Close Search
Opinion  |  Responsible InvestingESG

This month in ESG: Govt promises, biodiversity and greenwashing in focus

30 October 2022 at 10:49 pm
Terence Jeyaretnam
It's been a busy month in ESG, with a raft of government announcements, a focus on greenwashing and biodiversity and Australia's shocking floods all driving the news cycle. 

Terence Jeyaretnam | 30 October 2022 at 10:49 pm


This month in ESG: Govt promises, biodiversity and greenwashing in focus
30 October 2022 at 10:49 pm

It’s been a busy month in ESG, with a raft of government announcements, a focus on greenwashing and biodiversity and Australia’s shocking floods all driving the news cycle. 

October had some significant global and local ESG markers, including key transition announcements by Victorian, Tasmanian and Queensland governments followed by significant federal government budget commitments.  Key global reports also suggest that staying under 1.5 degrees is highly unlikely and that 69 per cent of wildlife populations have crashed in 48 years.  Finally, significant greenwashing findings made the news.

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 October 2022, again in no particular order.

Clean energy and transition announcements by Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania

Victorian and Queensland made a number of significant announcements during the month.  In Victoria, targets have been set to:

  • bring on line 95 per cent renewables by 2035, 65 per cent by 2030
  • reduce 70-80 per cent emissions by 2035
  • fund 4.5 gigawatts of publicly owned renewables and the reestablishment of a publicly owned electric commission

And this is in addition to a Victorian Energy Storage Target of 2.6 gigawatts by 2030 and 6.3 gigawatts by 2035 made recently (September ESG Markers).

Queensland has also just announced that it will be pursuing:

  • $4.5 billion Queensland Renewable Energy and Hydrogen Jobs Fund
  • Strategic investments through a $35 million Hydrogen Industry Development Fund.

Finally, the federal government has reached agreements with the Victorian and Tasmanian governments to proceed with a range of critical transmission projects is a game-changer for Australia’s clean energy transition, the Marinus transmission link between Tasmania and the mainland allowing for significant renewables to be deployed.

HSBC found to be greenwashing, Volkswagen sued for not disclosing climate lobbying activity and greenwashing fines issued by ASIC

A claim by Adfree Cities, an NGO in the UK against HSBC that two of its advertisements were misleading and greenwashing was investigated by UK’s Advertising Standards Authority leading to a ban.  The regulator found that the advertisement which proclaimed HSBC as a sustainable bank was misleading due to its US$130 billion of fossil fuel financing.

Volkswagen AG was sued by institutional investors in Germany for reportedly privately lobbying against its environmental ambitions despite making public commitments to fighting climate change.  The claim was brought about by a group of Swedish public pension funds, Danish AkademikerPension and the Church of England Pensions Board and Client Earth at a German court seeking to make VW include an item about their lobbying activities to the agenda of its shareholder meeting.

Locally, in Australia, ASIC has issued four infringement notices for alleged greenwashing to Tlou Energy, over its statements to the ASX, comprising of $53,280 in penalties.  Three of the infringements relate to statements in a clean energy presentation, and the other relates to statements in a quarterly operational report.  These included claims that electricity produced by Tlou would be carbon neutral, that Tlou had environmental approval and the capability to generate certain quantities of electricity from solar power, that Tlou’s gas-to-power project would be ‘low emissions’; and that was equally concerned with producing “clean energy” through the use of renewable sources as it was with developing its gas-to-power project.

Push for legal rights to animals, trees and rivers

Granting legal rights and protections to non-human entities such as animals, trees and rivers is essential if countries are to tackle climate breakdown and biodiversity loss, according to a report for Law Society titled Law in the Emerging Bio Age arguing that legal frameworks have a key part to play in governing human interactions with the environment and biotechnology.

This is building on Ecuador and Bolivia having already enshrined rights for the natural world, while at the same time there is a campaign to make ecocide a prosecutable offence at the international criminal court. The report explores how the relationship between humans and mother earth might be recalibrated in the future.

