In “Green Law, Red Tape”i (inspired by an article in the Law Society Gazette) I drew attention, among other things, to some of the compliance obligations being imposed upon UK businesses and organisations, as a result of politicians’ concerns with climate change, achieving “net zero”, etc. Much of it is no doubt of value to lawyers who can gain expertise in the subject, and make money by selling their knowledge to hard-pressed clients. Most of it is no doubt intensely burdensome to the businesses and organisations affected, and will cost them a lot of money while distracting from the purpose for which their organisation exists, without achieving anything useful (ticks in boxes don’t count).
In comments on that article, Andy West suggested that it might be useful to collect information about climate-change compliance legislation into an organised database with full source links etc. I prevaricated, as the weather was fine (thanks, climate change!), and it seemed like a job for the long winter ahead. However, sometimes the Law Society Gazette just won’t leave me in peace, and another email this week drew my attention to a further article on the subject, with the less than under-stated title “Boiling Point”ii (complete with a picture of the earth being lapped by flames). Leaving aside the unquestioning acceptance of the “climate crisis” narrative, and the inevitable contributions from the likes of Bob Ward and Lawyers for Net Zero, it’s an interesting article providing a useful summary of some of the major legislative themes in this area. I pay due tribute to its author, Marialuisa Taddia, for leading me through the legislative maze. What follows is a brief look at some more of the legislation affecting businesses and organisations in the UK.
Climate Change Act 2008
This will be known to everyone here. It committed the UK to an 80% reduction in carbon emissions (measured against a baseline level set in 1990) by 2050. No doubt it is that baseline date that causes UK politicians continually to claim progress compared to 1990. Most, but not all, readers will be aware that the legislation was amended by statutory instrument (the Climate Change Act 2008 (2050 Target Amendment) Order 2019) on 27th June 2019, which increased the target to a 100% reduction. Not to be outdone, the Scottish Government has also passed the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, which it also amended – by the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019. This (perhaps inevitably) has set its target date as 2045, and the emissions target (which is for all greenhouse gas emissions, not just for emissions of carbon dioxide) is “at least 100% lower than the baseline”. I love it that the target is at least 100% lower than the baseline. Anything Westminster can do, Holyrood can do “better”, it seems.
There’s one consolation for Westminster politicians – since the UK Act covers UK-wide emissions, should the Scots manage to achieve their target, it will slightly reduce the pressure on the rest of the UK.
Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and Carbon Budgets
As most readers will no doubt also be aware, the CCC was created by the Climate Change Act 2008, and its duties include making recommendations and advice which lead to the setting of “carbon budgets” covering five year periods, and limiting the amount of CO2 the UK can emit during each of those periods. It all seems a little like the old story of King Canute, but without the old king’s self-deprecation and awareness of the dangers of hubris. Each budget has to be enshrined in a statutory instrument. The latest – the sixth, covering the period 2033-2037, and setting a 78% reduction target by 2035 – has just been enshrined in the Carbon Budget Order 2021iii, which came into force in June.
Given the extraordinary significance of this target, with the almost inevitably huge consequences for life in the UK, the brevity of the Order is breathtaking:
Citation and coming into force
1. This Order may be cited as the Carbon Budget Order 2021 and comes into force on the day after the day on which it is made.
2. The carbon budget for the 2033-2037 budgetary period is 965,000,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.
Er, that’s it.
Still, the brevity of the implementation Order shouldn’t fool anyone. The detail is in the carbon budgetiv itself. A very lengthy document, for the first time it incorporates the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions. So that’s upping the ante quite a bit, though of course it still doesn’t deal with the fact that much of the UK’s supposed CO2 emissions reductions are in fact exports rather than reductions.
UK Emissions Trading Scheme
According to the UK Government’s websitev:
A UK Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS) replaced the UK’s participation in the EU ETS on 1 January 2021. The 4 governments of the UK have established the scheme to increase the climate ambition of the UK’s carbon pricing policy, while protecting the competitiveness of UK businesses.
That latter claim about competitiveness might raise an eyebrow or two, especially when considering just some of the requirements of the Scheme:
If you carry out an activity covered by the UK ETS, you will need a greenhouse gas emissions permit.
