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The ESG Review: Counting down to COP27 and turning up the heat on climate finance

We’re only about seven weeks away from COP27.

It may feel like the sense of optimism and the list of questions that resulted from COP26 in Glasgow are very much in the rear view mirror, given the pressures on sustainable change and the safeguarding the planet that have been brought into sharp focus by the war in Ukraine, heatwaves and droughts, and increasingly polarised stances on ESG funds by investors.

And then of course, with the UK in national mourning after the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, we have the spectre of potential differences between the new King Charles III and new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, over environment-related policy matters, as summarised by Time this week.

So much has happened in 2022 that could push business commitments on reducing environmental impact off-course. But as the clock ticks down to COP27 in Sharm-al-Sheikh, and to companies publishing annual ESG reports - themselves the subject of greater scrutiny in the future - evidence of progress on climate goals in the short-term and long-term will be higher up the agenda in the coming months.

We are already starting to see the pre-COP noise level increase as the advance agenda begins to be set. The leaders of many African countries have called for improved climate change financing to help a continent that is currently responsible for just three per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. And a new UN report outlines why climate change is destined for “uncharted territories of destruction”, while the Financial Times’ editorial penned this opinion on why the terrible floods in Pakistan are “a devastating illustration of the need to invest in adaptation for a changing climate”.

In this of all weeks, it is difficult not to touch on the part that royalty may play. The then-Prince Charles was vocal supporter of COP26 as he was of previous summits, prompting Forbes to declare that he should become a “climate monarch” and BBC News to outline why he will “not cool on climate action”.

How this will play out if the ‘self-refreshed’ Government pursues what many media watchers believe will see some of the climate commitments trumpeted during Boris Johnson’s tenure dropped will be fascinating. It will create a climate of its own that communicators will no doubt pay keen attention to in determining how to frame and land corporate commitments and progress agendas. For now though, it remains clear as mud.

We will see much on the table for discussion at COP27 and many stories in advance. Despite the themes and forums in Egypt, the overriding issue will doubtless be who pays for what the world needs to address climate change, and how. To get the ball rolling on that, this Reuters piece is a strong summary, putting forward the need to tackle admission of liability, solidarity, creativity and philanthropy.

All areas likely to be on business agendas when it comes to action on climate change.

The ESG News Review is written by Steve Earl, a Partner at BOLDT

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