ESG back on the agenda in post-pandemic world

ESG back on the agenda in post-pandemic world

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) are criteria that are a set of standards for a company’s operations that socially conscious investors use to screen potential investments. These ESG are apparently back on the agenda in the post-pandemic world all per Dr. Mohamed Ramady. Let us see what he says in his Arab News article.

ESG back on the agenda in post-pandemic world

The topic of ESG (environmental, social and governance) principles is back on the agenda as the world witnesses catastrophic flooding and fires not seen in decades, with “climate change” due to environmental mismanagement the seeming culprit.

While sustainability is now a hot topic due to the increasing awareness of climate change and global inequality, at the same time there is a debate that an application of ethical-based investment decisions by society at large can lead to a more sustainable economic and social basis, leading to questions about whether ethical investment and sustainability derived from ESG application are interlinked or separate issues.

There is still no universal definition of sustainability, but many note the seminal UN 1987 Brundtland Report that calls for sustainable development, which, in principle, meets our needs today without compromising the needs of those in the future. Others argue that religion has advocated similar principles, with Islam specifically stating that humans are mere guardians of nature’s wealth and not its owners and should act accordingly in this guardianship role to pass it on to future generations. Thus, the idea of meeting our needs without sacrificing the needs of our future generations is the basis of what the majority of mankind can agree as meeting a definition of “sustainability.”

The definition by default focuses on our planet’s capacity to meet our economic needs, as without a healthy planet, society will be unable to meet sustainable needs for food, shelter, clean air, water and other basic necessities of life. This, however, assumes that all societies accept the same “sustainability” definitions and goals, but in reality there are different opinions as these touch on politics and the degree of economic growth and resource consumption by different countries.

The debate is stark and will not easily go away with simple slogans as it involves those “who have” versus those that “have not,” a “North” vs. “South” debate, or more crudely, stopping a poorer “South” from “having their place in the sun” and in turn asking the “North” to sacrifice more for the sake of global sustainability and equality.

There is growing evidence that companies that take their environmental and social responsibilities more seriously perform better financially, making their shareholders happy and feeling righteous too.

Dr. Mohamed Ramady

The poorer “South” will argue that the “North’s” high-income earners are far more likely to be contributing disproportionately to climate change, while those who live in less affluent parts of the world are more likely to suffer the consequences. They watch in awe and disbelief as multibillionaires spend a few minutes joyriding in outer space at a cost enough to provide whole villages with proper sanitation, health, education and safer transportation, let alone feed hungry mouths.

In practice ESG today refers to the environmental, social and governance information about a firm and there is growing evidence that companies that take their environmental and social responsibilities more seriously perform better financially, making their shareholders happy and feeling righteous too. The bottom line for all is that ESG is good for business. The UN-Global Compact value driver model uses key business matrices common to all industries to determine the return on investments of corporate sustainability activities. These can be best summarized under: Growth (revenue growth from sustainable products); productivity (cost savings from sustainability related innovation); and risk management, all leading to a higher return on equity.

Have these matrices made an impact on corporate performance in reality? In essence companies that follow enhanced ethical and economic sustainability management characteristics have the potential to perform better over time, but the question is where? It would seem that improvements in environmental performance achieved with better technology, leading to cost savings and process efficiency, is one way, resulting in high sustainability companies outperforming their counterparts over the long term, through stock market and accounting performance. Analysis of some ESG-related stock market indices such as the MSCI KLD 400 Social Index, and MSCI Emerging Market ESG Index, seems to support this argument. So, what is missing to implement ESG?

In forthcoming articles, we shall examine the role of sustainability accounting, corporate stakeholders interaction and the need to educate both capital market borrowers and lenders on ESG policies, and on how international ESG regulators have faced this.

