ESG Essentials: Amazon deforestation, deep sea mining and climate aid

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Deforestation in the Amazon declines in President Lula’s first six months

According to new satellite data released this week, deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest has dropped by 33.6% in 2023 – a milestone for Brazil’s President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. This decrease comes after deforestation reached its highest rate in 15 years under his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro

President Lula has made ending deforestation a key part of his administration, and recently unveiled a plan to end deforestation in the Amazon by 2030. Protecting the rainforest will be crucial to preventing climate change, given that it absorbs 150 billion metric tonnes of CO2 emissions

This data gives concrete proof that Lula’s anti-deforestation methods are working, and will embolden financial institutions looking to invest in Brazil who were previously deterred by his predecessor’s apparent disregard for the issue of deforestation.

Amazon deforestation (2000-2021), source: Statista

Debates on deep sea mining rage as International Seabed Authority conference begins

International talks regarding deep sea mining (DSM) have reached new levels of intensity this week, as the International Seabed Authority (ISA) is coming closer than ever before to allowing large-scale exploration. The most recent round of negotiations, which have begun this week, will be attended by representatives of 168 member states. 

While many countries, such as China, Norway and Russia argue that DSM is necessary to provide the critical rare earth minerals needed for sustainable technologies. Others, such as France and Germany, argue that mining the deep sea could have disastrous and permanent effects on biodiversity and the wider ocean environment.

As we reported in last week’s Essentials, organisations such as Planet Tracker have argued that DSM is a “false solution to the climate crisis” that will do damage to ecosystems that will far outweigh the potential monetary benefits. 

It remains to be seen what the outcome of the conference will be.

Proposed French regulation will make listed companies put their climate strategies to a shareholder vote every three years

A new regulatory proposal led by French MEPs would require listed companies to put their climate strategy to a shareholder vote on a three year cycle, with an annual vote on the implementation of their strategy. The regulation is intended to make large companies more accountable to the climate plans they put in place, as well as giving shareholders more input into their overall design. 

The French financial regulator, AMF, has called on companies to “enhance their shareholder dialogue” on climate strategy during their AGMs.

These regulations will be subject to a vote in the French Parliament, but are expected to pass and be implemented later this year. If passed through their legislature, France will be the first country to have such a requirement, further cementing their reputation as a leader in corporate climate disclosure rules.

Questions emerge regarding UK government’s commitment to international climate aid

Last week, The Guardian reported that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak planned to drop plans to fund £11.6bn in climate projects between 2021 and 2026. In a leaked briefing memo, the PM argued it would be a “huge challenge” to justify the spending given the considerable non-climate related aid it had given to Ukraine and others. The memo argues that the UK will have to spend 86% of the current foreign aid budget to meet its climate targets

The government has so far denied that it plans to drop the pledge, which it made while hosting COP26 in Glasgow. Serious doubts have emerged over Rishi Sunak’s commitment to fighting climate change after his climate minister, Zac Goldsmith, resigned, saying the PM was “uninterested” in climate issues

Notably, the leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer, was also quoted as strongly disapproving of certain climate measures, reportedly saying “I hate tree huggers” in response to a climate spending proposal by Ed Milliband, shadow Secretary of State for Climate Change and Net Zero.

If these reports are to be believed, there appears to be a broad scepticism among the British political establishment towards climate proposals many argue are deeply necessary.

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