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November 16, 2023

Editor’s note: amid the pre-COP28 gloom, regulation offers hope

European Commission building and flags
The landmark regulation agreed this week by the EU aimed at reining in methane emissions and standards for imports of oil and gas could trigger much needed action globally (Photo: Olivier Rateau/Getty Images)

The latest edition of our Sustainable Views newsletter

Dear reader,

How is everyone feeling today? Given current geopolitics and the seemingly never-ending stream of gloomy reports about progress on climate and biodiversity ahead of COP28, we could all perhaps be forgiven for giving up and joining the “doomers”, who believe it is too late to stop catastrophic warming and loss of nature. 

Yet, dig a little bit deeper and there is some better news that should offer inspiration for faster and more ambitious leadership on climate and nature, and to push governments to regulate in line with science.

As US climate scientist Michael Mann writes in his latest book, Our Fragile Moment: “Climate change is a crisis, but it is a solvable crisis.”

So, what is this good news, I hear you ask? 

The landmark regulation agreed this week by the EU aimed at reining in methane emissions with emissions limits for fossil fuel operations across the bloc and standards for imports of oil and gas, is an important piece of the climate jigsaw and could trigger much needed action globally. 

I’ve referenced her before, but Canadian climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe is always a good source for more positive news.This week, the US government published its Fifth National Climate Assessment. Hayhoe underlines the 32 per cent increase in city and state-level adaptation plans and action, the continued decrease in US emissions and renewable energy boom since the previous report was released in autumn 2018. 

Such change is largely thanks to legislation like the Inflation Reduction Act. Indeed, the stories we bring you today are definitely of the “must do better” variety, but they show how regulation can help steer the world in a different direction. Businesses and financial institutions can get ahead of the game, and potentially reap first-mover rewards, by anticipating regulators’ next moves rather than sitting back and waiting to be hit by legislative changes.

The latest deforestation scorecard from the Rainforest Action Network suggests major consumer brands are not doing enough to clean up their supply chains. The coming into force of the EU Deforestation Regulation, and the EU Corporate Due Diligence Disclosure Directive when agreed, should ensure that greater change is forthcoming.

Similarly, research from the London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute shows only one company in 20 globally discloses the specifics of how it will reach its net zero targets. The LSE’s Simon Dietz suggests stricter regulation could improve disclosure.

Meanwhile, analysis from the European Climate Neutrality Observatory finds that the EU must increase its public investment in the technologies needed for the net zero transition or risk missing its climate targets.

The final article we bring you today is a comment from Vladislav Kaim, a Moldovan economist and sustainability advocate and previously the UN secretary-general’s youth climate adviser. Kaim insists climate change can be pushed back to the top of the political agenda, despite other geopolitical problems.

“Getting to this point will not be straightforward, but I believe in the ability of the multitude of bright minds and burning hearts in the youth climate movement to get it done – together with the parents and grandparents of today, who are making decisions with us in mind,” he writes.

In short, doomism is not an option. 

Until tomorrow,

Philippa

Philippa Nuttall is the deputy editor of Sustainable Views

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