• Dr. Mohamed Ramady is a former senior banker and Professor of Finance and Economics, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Dhahran.

https://arab.news/j6y5j
Turkish environment minister touts ‘Climate Resilient Cities’

Turkish environment minister touts ‘Climate Resilient Cities’

Turkish environment minister touts ‘Climate Resilient Cities’ at G20 meeting 

Murat Kurum says integrated plus harmonious policies, strategies needed during environment ministers session

Turkey’s environment and urbanization minister praised “Climate Resilient Cities” on Friday during an address to a high-level G20 meeting.

Speaking at the Cities and Climate Action session, Murat Kurum defined climate resilient cities as those that use natural resources effectively, ensure the balance between production and consumption and develop and implement participatory policies.

Kurum was in Naples, Italy to attend a meeting of environment and energy ministers from the Group of 20.

He said for these kinds of cities, integrated plus harmonious policies and strategies are needed.

Emphasizing that in addition to increasing the resilience of cities, durable infrastructure applications are one of the important issues for adaptation to climate change at the local level, Kurum said it is extremely important to accelerate durable infrastructure investments and to use resources efficiently.

Noting that the transformation of cities should be placed at the top of priorities to be successful in combating climate change, Kurum said: “As Turkey, we know that determination in this matter is important to be successful. We are taking steps to ensure the highest level of cooperation on a national and local scale.”

Turkey is expanding its smart city and zero waste practices with regional and local action plans that were started in the Black Sea region, said Kurum.

“As the Ministry, we have accelerated our efforts to reduce energy consumption in our buildings,” he added.

“We carry out all our construction activities with this sensitivity, in our 2.5 million houses we have built so far and 300,000 urban transformation houses that are currently underway,” he said.

Kurum added that Turkey chooses natural materials, install solar energy systems and implement systems that produce their own electricity in all of its urban transformation projects, social housing and public buildings.

Published on Yani Safak News

Transitioning towards sustainable economy: Role of Financial Institutions

Transitioning towards sustainable economy: Role of Financial Institutions

Bibhu Mishra of Humboldt University, Berlin elaborates on Transitioning towards sustainable economy: Role of financial institutions such as Central Banks and financial systems in The Times of India.

Transitioning towards sustainable economy: Role of Central Banks and financial systems

Bibhu Mishra

Bibhu Mishra

“For peace to reign on Earth, humans must evolve into new beings who have learned to see the whole first”, said Kant. 

Climate change is real; it affects and will affect everyone. Mother Nature sends its signals regularly, and most recently through the flash floods in western Germany. These signals are an urgent reminder that we need to take action now. The action must be collective, significant, timely, and futuristic because, in the long term, the risks outweigh the costs. 

The Paris climate accord is one such step in the right direction. A holistic and stakeholder-driven approach would be required to achieve the target of maintaining temperature rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius. One of the most significant stakeholders in such efforts is the global financial system. The financial system’s role is pivotal because they provide finance and steer economic growth. Their actions have a significant impact on ESG, i.e., Environment, Society, and Governance.

There is a tremendous surge in investments which keeps ESG at the core of investment decisions. According to Bloomberg, ‘ESG assets may hit $53 trillion by 2025, a third of global AUM’. Despite a phenomenal rise in ESG assets in the past decade, the financial system still faces challenges like ‘short-termism’ and ‘greenwashing.’ 

Therefore, the role of Central Banks is vital. They look at the financial system of a country as a whole. Former Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney coined the concept ‘Tragedy of the Horizon’ to explain this. He argued, “the catastrophic impacts of climate change will be felt beyond the traditional horizons of most banks, investors and financial policymakers, imposing costs on future generations that the current one has no direct incentives to fix.” It is a tricky paradox where the current system has little or no benefits but to save the planet in its current state or better for the coming generations.

Realizing the importance of its role, eight central banks and supervisors created (In December 2017) a ‘Network of Central Banks and Supervisors for Greening the Financial System  (NGFS).’The NGFS is aimed to make coordinated efforts to combat climate change. As of June 30, 2021, the NGFS has grown to a network of 95 members and 15 observers. The Network’s purpose, in their own words; “to help strengthen the global response required to meet the Paris agreement’s goals and enhance the role of the financial system to manage risks and mobilize capital for green and low-carbon investments in the broader context of environmentally sustainable development.” 

