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This month in ESG: legislation, lovers and livestock

15 August 2022 at 4:12 pm
Terence Jeyaretnam
Terence Jeyaretnam takes us through the top 10 ESG markers for July.

Terence Jeyaretnam | 15 August 2022 at 4:12 pm


This month in ESG: legislation, lovers and livestock
15 August 2022 at 4:12 pm
Terence Jeyaretnam takes us through the top 10 ESG markers for July.

July saw significant ESG momentum including a red alert on the likelihood of all life in oceans being wiped out, UK and Europe breaking temperature records, the Canberra setting a timeline for banning traditional internal combustion engines and the implications of the US Supreme Court’s decision on EPA’s powers over greenhouse gas mitigation.  Symbolically, and sadly, I happened to be in the UK the day the temperature record was broken, working on our climate change and sustainability team’s global strategy.

Again, if I happen to miss some key markers in a particular month, leave a comment and I’ll pick them up next month.

*‘ESG Markers’ – like biomarkers that tell us how healthy our body may be, ESG Markers showing us the big movements in the field of ESG in Oceania and globally.

UK climate records tumble as 2050 forecasts reached & Europe experiences intense and record-breaking heat waves

The UK Met Office, UK’s official weather forecast agency commenced an interesting experiment two years ago to assess what UK’s weather forecasts may look like in 2050, running long-range climate models. On July 19, we got a glimpse into the 2050 forecasts as temperature records tumbled in the UK.

The new UK record daily maximum temperature was reached on 19 July, with 40.3°C recorded at Coningsby, Lincolnshire, exceeding the previous record by 1.6°C. A total of 46 stations across the UK exceeded the previous UK record of 38.7°C.

The previous record-breaking heat event was in 2019 measured at 38.7 degrees Celsius at the Cambridge Botanic Gardens.  Previous to that, a study by the Met Office into the Summer 2018 heatwave, which, at the time, was the joint-second warmest summer alongside 1995 (since records began in 1884) indicated that UK the likelihood of UK experiencing a summer hot or hotter that 2018 was around 1 in 10. It’s also predicted that the UK will experience warmer and wetter winters and hotter and drier summers in the future as a result of climate change.

Europe is baking under heat so extreme it’s causing train tracks to bend and roads to buckle.  The heatwaves being experienced across Europe which brought record breaking temperatures to the UK (see above) is exposing the infrastructure in Europe being not built for the swiftly changing climate. While UK smashed its previous temperature records 1.6°C, France saw more than 100 record-breaking temperatures!  This has seen rails buckle, railway fires, softened and warped roads (eg. A14 in Cambridge), soften asphalt and heat causing runways to lift. Only 40% of the London tube network is air-conditioned, causing trains to be cancelled.  Wildfires erupted across France, Spain and the UK burning tens of thousands of acres causing transit delays and threatening homes and buildings.

Further, from a human health point of view, extreme heat is one of the deadliest weather phenomena in the world. There are direct health effects like heat stroke, which occurs when body temperature rises to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, leading to organ failure, and heat exhaustion.  High temperatures can also worsen conditions like high blood pressure and can limit the effectiveness of certain medications.

Australia’s Damning Report Card on the Environment prompts reform

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek released the long-awaited report – a five-yearly scientific assessment of Australia’s environment – as part of her address to the National Press Club.  The report tells a disturbing story of decline and neglect, concluding the state of Australia’s environment is poor and deteriorating as a result of increasing pressures from climate change, habitat loss, invasive species, pollution and resource extraction.  It also says the number of listed threatened species has grown by 8% since 2016 and Australia can expect more species extinctions over the next 20 years unless current management efforts and investment are substantially increased.

“Today’s report confirms yet again that the EPBC Act is failing miserably in its job to protect threatened species. This government has the opportunity to turn things around before we lose another species, and the right place to start is to deliver a new generation of nature laws in its first year,” she said.  Her messages have included proposals for a Federal Environmental Protection Agency, a formal response to the Graeme Samuel review of the EPBC Act and goals to protect 30 per cent of land and 30 per cent of oceans by 2030 including the exploration of the creation of new national parks and new marine protected areas.

Conversations between romantic partners may shift views on issues such as climate

A research study in the US across 758 romantic couples has found the following when it comes to their combined, and relative views on climate change.

  • that it is uncommon for people to talk about climate change with family and friends, even if they are passionate about it
  • conversations between romantic couples can play a part in shaping their views on climate change
  • the study found that climate behaviours lined up in just 31 percent of the couples
  • only 38% of couples held similar climate beliefs
  • couples who discussed climate change were found to have a truer understanding of each other’s climate ideology
  • the results showed that while it was very rare for partners to have completely opposing views on climate change

Sweden set to be world’s first country to target consumption-based emission cuts

National climate targets rely on reporting the emissions that are created on a country’s territory. In Sweden’s case, it has used that data to write a 2045 net-zero target into law, making it one of Europe’s most ambitious green-leaning nations.

