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November 29, 2023

Editor’s note: ‘Stand tall and carry on,’ says EU’s Mairead McGuinness

Mairead McGuinness, European Commissioner
‘The financial system and the corporate world are key to achieving societal goals,’ says EU commissioner Mairead McGuinness (Photo: Johanna Geron/EPA-EFE)

The latest edition of our Sustainable Views newsletter

Dear reader,

Following the build-up to COP28 is like being on a rollercoaster — largely petrifying, with moments of reprieve, underpinned by the fear that no one is really in control of this wild ride and that the emergency break may fail to kick in before disaster strikes. 

Yesterday, as Alex highlighted, many media outlets reported that a whistleblower had leaked documents indicating COP28 president-designate Sultan al-Jaber’s intent on using the UAE’s role at the summit to push oil and gas deals with foreign governments. Today, The Guardian is running an interview with Jaber, in which he claims an “unprecedented outcome” that would keep alive hopes of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5C is within reach at the climate summit. 

What any of this means in reality is anyone’s guess. 

Many climate experts believe the whole COP process is unfit for purpose and needs a thorough overhaul. 

Phyllis Cuttino from the Climate Reality Project, a US non-profit led by former vice-president Al Gore, is one of those calling for “reforms to the process”. These changes should include “a robust conflict of interest policy, added transparency and decision-making by super majority”, she tells me. We’ll be running a full interview with Cuttino in the coming days.

In a comment piece for Sustainable Views, Mahmoud Mohieldin, the UN climate change high-level champion for COP27, and Razan Al Mubarak, COP28’s high-level champion, argue the process needs to give a louder voice to individuals on the frontlines of climate change, including indigenous peoples. 

Meanwhile, UK campaigning organisation Uplift is warning that western governments should think twice before pointing fingers about any country’s oil and gas plans. “The five countries responsible for over half of the world’s planned oil and gasfield developments from now until 2050 are the US, Canada, Norway, Australia and the UK,” says Tessa Khan, Uplift’s executive director.

Away from high-level headlines, regulators and standards bodies continue to push on with the less attention-grabbing, but vitally important work of actually ensuring the energy transition can move forward and be financed, while not undermining businesses and jobs.

With this in mind, Alex brings us the lowdown on the publication yesterday of the UK Financial Conduct Authority’s long-awaited policy statement on its Sustainability Disclosure Requirements regime and the addition of a “sustainability mixed goals” label, while Natasha looks at the best practice platform launched in Singapore by the International Sustainability Standards Board and the Global Reporting Initiative.

Finally, I report from the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group’s 2023 annual conference in Brussels where EU financial services commissioner Mairead McGuinness and European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde insisted nitty-gritty sustainability reporting is literally changing the world.

“The financial system and the corporate world are key to achieving societal goals. Even when we are overburdened, we should stand tall and carry on with our work,” said McGuinness. 

Words to keep in mind, perhaps, if the COP28 rollercoaster ride is also making you feel slightly queasy. 

Until tomorrow,

Philippa

Philippa Nuttall is the deputy editor of Sustainable Views

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