During the discussion, Mr. Farid Yaker, programme officer, economy division of UNEP,IGPN advisory board member, made his comments, “it is interesting and valuable, especially implementation of green purchasing expands from public to business and private sector, suggest to consider the monitoring performance of green purchasing in the private sector in the future”.

“Since CEC holds the IGPN Secretariat in 2018, consistently work on institutional development and members collaboration activities”, in the summary speech of Ms. ZHANG Xiaodan, CEC general manager, IGPN advisory board member, “This case collection report is one component of the IGPN Secretariat overall work plan, which will be released with refinement afterward, next will consider the new environmental issues we face, efforts with members to promote the development of IGPN”.

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category : Topics


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