‘No time to lose’

In the August 6, 2022 edition of this column, in part, I wrote about how corporate greenwashing, where a company can make misleading or unsubstantiated claims about climate credentials, were quickly noticed and dealt with because of transparency with the new standards and norms introduced by the environment, social and governance standards and disclosures adopted by some companies.

But was l wrong in any way? We will soon find out!

Anyway, the referenced article looked at concerns about climate risks and this week, I have had cause to revisit the subject of greenwashing again, among other climate-related issues, following reports that the European Union (EU) is moving beyond “self-reporting” under certain global standards, to crack down on inflated claims by firms about products’ environmental “credentials”. This is about the subject of greenwashing, and the move suggests that the reporting and disclosure norms of companies, may not, after all, be as transparent as desired!

In a report filed by the Guardian newspaper in the UK, “companies will have 10 days to justify green claims about their products or face ‘effective, proportionate and dissuasive’ penalties, under a draft EU crackdown on greenwashing”. Significantly, the media house also reported that “One EU survey in 2020 found that 53 per cent of environmental product claims were ‘vague, misleading or unfounded’. Authorities suspected 42 per cent of green product gambits of being ‘false or deceptive’ in another survey the same year”.

The new legal framework to ensure substantiated green claims at all times is a step in the right direction, but must it always be about the law to address basic, life-threatening situations? Shouldn’t our conscience and values prompt us at all times that if we fail to do the right thing to mitigate climate risks we risk the existence of life on earth in general? And do the right thing?

As l stated in the May 7, 2022 edition of this column, dinosaurs lasted for millions of years, and records also show that Neanderthals, which became extinct between 40,000 and 28,000 years ago, were said to have existed for about a quarter of a million years, but homo sapiens have existed barely 100000 years and is fast running out of time.

Indeed, we are fast running out of time because we have, it appears, over-populated the world, turned the land into a desert with our crude methods of farming, production, and pollution, destroyed the animal insect and are therefore exposed to diseases, and destroyed the plant life that sustains us. We have, ultimately, turned the climate in the worst direction.

Just last week, I explained in this column that there was a need for human behaviour to be redirected to sustain our environment because climate risk was real. In effect, the need for sustainable and accountable behaviour that will not compromise the life of the future generation. And it must not always involve laws, regulations and directives to address climate-related risks.

Meanwhile, in another move to ensure that climate risks were addressed, in a landmark case, climate campaigners have sued one of Europe’s largest financial institutions, BNP Paribas, over fossil fuel finance. This is the first climate-related lawsuit against a commercial bank. According to reports, Oxfam France, Friends of the Earth France and Notre Affaire à Tous have accused BNP Paribas of “supporting companies that aggressively develop new oil and gas fields and infrastructure, despite repeated calls by scientists to stop investment in fossil fuels”.

The campaigners filed their lawsuit in a Paris court under France’s corporate duty of vigilance law, which, among other provisions, “requires all large businesses headquartered in France and international corporations with a significant presence there to set out clear measures to prevent human rights violations and environmental damage”.

Admittedly, there has been a fundamental shift of some sort in the world of investing, albeit at a slow pace, which has brought in the link-effect of finance, investments and pensions, in the climate debate. The reason for this is not far-fetched though; the global economy is heating up, in the broad sense of it, and has brought with it the reallocation of financial resources.

The increased attention to monitor how companies conduct themselves against the environmental, social and governance criteria shows a paradigm shift in the climate risk debate.

And there seems to be a great deal of interest in companies’ climate credentials. Both investors and consumers are able to call out corporate greenwashing, even if the disclosures are vague and misleading.

But on the whole, the fight against climate risk is not enough, says Ban Ki-moon, the former UN secretary-general. According to reports this week, Ban has warned that “the world’s largest fund to help developing nations weather the climate crisis remains an ‘empty shell’, despite decades of promises by rich nations”. “We need to see a massive acceleration in mobilising trillions of dollars needed to keep the world from climate collapse,” Ban said, in reports monitored this week. Ban, a South Korean diplomat, served from 2007 to 2016 as the eighth UN secretary-general.

International climate finance from rich to poor countries is between five and 10 times short of what is needed, according to the UN. The report filed in 2020 stressed that even though $340 billion is needed by 2030 to help poorer countries adapt to climate breakdown, money set aside amounted to only $29 billion. “Some government and business leaders are saying one thing – but doing another. Simply put, they are lying. And the results will be catastrophic,” said UN secretary general, António Guterres, in reference to claims by some governments and businesses to be on track in the fight against climate risk.

And, to strengthen the need for action to mitigate climate risk, Guterres is of the view that addressing climate risks “is death” but “the good news is that a liveable future remains within grasp – just”. Ban says: “We have no time to lose”. I believe it is all to do with our attitude- homo sapiens!

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