The NGFS is a significant step towards bringing central banks of different countries together and ensuring that central banks take the leadership role in fighting against the climate crisis. In its first comprehensive report (Pub 2019), It came up with the following six suggestions and floated the idea of global collective leadership. 

  1. Integrating climate-related risks into financial stability monitoring and micro-supervision 
  2. Integrating sustainability factors into own-portfolio management 
  3. Bridging the data gaps 
  4. Building awareness and intellectual capacity and encouraging technical assistance and knowledge sharing 
  5. Achieving robust and internationally consistent climate and environment-related disclosure 
  6. Supporting the development of a taxonomy of economic activities

Additionally, the steps taken by the Central Banks of England (Bank of England) and France (Banque de France) are noteworthy and worth a mention.

Recently, the [Central] Bank of England launched a stress test for banks and insurers to understand the ability of the UK Financial system to cope with climate change. The test is aimed to examine the resilience of the UK’s 19 biggest banks and insurers. The stress test can also be looked at as an acknowledgement that Climate Change poses significant financial risks to the existing financial system. Therefore, early planning of a transition is necessary. 

Moreover, ‘Banque de France,’ the central bank of France, took several initiatives to transition the financial industry into zero carbon.  In June 2021, the French ACPR (Autorité de contrôle prudential et de résolution, English translation: French Prudential Supervision and Resolution Authority) published the first climate pilot exercise report an overall ‘moderate’ exposure to climate risks.

Let’s understand the risk through an example. Investing in fossil fuels may generate returns in the short term,’ but it will accelerate climate change and, hence, negatively impact the ESG. The negative impact on climate could cause erratic rains or severe drought, leading to an adverse effect on investments made in agriculture and allied sectors. One sector’s gain can be the loss of another sector, posing a significant risk before the overall financial system. 

To ensure a smooth transition of the financial system towards sustainability and make it resilient from other systemic risks, early and coordinated action is needed. Central Banks and financial systems have a significant role to play in our journey towards sustainability.

Bibhu Mishra is a German Chancellor Fellow at Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and a researcher with Institute of Asian and African Studies, Humboldt University, Berlin.

The picture above is for illustration and is of the IFC of World Bank Group blog.

Two Thousand Dinars: A Lamentable Legacy

Two Thousand Dinars: A Lamentable Legacy

Two Thousand Dinars: A Lamentable Legacy By Nejoud Al-Yagout is a story that is fairly common to all countries of the GCC.

The picture above is for illustration and is of the Parliament of Kuwait.

First, we heard that residents above the age of 60 would not be allowed to renew their residencies if they did not hold a college degree. Then, after outrage on social media (by locals, to be sure, since any outrage by a resident would lead to arrest or deportation), there was talk that the rule may not be implemented; instead, we heard that those who came up with the decree would, at least, reconsider the age bracket, perhaps hiking it up to residents over 70 years of age (which in and of itself is lamentable).

Then, it was back again to 60 a few months ago, but with a proposal to fine residents annually (that is when talk of KD 2,000 arose). This latter proposal brewed for a while until it was announced only recently – in the midst of a pandemic, in the throes of increased unemployment and suicides and drug-taking and crimes, and in the whirlwind of murders and corruption – that the Public Authority of Manpower would “allow” residents above the age of 60 who do not hold university degrees to renew their residency provided they pay an annual fee of KD 2,000; as though by making it look like a favor, a permission granted, so to speak, the harsh brutality of the cost of remaining in Kuwait would seem less pronounced, brushed under the rug.

Though already considered official by all of us who read about it in the news, it appears that the “decision” needs a couple more weeks, perhaps, to be considered bureaucratically official, unless a person with strings will use his position of power to take a stand against it. The likelihood of such a selfless act transpiring is well, let’s just say, unlikely. Highly unlikely.