The disappearance of 1 billion crabs and climate change

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has, for the first time in state history, cancelled the winter snow crab season in the Bering Sea due to their falling numbers, with the sudden population plunge questioning the health of the Arctic ecosystem.  It has been reported that an estimated one billion crabs have mysteriously disappeared over two years.  Questions remains as to whether it was a disease or whether they migrated to colder waters.

Wildlife populations have crashed by 69 per cent in 48 years, WWF and zero extinction target set for Australia

In the same year as the United Nations Human General Assembly recognising that everyone has the right to live in a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, wildlife populations have declined by a staggering 69 per cent over the past 48 years, according to the latest World Wildlife Fund for Nature’s Living Planet Report, with animals in Central and South America being particularly hard hit. E very region shows concerning declines, with 66 per cent in Africa, 55 per cent in Asia and the Pacific, 20 per cent in North America and 18 per cent in Europe and Central Asia.

The report however does not take stock of the planet’s invertebrates, despite them vastly outnumbering vertebrates. The 2022 Living Planet Report assessed some 32,000 populations of 5,230 species around the planet, tracking the relative abundance of vertebrate animals from 1970 to 2018. Invertebrates are also known to be facing their own biodiversity crisis. Ecosystem services are responsible for human food as well as clothing, materials, medicines, climate regulation and clean water, which are all under threat as a result of this biodiversity emergency.

Meanwhile, in Australia for the first time an Australian government has announced a zero extinction target for plants and animals.  The goal forms a ten-year plan to improve the trajectory of 110 species and 20 places, and protect an additional area of 50m hectares of land and sea by 2027.

Zara launching ‘pre-owned’ platform for garment repairs and donations

The ‘Zara Pre-Owned’ service will launch on 3 November across the UK. The platform will be available in Zara stores, online and through the company’s dedicated mobile app.  Zara Pre-Owned will offer consumers ways to fix or donate garments (which will go to Red Cross). It will offer a repair system for all garments, which will allow customers to bring items in for services like button replacements and zipper and seam repairs. The platform will also offer UK customers the chance to sell on older garments to other customers through a new secure initiative.  Zara is also committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2040.

Inditex, which owns Zara, is a member of the UN Fashion Charter, which is aligned with the aims of the Paris Agreement and sets a roadmap towards carbon neutrality by 2050. The company is also a member of the Textile Exchange coalition.

Victorian floods finally see Australian governments being asked to scrap ‘one-in-100-year’ flood standard

Victoria experienced some of the worst floods in the state’s history as extraordinarily heavy rainfall caused flooding of multiple rivers.  The Victorian floods followed records floods in NSW and Queensland. This has led to calls that climate change is rendering terms like one-in-100-year flood useless and that flood maps across Australia should be updated so communities and agencies can better mitigate disasters. Flood maps are created using historical weather records, tide data and digital mapping technologies to assess the risks of an area.

As an example, the most recent river flooding map available on the Lismore council website was from 2010 and the region’s risk management plan is from 2014.

Huge reduction in meat-eating ‘essential’ to avoid climate change

A recent study titled Options for keeping the food system within environmental limits published in the Journal Nature and considered the most comprehensive analysis yet of the food system’s impact on the environment has found that huge reductions in meat-eating are essential to avoid dangerous climate change.  In western countries, beef consumption needs to fall by 90% and be replaced by five times more beans and pulses.

The study suggests a global shift to a flexitarian diet was needed to keep climate change even under 2C, let alone 1.5C. This flexitarian diet means the average world citizen needs to eat 75 per cent less beef, 90 per cent less pork and half the number of eggs, while tripling consumption of beans and pulses and quadrupling nuts and seeds. UK and US citizens need to cut beef by 90 per cent and milk by 60 per cent while increasing beans and pulses between four and six times.

