ESG Essentials: The future of mining, sustainable aquaculture and landmark debt-for-nature deal

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Can the mining industry dig its way to a cleaner future?

Adam Matthews, Chair of The Global Commission on Mining 2030, commented on the environmental and social challenges facing the mining industry in years to come. 

Led by investors and advised by UNEP, the Commission aims to identify gaps in global best practice standards and disclosures, addressing social and environmental risks such as waste management, child labour and biodiversity loss. 

For example, a major component of the transition is effective energy storage. Batteries for cars and storage plants have the potential to reduce carbon emissions in the power and transportation sectors by 30%. However, the anticipated increase in demand for the required minerals is vast: by 2050, the production of graphite, lithium and cobalt will need to expand by 450–500%, according to the World Bank.

As mining’s role in the transition grows further, it is crucial that companies align with best practices laid out in global standards and maintain a social licence, or risk losing the confidence of investors and the wider finance community.

Aquaculture’s appetite for investor-led reforms

According to a new report released last week by Planet Tracker, investment is critical to meet surging consumer demand for seafood, with analysis revealing that even in the most optimistic scenario there will be a 50 million tonne supply gap by 2050

At least $55 billion is needed in capital expenditure to finance the transition toward sustainable aquaculture practices, says the report. 

The think tank calls on investors to finance the transition towards sustainable practices through increased awareness of the risks of a business-as-usual approach, demanding better disclosure and transparency, and supporting mitigation of environmental risks through new technologies. 

Wind beats gas in the UK for the first time

Turbines generated more electricity than gas for the first time in the UK, according to research from Imperial College London. It revealed that in the first three months of 2023, a third of the UK’s electricity was produced in wind farms. 

This comes after the UK electricity mix reached almost 50% renewables in 2020, with Semafor’s graph highlighting the rapid growth of both renewables and gas usage. 

Almost 32.4% of Britain’s electricity came from wind farms in the first quarter of the year compared with 31.7% from gas-fired power plants, making it the first quarter where wind power output was higher.

This is an important milestone as the UK aims to reach its target to decarbonise the electricity supply by 2035, marking a new era of falling fossil fuel power emissions. 

Ecuador announces a record-breaking debt-for-nature deal 

Last week Ecuador announced a record-setting $1.63 billion debt-for-nature deal with Credit Suisse, aiming to reduce its debt burden and free up hundreds of millions of dollars to fund marine conservation around the Galapagos Islands. 

As part of the deal, Ecuador has committed to spending over $323 million across 18 years to conserve the Galapagos region. 

Countries at risk of debt fault do not have the financial means to prioritise environmental protection and are often unattractive to investors due to poor credit ratings. Debt-for-nature swaps can provide a solution to overcome these issues and have a positive impact on nature and society. 

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