Investors Want Companies to Disclose Environmental Risk
There's a growing push from large investors in publicly traded companies to hold the companies accountable for the environmental impact of their practices. In the latest salvo, global companies worth more than $10 trillion are urging companies to disclose their environmental impact to investors, as Forbes reported.
Activist campaigns have proven remarkably effective recently, as major investment firms have divested from fossil fuels and refused to support coal or Arctic drilling. Investor activism has also been credited with securing a series of net-zero emissions pledges from a number of companies, including energy and mining companies.
The Non-Disclosure Campaign organized by CDP, a non-profit global environmental disclosure platform, is composed of more than 100 investors, holding assets worth upwards of $10 trillion, from 23 different countries. They issued a letter to 1,051 countries, including Facebook, Amazon, Domino's and Exxon, insisting that the companies make a more complete disclosure of their environmental impact and risks to their business from the climate crisis, as The Economic Times reported.
The 1,051 companies targeted for lobbying have a combined market value of more than $8 trillion and emit the equivalent of more than 4,800 megatons of CO2. That's equivalent to the amount of CO2 emitted by the U.S. in 2017, according to Forbes.
The companies that the CDP wrote to declined to provide relevant information on their environmental impacts to investors in the past. While nearly 20 percent do disclose some information about information on their greenhouse gas emissions, climate strategies, and policies relating to water use and deforestation, even those companies have been asked to disclose other issues that are germane to their business.
CDP said publicly naming companies helped to improve engagement with investors, as Business Green reported. The CDP found that when 88 large investors pinpointed 707 companies through the campaign, the companies were more than twice as likely to offer up new information.
"The importance of investor engagement to drive disclosure cannot be overstated," said Emily Kreps, global director of capital markets at CDP, as Business Green reported. "Climate change, water security and deforestation present material risks to investments, and companies that are failing to disclose their impact risk trailing behind their competitors in their access to capital.
"As the growth of this campaign shows, investors require decisive data that is consistent, comparable and comprehensive. To make this possible, they expect companies to wholeheartedly engage with TCFD-aligned standards on environmental disclosure and reporting. With business resilience and adaptation to unexpected, systemic risks exposed by the recent public health crisis, the tide is rapidly turning against companies not taking note of investor demands."
The 105 institutional investors who joined the Non-Disclosure Campaign marks a 20 percent increase over last year. They range from the New York State Common Retirement Fund to Trillium Asset Management to Legal and General, one of the UK's largest investors. The investors echoed Kreps.
"Climate change, deforestation and water security have become material issues to many industries. Investors require more comprehensive information and scientific analysis to address risks and opportunities derived from these issues," said Sophia Cheng, chief investment officer at Cathay Financial Holdings, as Forbes reported.
Katarina Hammar, head of active ownership at Nordea Asset Management, said her investment company believes "that increased transparency around companies' environmental performance is a key enabler to improve company performance and to create a more resilient economy," as Business Green reported.
"Consistent and comparable data is key in our company analysis and in particular in the climate risk and opportunity analysis," she added.
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By Simon Montlake
For more than a decade, Susan Jane Brown has been battling to stop a natural gas pipeline and export terminal from being built in the backcountry of Oregon. As an attorney at the nonprofit Western Environmental Law Center, she has repeatedly argued that the project's environmental, social, and health costs are too high.
All that was before this month's deadly wildfires in Oregon shrouded the skies above her home office in Portland. "It puts a fine point on it. These fossil fuel projects are contributing to global climate change," she says.
Moderates Feeling the Heat<p>If elected, Mr. Biden has vowed to stop new drilling for oil and gas on federal land and in federal waters and to rejoin the 2015 Paris climate accord that President Donald Trump gave notice of quitting. He would reinstate Obama-era regulations of greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, the largest component of natural gas.</p><p>The Biden climate platform also states that all federal infrastructure investments and federal permits would need to be assessed for their climate impacts. Analysts say such a test could impede future LNG plants and pipelines, though not those that already have federal approval. </p><p>Climate change activists who pushed for that language say much depends on who would have oversight of federal agencies that regulate the industry. Some are wary of Biden's reliance on advice from Obama-era officials, including former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who is now on the board of Southern Company, a utility, and a former Obama environmental aide, Heather Zichal, who has served on the board of Cheniere Energy, an LNG exporter. </p>
The Push for U.S. Fuel Exports<p>As vice president, Biden was part of an administration that pushed hard for global climate action while also promoting U.S. oil and gas exports to its allies and trading partners. As fracking boomed, Obama ended a 40-year ban on crude oil exports. In Europe, LNG was touted both as an alternative to coal and as strategic competition with Russian pipelines.</p><p>That much, at least, continued with President Trump. Under Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the agency referred to liquified U.S. hydrocarbons as "<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/29/us/freedom-gas-energy-department.html" target="_blank">freedom gas</a>."</p><p>Mr. Trump has also championed the interests of coal, oil, and gas while denigrating the findings of government climate scientists. He rejected the Paris accord as unfair to the U.S. and detrimental to its economy, but has offered no alternative path to emissions cuts. </p><p>Still, Trump's foreign policy has not always served the LNG industry: Tariffs on foreign steel drove up pipeline costs, and a trade war with China stayed the hand of Chinese LNG importers wary of reliance on U.S. suppliers. </p><p>Even his regulatory rollbacks could be a double-edged sword. By relaxing curbs last month on methane leaks, the U.S. has ceded ground to European regulators who are drafting emissions standards that LNG producers are watching closely. "That's a precursor of fights that will be fought in all the rest of the developed world," says Mr. Hutchison. </p><p>Indeed, some oil-and-gas exporters had urged the Trump administration not to abandon the tougher rules, since they undercut their claim to offer a cleaner-burning way of producing heat and electricity. "U.S. LNG is not going to be able to compete in a world that's focused on methane emissions and intensity," says Erin Blanton, a senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. </p>
Stepping on the Gas<p>In July, the Department of Energy issued an export license to Jordan Cove's developer, Canada's Pembina Pipeline Corp. In a statement, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said the project would provide "reliable, affordable, and cleaner-burning natural gas to our allies around the world."</p><p>As a West Coast terminal, Jordan Cove offers a faster route to Asia where its capacity of 7.8 million tons of LNG a year could serve to heat more than 15 million homes. At its peak, its construction would also create 6,000 jobs, the company says, in a stagnant corner of Oregon.</p><p>But the project still lacks multiple local and state permits, and its biggest asset – a Pacific port – has become its biggest handicap, says Ms. Blanton. "They are putting infrastructure in a state where there's no political support for the pipeline or the terminal, unlike in Louisiana or Texas," she says. </p><p>Ms. Brown, the environmental lawyer, says she wants to see Jordan Cove buried, not just mothballed until natural gas prices recover. But she knows that it's only one among many LNG projects and that others will likely get built, even if Biden is elected in November, despite growing evidence of the harm caused by methane emissions. </p>
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