You may also need:
- a small emitter or hospital permit (if you are classed as a small emitter or a hospital)
- an emissions monitoring plan (if you are an aircraft operator)
So who does it apply to?
The UK ETS will apply to energy intensive industries, the power generation sector and aviation.
It covers activities involving combustion of fuels in installations with a total rated thermal input exceeding 20MW (except in installations for the incineration of hazardous or municipal waste).
The aviation routes covered by the UK ETS will include UK domestic flights, flights between the UK and Gibraltar, and flights departing the UK to European Economic Area states conducted by all included aircraft operators, regardless of nationality.
Of course, there’s inevitable legislation, this time the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Scheme Order 2020vi. It runs to nine parts, 77 regulations, and 11 Schedules. Suffice to say, it’s all too complex to cover in detail here. I’ll say no more on it, other than to end with another explanatory note from the Government website:
Emissions trading schemes work on the ‘cap and trade’ principle, where a cap is set on the total amount of certain greenhouse gases that can be emitted by sectors covered by the scheme. This limits the total amount of carbon that can be emitted and, as it decreases over time, will make a significant contribution to how we meet our Net Zero 2050 target and other legally binding carbon reduction commitments.
Within this cap, participants receive free allowances and/or buy emission allowances at auction or on the secondary market which they can trade with other participants as needed.
Each year, installations and aircraft operators covered by the scheme must surrender allowances to cover their reportable emissions. The cap is reduced over time, so that total emissions must fall.
The Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting regime was covered in “Green Law, Red Tape” and the Contracts for Difference Scheme was touched on in “Counting the Cost”. There is another of these broad and sweeping bits of expensive red tape, however, that I failed to cover in either of those articles:
Climate Change Levy (CCL)
CCL was introduced in 2001 and is a UK-wide tax on electricity, gas, LPG and solid fuels supplied to businesses and public sector consumers. The main rates on these commodities are paid to HMRC by energy suppliers who pass on the costs, through billing, to their non-domestic customers. Reduced rates are available to Climate Change Agreements participants. Needless to say, there’s legislation behind this too. The main implementing statute is the Finance Act 2000, and the main payment rates are set out in paragraph 42(1) of Schedule 6 to the Act. Paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 to the Climate Change Levy (General) Regulations 2001 sets out the formula used by businesses in the Climate Change Agreements scheme to calculate their CCL relief entitlement, including the reduced rate.
So what is a Climate Change Agreement? Over to the Government websitevii:
Climate change agreements are voluntary agreements made between UK industry and the Environment Agency to reduce energy use and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. In return, operators receive a discount on the Climate Change Levy (CCL), a tax added to electricity and fuel bills. The Environment Agency administers the CCA scheme on behalf of the whole of the UK.
If you hold a CCA you will get a discount on your CCL
…The current CCA scheme started in April 2013 and will run until 31 March 2025.
An operator that has a CCA must measure and report its energy use and carbon emissions against agreed targets over 2-year target periods up to the end of 2022.
If an operator has more than one eligible facility in the same sector it can hold an individual CCA for each facility, or choose to group them together under one CCA. Where facilities are grouped under one CCA the target is then shared across the grouped facilities.
Once a facility, or group of facilities, is included in a CCA, it is referred to as a target unit.
If the operator’s target unit meets its targets at the end of each reporting period, the facilities continue to be eligible for the discount on the CCL.
So that’s all right, then.
Well, there’s the Industrial Decarbonisation Strategyviii, which the Government claims “sets out how industry can decarbonise in line with net zero while remaining competitive and without pushing emissions abroad.” This does recognise that
[f]rom the UK’s ceramic cluster in the West Midlands, to the Teesside chemical plants in North East England, the UK’s industrial heartlands are vitally important to our economy, contributing £170 billion each year and providing 2.6 million jobs.
Unfortunately it goes downhill after that, with talk of low carbon clusters and a net zero cluster. Also:
low carbon alternatives such as hydrogen and electrification, deploying key technologies such as carbon capture, usage and storage, and supporting industrial sites to maximise their energy and resource efficiency to reduce costs for businesses. In parallel, we will continue to help industry overcome barriers and work with our international partners, both old and new, to kick-start the demand for low carbon industrial products.