Although many residents above 60 who have graduated from college may have breathed a collective, perhaps even audible, sigh of relief, many others will be in tears, for they have parents and siblings aged 60 and above who live with or near them and who do not hold college degrees, and they themselves, holders of college degrees, will not be able to afford such a fee to keep the family together. And what about us locals? We cannot ignore the two-thousand-dinar elephant in the room.

Many of us who work in the public or private sector, with or without university degrees, or even with Master’s degrees and PhDs, would not ourselves be able (or willing) to pay such a lofty fee. Two. Thousand. Dinars. Imagine. And if we think this will not affect us, we are wrong. “They” are us! They, who we consider expatriates and foreigners and residents are us. We are them. We are one in this society. All of us. Each one of us, a thread of the same fabric, interwoven. What hurts us hurts them and vice versa. Let this register for all of us. Again and again and again.

There are residents in their sixties who were born here and have lived here their entire lives; residents who do not want to go “home” because their “home” is here, in Kuwait, where they belong, with us. Kuwait is the land in which they want to be buried, in which their parents were buried. After all their years of service to our country, we are now showing them the door under the pretext of making rules we know people cannot implement, all so that residents can leave of their own accord.

But they will not leave of their own accord. Ever. They will leave because neither they nor their university-degree-holding families were able to pay such an outrageous sum; they will leave because they are tired of living in a country that does not want them here. So many have left already; others are waiting for the right moment to leave. Others are waiting anxiously to see whether things will get better (or get worse).

We cannot stay silent. We cannot. And the last thing residents need is sympathy; if we are to feel sorry for anyone, we should feel sorry for ourselves for who we have become. Instead of patronizing them with our sympathy, residents should be applauded for their resilience, their bravery, and their contribution. They should be rewarded; they should be given more benefits as time elapses, not less.

We have a lot to learn from them. Even while many are treated as second-class members of the community, they stay, they work, and they support their families. This rhetoric of residents profiting from us is immature and arrogant; we must remember they are doing us a favor, a huge one, by being here as well. We are in this together; and in a healthy community, that is how things work; we give and we take; we take and we give.

Some residents may still find a way to stay here, in their home. But with this new “fine,” there is no way they can save money or help their families. And how can we sleep at night knowing we are creating obstacles for residents to send money back home? How can we sleep at night knowing that there is no money to pay for a parent’s kidney transplant or a relative’s tumor removal or a child’s education because the money is being paid to an oil-rich country instead? What principles are we building our foundation on?

These are certainly not our principles. And as long as we hold on to these pseudo-principles, we will continue to create laws which protect us and ostracize others, laws which are far, far away from the values of our heritage, founded on hospitality and inclusivity. Aren’t we tired of this us vs them attitude? Do we really want a Kuwait for Kuwaitis? Is this our legacy? Can’t we remember who we are?

It’s done. All we can do now is lament and ensure we resurrect a new Kuwait based on the ideals of our welcoming forefathers who never flinched at demographics. All we can do now is remember that what goes around comes around. This is a law. It is not a doomsday prophecy, but a warning, an invitation to recalibrate, a chance, an opportunity, to restore the karmic balance.

This is our chance to wake up and ask ourselves: Is this our legacy? And we should ask ourselves this question every night. That way, we can rectify the situation before karma knocks on our door. Loudly and fiercely. Two thousand dinars. Let’s remember that number. For it may come back to haunt those of us who stayed silent, those of us who spoke out for justice only when it came to our rights and, often, at the expense of others.

local@kuwaittimes.com

 

Emerging Economies Must Leapfrog to Renewables

Emerging Economies Must Leapfrog to Renewables

Emerging Economies Must Leapfrog to Renewables – and They Already Are per Roya Sabri in this TRIPLEPUNDIT’s article.