This month, a cross-parliamentary environmental committee agreed to include consumption-based emissions – pollution generated overseas to make products for import – in Sweden’s climate targets, making it the first country in the world to make the leap into the complex realm of overseas emissions reporting.

Greta Thunberg, who started a global youth climate movement from Stockholm, has long argued rich countries need to take responsibility for – and reduce – consumption-based emissions.

Australian treasury to model economic impact of climate change

It is understood that under the direction of Treasurer Jim Chalmers, the federal Treasury is modelling the impact of climate change on the Australian economy and the national budget, including impacts on business, households and key institutions, re-starting work abandoned for almost a decade.  It is expected that this modelling will reinforce the business case for Australia’s 2050 net zero plan.  The coalition’s 2050 net zero plan compiled last year was undertaken by McKinsey using traditional economic modelling, and a bottom up approach based on exiting knowledge of low emission technologies, but not accounting for broader economic costs of climate inaction.

A landmark report by University of Melbourne professor of environmental economics Tom Kompas, released in November, found this rate of global warming would cost Australia’s economy at least $584 billion by 2030 and $762 billion in 2050.

EU needs to reduce cattle numbers to hit methane target

A new study has found that European Union will struggle to meet its methane emission targets set as part of the Global Methane Pledge to reduce methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030, unless it reduces the amount of livestock in the region.  If 10 per cent of citizens switch to diets containing less meat and dairy, this may be adequate to meet the target.  The current business as usual scenario will only see methane emissions falling by less than 4 per cent by 2030.

Over 100 countries have signed up to the Global Methane Pledge, unveiled at last year’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. Regulation unveiled by the EU to tackle methane emissions last year left out the agriculture sector, instead choosing to focus on discharges from oil and gas production.

Impact on climate action from the US Supreme Court’s EPA decision

The Supreme Court ruling this month that clipped EPA’s authority to regulate global warming pollution. The court in 2007 found that EPA wasn’t doing enough to regulate greenhouse gases, only to say now in West Virginia v. EPA that it was trying to do too much.

The Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling in favour of West Virginia, as well as other red states and coal companies, stated that EPA had overstepped its authority under the Clean Air Act by creating a rule requiring power plants to begin shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy.  The decision invalidated the 2015 Clean Power Plan, which never went into effect, and will put some limits on how the Biden administration and future presidents can write new rules for existing power plants.  EPA could now face a similar challenge to its proposed emissions standards for cars and trucks, the largest source of planet-warming pollution in the country.  Whether this ruling may affect proposed changed to company disclosure statements about climate-related risks by the SEC or FERC’s proposal for individual natural gas projects before approval is unknown.

Sydney floods, again

Flooding in New South Wales has become the new normal, as residents in the Greater Sydney area contend with floods after floods.  Many are still recovering from the last flood in March, when water swamped many of the same areas.  The event caused $4.8 billion in damage, making it the country’s third most expensive disaster ever, according to the Insurance Council of Australia.  In July, yet again, more than half a meter of rain drenched parts of eastern New South Wales during 48 hours, with spills from numerous dams causing flood warnings across the region.  In western Sydney, the Warragamba Dam — Australia’s largest urban reservoir — started overflowing.

Canberra becomes first State to ban petrol cars

The capital will become the first jurisdiction in Australia to mandate that all new cars must be zero-emissions models.  The ACT government has set a target that by 2030 it wants 80 to 90 per cent of new cars sold to be zero-emissions models, with stricter enforcements to follow.  However, the government doesn’t intend to take individuals’ cars off the road.  In December, the government opened interest-free loans up to $15,000 for Canberrans wanting to purchase an electric vehicle.

Australia looks to introduce federal climate change legislation

Australia’s new government introduced a bill that would for the first time set the country’s emissions reduction targets into law.  Targets under the proposed legislation include greenhouse gas emissions reductions of 43 per cent by 2030 (from the current interim 2030 goal of a 26-28 per cent emissions reduction), compared to 2005 levels – reflecting the government’s recently updated Nationally Determined Contribution commitment under the Paris Agreement – and the achievement of net zero emissions by 2050.

In addition to the emissions reduction targets, the bill also includes elements requiring the Minister for Climate Change to report annually to Parliament on the country’s progress towards the goals, and tasking the government’s independent Climate Change Authority to assess and publish progress against the targets and advise the government on future targets. The government has also proposed inserting its climate targets in the objectives of government agencies and departments that deliver programs and policies contributing to emissions reductions, such as the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and Infrastructure Australia.

Terence Jeyaretnam  |  @ProBonoNews

Terence is the APAC leader and partner with EY’s Climate Change and Sustainability team based in Melbourne. An environmental engineer and an environmental and sustainability advisory and assurance specialist, he is a member of the Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (, one the Technical Readiness Working Group of the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) and is a non-executive director of Amnesty International Australia, Fairtrade Australia/New Zealand, Food Frontier, Legal Sector Alliance and Global Citizen Australia. He is also an advisor to SAARI Collective, a media start-up connecting South Asians Australians write their own stories.

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