It sounds like pie in the sky to me, but they take 170 pages to say it.
What else? Well, there’s the Transport Decarbonisation Plan. More pie in the sky, unfortunately:
And decarbonisation is not just some technocratic process. It is how we fix some of that harm. It is how we make sure that transport shapes the country and the economy in ways that are good. It’s about taking the filth out of the air and creating cleaner, quieter, healthier places. It’s about a second, green, industrial revolution, creating hundreds of thousands of new, skilled jobs, in some of the proud towns and cities that were the cradle of the first one. It’s not about stopping people doing things: it’s about doing the same things differently. We will still fly on holiday, but in more efficient aircraft, using sustainable fuel. We will still drive on improved roads, but increasingly in zero emission cars. We will still have new development, but it won’t force us into high-carbon lifestyles.
That quote was from the Foreword of “Decarbonising Transport A Better, Greener Britain”ix, a 216 page tome.
Any other strategies? Of course! There’s the North Sea Transition Deal. This one runs to 51 pages, so I’ll simply quote the summary from the relevant page of the Government websitex:
The North Sea Transition Deal sets out an ambitious plan for how the UK’s offshore oil and gas sector and the government will work together to deliver the skills, innovation and new infrastructure required to meet stretching greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. The Deal aims to support and anchor the expert supply chain that has built up around oil and gas in the UK, to both safeguard and create new high-quality jobs. The Deal will transform the sector in preparation for a net zero future and catalyse growth throughout the UK economy.
Specifically, this Deal includes:
- early reductions in offshore production emissions of 10% by 2025; 25% by 2027; and 50% by 2030, against a 2018 baseline, to meet the sector’s aim of creating a net zero basin by 2050. This will be supported by joint work to address the commercial and regulatory barriers to electrification of offshore platforms to realise these targets
- investment of up to £14-16 billion by 2030 in new energy technologies, with supported by business models to enable CCUS and hydrogen at scale
- a voluntary industry target of 50% local UK content across the lifecycle for all related new energy technology projects by 2030, as well as in oil and gas decommissioning. This will be supported by the appointment of an industry supply chain champion who will support the coordination of opportunities with other sectors
- a 60Mt reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, including 15Mt through the progressive decarbonisation of UKCS production over the period to 2030
- support for up to 40,000 direct and indirect supply chain jobs in decarbonising UKCS production and the CCUS and hydrogen sectors
Surely that’s the end of the strategies? Afraid not. There’s also the hydrogen strategyxi. This one runs to 121 pages, and as this article is more than long enough already, we’ll leave it at:
This strategy sets out the approach to developing a thriving low carbon hydrogen sector in the UK to meet our ambition for 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030.
For those UK businesses trading within the EU, there is much, much more climate-change related legislation to comply with. I will mention only in passing the EU Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation, the EU Taxonomy Regulation, and the European Green Deal.
Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures
Inevitably there is another website for you to consult if you’re interestedxii.This is a fast-moving area, and of course the UK is at the forefront of adding reporting burdens to its businesses. As the Law Society Gazette puts it:
The new TCFD rules already apply to premium listed companies on a ‘comply or explain’ basis, and the Financial Conduct Authority is consulting on how to apply this to other listed companies as well as asset managers, insurers and pension schemes… There are also TCFD proposals from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy for unlisted public interest entities, large companies and LLPs; and the Department for Work and Pensions for pension funds.
There is no conclusion. There is no end in sight to all this. This will never end, unless and until the costs of “net zero” (financial, environmental and societal) finally produce a revolt on the part of voters and businesses. Until then, the politicians will continue with their Messianic mission to destroy society, businesses and the UK’s precious and fragile environment.
Thank you for that excellent summary. Although I should point out that you forgot to mention ‘The Big Rock Candy Mountain Act 2012’, as modified by the statutory instrument, ‘The Bigger Rock Candy Mountain (SI) 2015’.
John may jest, but for me this topic envelops me in the deepest doom and gloom. It’s bad enough reading what the Gardian-BBC chimera effuses day after day, but now to be informed as to what our government has been up to has completely ruined my day.