Emerging Economies Must Leapfrog to Renewables – and They Already Are

20 July 2021

Renewables like solar and wind are quickly becoming more affordable and accessible. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reports that the cost of electricity coming from utility-scale solar power fell 82 percent between 2010 and 2019, and clean power technologies such as solar and wind are undercutting even the cheapest coal-fired power plants. Further, a 2020 analysis from BloombergNEF found that wind and solar have overtaken fossil fuels as the most cost-effective form of new sources of electricity in most of the world.

This trend has made “energy leapfrogging” – i.e., the ability to reap a nation’s power needs from renewables such as solar, wind and geothermal at a rapid pace, bypassing heavy investments in fossil fuels and the infrastructure needed for them – ever more possible in emerging markets.

Economies, including several examples in Africa and Latin America, have been transitioning straight from what for many of their communities had been traditional sources of energy like wood, charcoal, agricultural waste and animal dung; these countries are also able to shift rapidly toward renewables as they have not invested in massive infrastructure that supports a national power grid, as was the case with what more industrialized nations in Europe and North America had done during the 20th century.

The result is that more communities within these emerging markets are forgoing conventional energy sources like fossil fuels; the same goes for other forms of energy like nuclear, biofuels and even natural gas.

A recent report from the think tank Carbon Tracker and India’s Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) highlights progress emerging nations are making in embracing renewables. The report also comes with a warning: If more nations do not leapfrog to these cleaner sources of energy, a worldwide low-carbon economy will not occur.

As the demand for energy grows, leapfrogging to renewables becomes necessary

The International Energy Agency estimates a surge in power generation in emerging nations will boom over the next decade, accounting for the majority of electricity demand by 2030. Thus, a world aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has an incentive to ensure countries like India and China continue their developing infrastructure that is more conducive for renewables.

The authors of this Carbon Tracker and CEEW study find that emerging markets are already stepping away from fossil fuels. “Given the continued rapid growth rate of solar and wind, it is highly likely that emerging markets ex-China have already plateaued or reached peak demand for fossil fuels for electricity. China is likely to peak before 2025,” they write. China may still be a major coal consumer, but its solar sector is growing fast. Countries like Morocco, Nicaragua and Kenya have already made great leaps toward increased reliance on renewables.

Some nations are already leapfrogging to renewables

The Climate Reality Project details how Morocco, Nicaragua and Kenya have been able to turn their power generation sectors into ones that are more sustainable and resilient. Morocco, for one, has set a target of 42 percent renewable energy production by 2021 and 52 percent by 2030. It has stayed on track by building up its solar and wind power infrastructure. The North Africa country, in fact, now hosts one of the largest solar farms in the world.

After experiencing rolling blackouts due to energy insecurity a decade ago, Nicaragua is now on its way to sourcing 80 percent of its electricity from sources of renewables. By late 2020, Nicaragua’s burgeoning geothermal industry had brought the nation to 72 percent reliance on renewable energy sources.

Energy accessibility has been expanding in Kenya as decentralized solar has spread across the nation. The country is also making use of its geothermal power, which may reach 50 percent of its energy mix by 2040.

Clean energy can support a more resilient and healthy economy

These cases show that a dramatic shift to renewable energy can increase energy accessibility and stability. The economic case is significant. IRENA reported in 2016 that a doubling of renewables by 2030 could mean global GDP increases by over one percent, boosts social welfare investments by almost four percent and can add more than 24 million jobs.

While some nations have proved leapfrogging possible and beneficial, the authors of the Carbon Tracker and CEEW study note that there are serious barriers to building renewable energy reliance. Such hurdles include the intermittency of renewable sources, system costs, policies and deeply vested interests — but international actors can make a difference. The report recommends that international policymakers should focus their attention on countries currently dependent on fossil fuel imports that also have governments more amenable to policy solutions.

Finally, the authors contend that such nations are more receptive to a transition than countries that are more politically fragile. They are also in a stronger position than countries with economies largely driven by coal and gas exports. The result is that these countries that have found success with energy leapfrogging can become examples for their neighbors and help to bring more emerging nations closer toward a clean energy future.

Image credit: Antonio Garcia/Unsplash  

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