Unlikely to be able to stay under 1.5 degrees, UN Report

There is “no credible pathway to 1.5C in place”, the UN’s environment agency has said in its latest UN environment report, and the failure to reduce carbon emissions means the only way to limit the worst impacts of the climate crisis is a rapid transformation of societies.  This work was undertaken by analysing the carbon reduction pledges by countries, versus the carbon budget to limit rise in global temperature to 1.5 degrees.  Current pledges for action by 2030, if delivered in full, would mean a rise in global heating of about 2.5C and catastrophic extreme weather around the world. If the long-term pledges by countries to hit net zero emissions by 2050 were delivered, global temperature would rise by 1.8 degrees.

Budget funds Great Barrier Reef protection & ecosystem restoration as well as climate transition and Australia releases a National Electric Vehicle Strategy discussion paper as well as signs the Methane Pledge

The budget is increasing funding for the Great Barrier Reef to $1.2 billion by 2030. This is intended to accelerate and scale up reef protection and restoration activities and address gaps in the implementation of the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan. Specifically, $15.3 million will ensure the Coastal Marine Ecosystems Research Centre in Gladstone is completed. The Centre will provide world-class science to guide management of the Reef in a changing climate.

In addition, the Budget provides $224.5 million over four years “to support actions to slow the rate of environmental and native species decline and lay the foundations for longer-term support and recovery of Australia’s native species and special landscapes”.  The government will also deliver $1.1 billion in Natural Heritage Trust funding over six years aimed at meeting commitments made around protecting 30 per cent by 2030.  An initial investment of $91.1 million over 6 years will clean up and restore urban waterways, protect local species and improve liveability for communities is also planned.  Indigenous Protected Areas will be maintained and expanded, with an additional $66.5 million over five years driving us closer to the target of protecting 30 per cent of land and oceans by 2030. $14.7 million will support First Nations-led action to identify and protect heritage places. This includes pursuing new World Heritage listings for the Murujuga Cultural Landscape and Flinders Ranges.  In total, the government is looking to make a $1.8 billion investment in strong action to protect, restore and manage the natural environment.

The budget allocates $141.1 million over 10 years to carbon capture technologies, specifically focussed on hard-to-abate industries such as cement and negative emissions technologies, such as direct capture of CO2 from air.  It also provides $62.6 million over three years to fund energy efficiency upgrades in small to medium enterprises.  Other transition measures include over $200 million for 400 community batteries, about $80 million for microgrid technologies in first nation communities, over $70m for a green hydrogen hub in Townsville, $45m for international engagement on climate change as well as funding for Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW) ($275 million), Torres Strait Climate Change Centre of Excellence and the Environmental Defenders Office and Environmental Justice Australia.

Finally, the budget is also providing $102.2 million for the Community Solar Banks program to help up to 25,000 households access cheap solar-powered energy. The budget is also addressing growing skills demands in the clean energy sector by committing over $100 million to the New Energy Apprenticeships and New Energy Skills programs. The programs is intended to help apprentices acquire necessary skills by developing a new mentoring program and providing up to $10,000 for each apprentice in a clean energy role.

The federal government has released its National Electric Vehicle (EV) Strategy discussion paper.  The paper makes it clear that the governments goals are to:

  1. Make EVs more affordable
  2. Expand EV uptake and choice
  3. Reduce emissions
  4. Save Australians money on fuel
  5. Increase local manufacturing

Methane is 84 times more potent than C02 over 20 years when it comes to climate change. Australia has joined 122 other countries around the world pledged to working together to reduce global methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030, a COP26 initiative.

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.

Get more stories like this



As long as it takes ...

David Crosbie

Wednesday, 8th March 2023 at 9:56 pm

This month in ESG: Shell, plants over meat and sustainable fuel for helicopters

Terence Jeyaretnam

Tuesday, 28th February 2023 at 9:44 pm

Is ESG integration on the rise?

Kaushik Sridhar

Monday, 27th February 2023 at 2:40 pm

pba inverse logo
Subscribe Twitter Facebook