I think that acceptance is the order of the day. All the important decisions have already been taken. The legislation is already well in place. The education system has institutionalized what is to be considered true or false. The dictionaries no longer accept the existence of legitimate scepticism. The MSM are all fully signed up to promulgation of the required agenda, with no journalistic desire to challenge the orthodoxy. All that is left is the forlorn hope that the masses will rise up when they realize how massively damaging net zero will be to their lifestyles. There hasn’t been much sign of that I must say, and I think the ready acceptance of strictures demonstrated during the covid-19 crisis suggests that the menticide (as Hunterson7 warned) is well established.
All that is left as far as I can see is an opportunity for a little self-entertainment, writing up articles that point out the weaknesses in arguments that our opponents don’t even need to win anymore. The die is well and truly cast.
Just sit back, hit the bottle, and try to enjoy your future
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You may be writing deep truths John but to discover just how enmeshed we are by our governments is an eye-opener. I suppose that I have deliberately made myself ignorant about what successive parliaments have fabricated, but suddenly it appears as a giant 🕷 web from which we are unlikely to be able to extricate ourself. Then reality hits again; there isn’t anywhere I might want to live where sense prevails. I’m not sure if your mass realisation and revolt would do the trick, unless it was world wide and simultaneous. Dark thoughts John, dark thoughts.
Oh dear, what have I done? Courage, mes braves, vive la revolution!
I suppose I’d better make the next article light-hearted. 🙂
I have nothing against levity, in fact I heartily recommend it. However, part of my mental health programme involves taking on board the teachings of the stoics. With the situation as it is, it is highly unlikely that things will turn out as I would wish. So, I shall insouciantly go along for the ride and enjoy the view as best I can. Even the Titanic had its orchestra 🙂
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I should add that accepting the reality of the situation won’t make a jot of difference to my ongoing desire to document what is going on and why it sucks. As Braveheart once said, “They can take away my boiler but they cannae take my freedom!”
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Just hold on to this thought — CAGW is incompatible with Gaia Theory.
Which means that any ‘crisis’ will not affect life too much, and even humanity will survive, though I’m not too sure of the survival ability of the human elites that specialise in the acquisition of imaginary money.
Though I fear I keep coming back to a saying of one of my College tutors :
“This country really need a revolution, it just that I don’t want to live though one”
John. Sorry to be a killjoy, but I would’na be at all surprised to find in our futures a prescription in our ability to oppose matters climatographique or energetique. Climate Bravehearts will proliferate even more than now. The groundswell of opinion will demand strict obedience. During the past few weeks I have noted various happenings that strongly suggest to me that what I was able to teach and question at UEA would already be impossible. The noose is drawing tighter. Soon all opposition to climate heresy could become verboten and Cliscep will be dust, a distant memory. 🤐
Bill I had the great privilege of discussing the Gaia hypothesis with James Lovelock. Various people would be invited to an annual event where the research wares and plans of the School of Environmental Science at UEA would be displayed. Advice was sought about progress and future plans. Lovelock was invited for his views and opinions. At coffee and tea breaks I tried to be at the same table where we would discuss Gaia, nuclear power, electron capture devices and recognising alien life. He was a strong believer in the effect of CO2 on climate change which even today gives me qualms about dismissing the idea out of hand. What I found intriguing was his almost embarrassment over Gaia, the manner by which it was used by groups to further their wacky beliefs.
As to not wanting to live through a revolution, I’m afraid we are doing just this. A revolution wherein the enormous benefits of using fossil fuels are being trashed and discarded.
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At the risk of increasing the depression factor still further, I must admit to being bemused and extremely disappointed at the way the climate change religion has inveigled itself into pretty much every aspect of life. It’s bad enough politicians and mainstream media (not just in the UK, but in most of the developed world – though not, significantly, in much of the developing world) being fully signed-up adherents, but it’s everywhere. Nurseries, schools and universities guarantee the brainwashing of the young. It’s shoehorned into pretty much every radio and TV programme, regardless of the apparent irrelevance to the subject-matter. And now I find organisations like the Law Society and its Gazette giving easy interviews to the likes of Bob Ward, preaching climate chaos, and shoe-horning propaganda into what is supposed to be a news and gossip journal for solicitors.
