World’s Largest Sovereign Wealth Fund Raises Standards for Oceans, Sustainability
Norway's $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund, the largest in the world, released two documents Wednesday stating it wants the companies it invests in to follow more rigorous rules on ocean plastic pollution and overall sustainability, Reuters reported.
Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), which manages the fund that invests in more than 9,000 companies in 72 countries, said it expected companies to consider ocean sustainability when creating strategy, take ocean-related risks into account and be transparent and responsible in managing the oceans, CNBC reported.
"The ocean is a vital part of the biosphere and an important part of the global economy," NBIM CEO Yngve Slyngstad said in a statement reported by CNBC. "We expect companies to manage the challenges and opportunities related to sustainable use of the ocean."
The fund's ocean "expectation document" is focused on companies that benefit from or impact the ocean in some way, from plastic producers to fisheries to shipping. These companies are worth $56.5 billion total and represent around 8 percent of the fund's global equities portfolio, Reuters reported.
Ocean plastic pollution has emerged as a major environmental problem in recent years, and plastic producers make up about half of the companies targeted by the new document.
Ocean sustainability is one of Norway's stated foreign policy goals, since its main industries of oil and gas, fishing, shipping and fish farming are all dependent on the ocean.
The fund also issued a note Wednesday saying it wants companies to work towards meeting the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, CNBC reported. The goals include environmentally responsible ways to alleviate poverty, promoting social equality and growing the economy by 2030.
The fund said there would be consequences for companies that didn't develop adequate strategies towards achieving these goals, according to Reuters.
"If we believe there isn't a long term sustainable model for various reasons, we will divest from them, like we have done with palm oil and deforestation," the fund's Chief Corporate Governance Officer Carine Smith Ihenacho told Reuters.
The fund was built off of oil and gas revenues, but Norway is currently in the process of deciding if it will divest the fund from fossil fuel companies. A government-sponsored commission advised against this move in August, to the consternation of climate change activists, The Guardian reported.
"This summer Nordic heatwaves, wildfires in the Arctic Circle and alarming news of the thickest Arctic sea ice starting to break up, have brought climate change so close to home for Norway. It seems unthinkable to continue to invest in companies that have caused this chaos," 350.org Europe Team Leader Nicolò Wojewoda told The Guardian.
In the meantime, environmental group Greenpeace was modestly optimistic about the fund's most recent sustainability decision.
"We would have liked to see from the expectation paper more specifics on issues like aquaculture, seabed mining and plastic use reduction," head of Greenpeace Nordic's sustainable finance campaign Martin Norman told Reuters. "But it is clearly a step in the right direction and we look forward to see results of their engagement with companies on ocean sustainability."
Ireland on Path to Become First Country to Divest from Fossil Fuels https://t.co/gOUxFRu5AC #Ireland #Divestment… https://t.co/Kj5RpMqidg— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1531491126.0
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.