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This month in ESG: Floods, chemicals in rainwater and electric aircraft

1 September 2022 at 2:22 pm
Terence Jeyaretnam
In his monthly column, Terence Jeyaretnam takes a look at all the ESG news that's fit to print from the previous month. 

Terence Jeyaretnam | 1 September 2022 at 2:22 pm


This month in ESG: Floods, chemicals in rainwater and electric aircraft
1 September 2022 at 2:22 pm

In his monthly column, Terence Jeyaretnam takes a look at all the ESG news that’s fit to print from the previous month. 

August saw the recording of the Earth’s shortest day, floods of biblical proportions in Pakistan, record heat waves in China, record droughts in Europe as well as climate legislation in Australia, the US and movement in electric vehicles, airlines and batteries.

Again, if I happen to miss some key markers in a particular month. Just drop me some comments, and I will 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.

So, here are my Top 10 for August 2022, in no particular order.

Earth records its shortest day

The shortest day for Earth has been recorded on the 29 June 2022 when Earth completed its 24-hour rotation 1.59 milliseconds quicker.  The Earth is, over long periods of time, actually slowing down – it takes a couple of milliseconds longer to complete its rotation each century.  However, scientists believe that this slightly faster rotation could be linked to climate change, tides or Earth’s layers.

Electric aircrafts may be in Australia by 2024, while California is set to ban fossil fuel cars by 2035

Australian Rex Airlines has announced electric aircraft trials for some regional routes by 2024.  Airline travel, which contributes about 2 per cent of global emissions is seen as a hard-to-abate sector, but with battery technology improving exponentially, short-haul electric flights are becoming reality, with early versions retrofitting existing aircraft fuel cells with batteries.

On the other side of the world, California, the state that buys the most cars and trucks in the United States, will ban the sale of fossil fuel-powered vehicles by 2035. This represents the largest government move against gasoline and diesel to date, with the potential to ripple throughout the country and the global auto industry.  The California Air Resources Board, which regulates pollution in the state, is invoking its authority to protect air quality and deal with the impacts of climate change.

Rainwater all over the world contains cancer-causing chemicals

Rainwater everywhere on Earth contains so much cancer-causing ‘forever chemicals’ that it should be classified as unsafe to drink, a new study has warned.  The chemicals – per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – are man-made chemicals that spread in the atmosphere.  The chemicals are produced by industry, and are extremely persistent in the atmosphere.  PFAS is a collective name for per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances or highly fluorinated substances that have a similar chemical structure. All PFAS are either extremely persistent in the environment or break down into extremely persistent PFAS, which has earned them the nickname “forever chemicals.” PFAS have been associated with a wide range of serious health harms, including cancer, learning and behavioural problems in children, infertility and pregnancy complications, increased cholesterol, and immune system problems.

Germans buck the global trend and are eating less meat

In 2011, Germans ate 138 pounds of meat each year. Today, it’s 121 pounds (compared to the 225 pounds per year in the US) — a 12.3 per cent decline.  One possible explanation may be that from 2016 to 2020, the number of vegans in Germany doubled, hitting 2.6 million people or 3.2 percent of the population.  Furthermore, Grocery sales of plant-based products in Germany nearly doubled from 2018 to 2020, from $424 million to $835 million.

Meat and dairy production account for around 15 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and most countries’ per capita meat consumption far exceeds the 57 pounds per year recommended by the EAT-Lancet Commission, a panel of climate and nutrition experts.

Australia’s climate targets to be enshrined into law by September

The Australian House of Representatives has passed the country’s first climate change legislation.  The climate bill enshrines into law two national greenhouse gas emissions targets: a 43 per cent cut below 2005 levels by 2030, and a reduction to “net zero” by 2050.  The bill emphasises that the 2030 target is a floor not a ceiling. The legislation beefs up the role played by the Climate Change Authority for giving policy advice. The bill requires the climate change minister to give an annual statement to parliament on progress towards the targets. The bill has to clear the Senate when parliament next sits in September, but that’s now a formality.

US Inflation Reduction Act aims to deliver $US430 Billion in climate funding

The Democrat-led US House of Representatives has approved a $US430 billion ($604 billion) bill that is seen as the biggest climate package in the country’s history.  The legislation to fight climate change and lower prescription drug prices aims to cut domestic greenhouse gas emissions.  About half of Americans support the climate and drug-pricing legislation, including 69 per cent of Democrats and 34 per cent of Republicans, according to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll.

BlackRock to invest $1 Billion in largescale batteries in Australia

US investment firm BlackRock is planning to invest at least $1 billion in big battery projects in Australia with the acquisition of Akaysha Energy and its portfolio of battery projects.  BlackRock is investing on the back of the Federal Government’s ambition of at least 82 per cent renewables in the grid by 2030.

US to reflect natural assets on balance sheet

On Earth Day 2022, President Biden signed an executive order to develop guidance to better account for nature and its benefits in federal decision-making, leading to the first government-wide natural capital accounts. It is intended that these natural capital accounts will measure the economic value that natural resources provide to society and illustrate how a robust economy depends on a healthy natural environment.  The draft National Strategy recommends that the Federal government produce a new, ongoing set of statistics to take stock of our wealth of natural assets, how those assets are being enhanced or depleted, and the impact that has on our economic strength.

Pakistan’s floods of biblical proportions

Pakistan’s floods have resulted in the death of more than 1,000 people and has affected over 30 million.  Sherry Rehman, a Pakistani senator and the country’s top climate official, said in a video posted on Twitter that Pakistan is experiencing a “serious climate catastrophe, one of the hardest in the decade.”  The unprecedented monsoon season has affected all four of the country’s provinces. Nearly 300,000 homes have been destroyed, numerous roads rendered impassable and electricity outages have been widespread, affecting millions of people.

Most severe heatwave recorded in China

While Europe is having what may be its worst drought in 500 years, alongside droughts in the Horn of Africa, and across much of the US and Mexico, China is experiencing the longest and hottest heatwave in China since national records began in 1961.  People in large parts of China have been experiencing two months of extreme heat. Hundreds of places have reported temperatures of more than 40°C (104°F), and many records have been broken.  On 18 August, Chongqing in Sichuan province reached 45°C, the highest ever recorded in China outside the desert-dominated region of Xinjiang. Together with the extreme heat, low rainfall in parts of China has led to rivers falling to low levels, with 66 drying up completely. In parts of the Yangtze, water levels are the lowest since records began in 1865.  The situation could have worldwide repercussions, causing further disruption to supply chains and exacerbating the global food crisis.

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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