On the plus side, I think the hard-pressed UK populace may be ready to rebel, as a perfect storm is brewing. Inflation is taking off, the Bank of England might belatedly increase interest rates, taxes are going up, benefits are being cut, XR and their ilk are out doing what comfortable upper middle class people do, making life miserable for the workers, and more misery is to be piled on in the form of higher energy bills, less efficient and more expensive central heating, electric cars are to be foisted on us (more expensive, and useless for most people, who don’t have garages or drives), while holidays abroad may be rationed or made more expensive, and more job losses will follow as Britain’s industry (what’s left of it) is made still more uncompetitive. Blackouts may not be far away. Up and down the country rural communities are fed up at their wishes being ignored and their beautiful local environments being trashed “to save the planet”. All this on the back of covid, lockdowns, and a pretty miserable 18 months. I like to think the academics, media people and politicians may shortly be in for an almighty shock, which will make their shock at Brexit seem like a teddy bears’ picnic.
All may seem to be going on as usual, but it’s the final straw that breaks the camel’s back.
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John – just to complete your day:
Environment (Wales) Act 2016
The Climate Change (International Aviation and International Shipping) (Wales) Regulations 2018
Climate Change (Interim Emissions Targets) (Wales) Regulations 2018
The Climate Change (Interim Emissions Targets) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2021
Fill yer boots:
“Carbon emitters ‘failing to disclose climate risks'”
“A lack of detail in financial reporting will dramatically reduce firms’ chances of meeting global emissions targets, researchers have warned.
There is no way of knowing if money is being put into sustainable activities, Carbon Tracker said.
Firms also need to be more transparent as to how they will hit sustainability targets, the think tank said.
But the International Energy Agency said firms should not have to focus on “ticking boxes for activists”.”
True, but if the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures get their way, they’ll have to do just that.
The observation regarding failure to disclose climate risk echoes the discoveries of the Brooking Institute (as reported in my article, ‘When the Remedy is the Worst Thing’). It seems that industry and commerce stubbornly see transition risks as being much more relevant to them than the physical risk of climate change. However, schemes like the TCFD are, at least, forcing companies into a lot more box ticking.
I know all about box ticking from my days constructing an ISO 14001 environmental management system. The other thing to be borne in mind is that governments make these certifications mandatory if you want to remain on their approved suppliers list. Furthermore, the contractual arrangements also insist that you only employ subcontractors that are similarly certificated and place similar obligations upon them, and so it perpetuates all the way down the supply chain. Alan seemed dismayed to see how much enmeshed in this that industry and commerce has become. Sadly, the processes implemented by governments are designed to ensure rapid and complete institutionalization.
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“UK firms will have to disclose climate impact”
“Some large UK businesses will have to start disclosing their environmental impact, under new rules set to be brought in by the Treasury.
The requirements will also apply to investment products and pension schemes….
…The Treasury said the new sustainability disclosure requirements (SDR) mean an investment product will now have to set out the environmental impact of the activities it finances.
In addition, a company’s sustainability claims will have to be justified “clearly”, and their net zero transition plans properly set out.
The aim is to combat “greenwashing”, where firms make misleading claims about their environmental commitments.
But the government said the information will “only be impactful” if customers and investors actually use it.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “We want sustainability to be a key component of investment decisions, and our plans will arm investors with the right information to make more environmentally-led decisions.”
He said the rules will “set new global standards for sustainability that will boost the economy, protect the planet and support our net zero goals”.
It is unclear when the rules will come in, or what will happen to firms that do not comply. Details of the specific reporting requirements will only be developed after a public consultation.
Mr Sunak first mentioned SDRs in July and has announced these next stages for the requirements in the report: “Greening Finance: A Roadmap to Sustainable Investing”.
Sam Alvis, from the Green Alliance think tank, said it was a “positive step in greening the private sector”.
“While new green finance is vital, stopping money going into environmentally destructive investments is key. The upcoming spending review is an opportunity for the chancellor to apply the same rules for public spending,” he added….”.
Why would anyone set up in business these days? Strangled by green tape.
Unfortunately this is behind a paywall, but for those who are Telegraph subscribers, it might be worth a read:
“While we tie ourselves up in environmental regulations, China is taking advantage
No wonder President Xi doesn’t want to come to Cop26. He wouldn’t be able to stop himself laughing”
“Mortgages tied to ‘green’ home improvements considered by UK
Query over homeowners’ costs as government’s net zero strategy reveals lender targets to encourage energy efficiency”
“The government is exploring plans to link mortgages to green home improvements by imposing targets for lenders, to help decarbonise the UK’s ageing and leaky housing stock.
Highlighting the move in its net zero strategy, published on Tuesday, the government said it was working with mortgage lenders to support homeowners in improving the energy performance of their properties.
Measures being considered include voluntary targets for banks to improve the average energy performance certificate rating of the homes in their lending portfolio to at least band C by 2030.
Those targets could become mandatory “if insufficient progress” were made, according to the documents.
It comes as ministers weigh options after the conclusion of a consultation into the matter this year.
Details of the green mortgage scheme, which would be one of the most radical changes in the lending market since the 2008 financial crisis, come as the UK government announced a stream of net-zero policies ahead of the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow this month.
Some lenders, such as NatWest, have already introduced green mortgage products, offering a discounted interest rate on homes with an energy efficiency rating of A or B. Halifax also offers a £250 cash-back incentive to customers buying the most energy efficient homes.
However, there are concerns that discouraging banks from having less energy efficient homes on their mortgage books would risk disadvantaging poorer customers, who could struggle to improve their property’s rating.”
Yes, and I should have thought that such concerns would be justified. So much for levelling-up.
“Bank of England warns of crackdown on financing linked to climate risk
Tougher regulation means banks and insurers face extra audits and capital rules for unsustainable assets”
“The Bank of England has told banks and insurers it is prepared to use its powers to crack down on them if they fail to manage climate risks.
The warning came as the central bank begins to review a potential introduction of capital requirements linked to unsustainable assets.
The Bank said on Thursday it would take a more active approach to the climate crisis in the new year when City firms would have to demonstrate a good understanding and management of the related financial risks. Those lagging behind would face action by its regulatory arm, it said.
In a climate adaptation report released on Thursday the Bank’s Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) said such action could include ordering a “skilled persons” review of offending firms that could lead to a “deep-dive audit” or additional monitoring.
The regulator said it also had the powers to impose additional capital requirements linked to assets carrying climate risks.
Capital requirements determine the kind of financial cushions banks must have to protect them from risky loans and products on their balance sheets. They can act as a deterrent, since capital rules make risky assets more expensive to hold.
“Where progress is insufficient and assurance or remediation is needed the PRA will request clear plans and, where appropriate, consider exercise of its powers,” the Bank of England said.
Climate campaigners at Positive Money welcomed the announcement, saying capital requirements could help reduce the amount of funding provided to polluting firms.”
“COP26: UK firms forced to show how they will hit net zero”
“Most big UK firms and financial institutions will be forced to show how they intend to hit climate change targets, under proposed Treasury rules.
By 2023, they will have to set out detailed public plans for how they will move to a low-carbon future – in line with the UK’s 2050 net-zero target.
Plans will be submitted to an expert panel to ensure they are not just spin.
But net-zero commitments will not be mandatory and green groups say the proposals do not go far enough.”
That’s the permanent back-drop to everything – “thanks for that, but it’s not enough”. It never is.
This version of balanced reporting has sadly become the norm at the BBC.
The government proposes a ludicrous and draconian policy that will have a high cost and no measurable benefit. Green groups are reported as saying the new regulations are insufficient and need to go further.
Whatever the sceptics think, if there are any left who dare say anything, we do not learn.
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This, apparently, is a GOOD thing:
“Cop26 could be a watershed in greening the financial sector
New initiatives could give bankers the tools to help their clients fund and manage the green transition”
“…Consider a big issue impeding progress toward greening the business sector: the absence of a clear, generally agreed framework for reporting the climate impact of corporate activity. The problem is not that there is no framework at all, but rather that several competing models present different pictures.
The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) in the US, established by the Value Reporting Foundation (VRF) and supported by Bloomberg, has developed one model. The World Economic Forum (WEF) has worked on another. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), based in Amsterdam, has produced a wide range of sustainability standards. And the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), convened by the Financial Stability Board (FSB) in Basel, recommends a set of disclosures that many banks have adopted under pressure from their regulators – many of whom are members of the Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS).
That, you may think, is quite enough acronyms for one paragraph. But another one entered the field of battle in Glasgow. The Chair of the Trustees of the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation, Erkki Liikanen, announced the creation of the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) to sit alongside the foundation’s other offspring, the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB). The new board will be based in Frankfurt (no doubt the Germans will avoid another acronym by melding the four words into one). The ISSB will aim to produce standards that “will help investors understand how companies are responding to ESG [environmental, social, and governance] issues, like climate, to inform capital allocation decisions.”
There is no doubt that standardisation is needed, and the organisation that has produced a suite of international accounting standards looks like the obvious body to take on the job. But will the ISSB attract enough support to knock together the other acronyms and carry the day?
One obvious problem is that after years of effort by the IASB to reconcile its standards with those of the US standard-setters, the Americans have still not adopted them and seem unlikely to do so. Given opposition from most of the US accounting profession, the US Securities and Exchange Commission is reluctant to push the idea on to a suspicious Congress.
There is also hesitancy on the other side of the Atlantic, where the European Commission has been working on its own taxonomy of green and brown assets. In an interview that the European Central Bank supervisors circulated to banks in the week after the ISSB announcement at Cop26, John Berrigan, the commission’s financial services director general, discussed the EU’s taxonomy and plans for a new sustainable finance disclosure regulation, without mentioning the ISSB.
Nor did Berrigan mention the other big financial-sector initiative to emerge from Cop26: the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) assembled by Mark Carney, the former FSB chair who is now the UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance. Carney has corralled 450 banks and insurers to, among other goals, mobilise trillions of dollars of capital to finance decarbonisation in emerging and developing countries. The precise figure he quoted, $130trn (£98tn), has raised a few skeptical eyebrows, but the scale of the ambition is impressive, and most banks of any consequence have signed up to the scheme.”
And now the US may be emulating our UK business-strangling measures:
“US watchdog plans to make companies reveal greenhouse-gas emissions
Climate action rules announced by SEC chair Gary Gensler expected to face opposition from Republicans and industry groups”
“The US’s top financial watchdog proposed on Monday that publicly traded companies report information on their greenhouse-gas emissions and even those of their suppliers and consumers in one of the Biden administration’s most sweeping environmental actions to date.
The new Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules faces staunch opposition from some politicians and members of the business community and will be open to public comment for at least two months before final rules are released.
“I am pleased to support today’s proposal because, if adopted, it would provide investors with consistent, comparable and decision-useful information for making their investment decisions, and it would provide consistent and clear reporting obligations for issuers,” said the SEC chair, Gary Gensler.
The proposal, which has been in the works for over a year, would force companies to make public the extent of their carbon footprint. While some companies including Apple and Microsoft now publish detailed analyses of their emissions, others have been reluctant to improve disclosure.
Under the proposal publicly traded companies would have to report greenhouse-gas emissions and obtain independent certification of their estimates. Some companies would also be required to report emissions from both their supply chains and consumers, known as Scope 3 emissions”
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How about this for green red tape?
“How to get your head around climate reporting: an overview of sustainability standards, directives and acronyms
A proliferation of rules and regulations around environmental and social reporting can make it daunting for businesses looking to comply. But the standards being adopted are helping to level the playing field for eco-conscious firms”
“…all businesses will need to convince regulators and watchdogs. Specifically, they need to ensure their disclosures on environmental and social matters comply with a plethora of sustainability standards and directives. The trouble is, the recent proliferation of rules and regulatory frameworks can be confusing – with acronyms and initialisms that are not so much an alphabet soup as an alphabet monsoon. Step forward GRI, WRI, TCFD, SASB, SFDR, WBCSD, CSRD, WEF, CDSB, CDP, IIRC, VBA and GHG….
…Moreover, the plethora of different climate disclosure standards mask the fact that many of them are built upon a common framework – the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), which was set up by the international Financial Stability Board back in 2015 when it became clear that the climate crisis posed such serious economic and financial threats. The TCFD lays out a framework for disclosing and reporting on emissions, governance, targets, metrics and risks – and it was specifically designed to help national regulators and watchdogs to hit the ground running when formulating their own standards, so that they wouldn’t need to spend the years of consultations and wrangling that regulations so often take. Indeed, the TCFD framework has informed other sustainability reporting standards, including in the UK, New Zealand, the EU’s CSRD and the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
In the same way, individual companies can also voluntarily adopt the TCFD framework for their own disclosures to gain a strategic head start before the imposition of national and local regulations.
As well as providing a common ground between different regulators and standards, the TCFD also helps bridge financial and non-financial factors so that climate risks can more easily be viewed in financial terms – which makes them easier for people to compare than raw scientific data on, say, a company’s carbon emissions.
The importance of finance as a key engine for tackling the climate crisis is also illustrated by another standard: the EU Sustainable Finance Disclosures Regulation (SFDR), which requires financial institutions such as banks and pension funds to report on the sustainability of the companies they invest in. Curiously, these rules on investors came into force before the CSRD rules that required companies to disclose that very information – so some businesses might be forgiven for thinking that, confusingly, the cart was put before the horse. (Moreover, the EU introduced both these sets of disclosure requirements before establishing its green taxonomy that defines what kinds of business and economic activity count as genuinely green or sustainable, and to what degree.)…”
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“U.K. Companies Threatened With ‘Action’ if They Downplay Climate Risk”
“Some of Britain’s top listed companies are accused of downplaying climate risks from climate change on their bottom line and could face “appropriate action”, financial regulators said on Friday. Reuters has more.
Trillions of dollars have flowed into stocks and bonds of companies which tout their environmental, social and governance (ESG) credentials, leaving regulators worried about “greenwashing” or companies flattering their green profile to attract investments.
Companies listed on the London Stock Exchange’s premium market have been required since 2021 to make climate-related disclosures to investors in line with the global Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) – or to explain why they have not.
Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority, which regulates listings, and audit watchdog the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) published reviews on Friday of how companies have applied TCFD so far.
The FRC said it found companies were providing many of the TCFD disclosures, marking a significant improvement on previous years, but more was needed to be done.
Britain was the first major economy to make TCFD disclosures mandatory, and the FCA said it also found a significant increase in the quantity and quality of disclosures.
“However, it also found instances where companies said that they had made disclosures consistent with the TCFD’s recommended disclosures when it appeared they had not,” the regulators said in a joint statement.
“We are considering these cases in more detail and may take action as appropriate.”
As a first step, regulators are likely to ask some companies why some disclosures were missing or too vague, or why they were stressing opportunities from climate change but giving little detail on risks to the business.
If companies deliberately mislead investors that would be a breach of conduct rules and could result in fines in future, people with knowledge of the matter say.
“We also encourage companies to look ahead to the future implementation of reporting standards in development by the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB),” said Sacha Sadan, the FCA’s director of ESG.”
Link to the full Reuters article here:
That is a particularly sad report since it would suggest that many companies will be legaly forced to lie about the impact of climate change on their business. The business leaders are not as stupid or delinquent as the authorities assume and are merely calling it as it is. In many cases unfair prosecution under ESG legislation will be their biggest risk, but no one will be putting that in their risk register.
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This is what is meant by jobs in climate in the UK. An army of bureaucrats ensuring that paperwork is correctly filled in. Another example of this decadent society eating itself.
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“Bank of England attaches climate conditions to energy markets financing scheme”
An email today from the Law Society directs me to a section of its website headed “COP27: what were the key legal outcomes and successes?”:
It’s just more of the same from the Law Society, plugging the idea that this sort of thing is something we should all be concerned about and that it is somehow of relevance to your average general practice solicitor. You can read it for yourself, if you’re interested. The part that prompted me to mention it here is the section dealing with the green laws and red tape that is increasingly constraining daily life, for businesses at least (which means. of course, via operating costs passed on to consumers) that it affects all of us indirectly:
If any of those topics interest you further, there are links from the Law Society website which will allow you to explore further.