The world is burning and your company is worried about getting sued

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The Western U.S. isn’t the only region that’s baking under record heat right now; Siberia is suffering a brutal heat wave above the Arctic Circle. This image, acquired by the Copernicus Sentinel-3A and Sentinel-3B satellites on June 20, shows the land surface temperature in the Sakha Republic in Arctic Siberia. Siberia is experiencing a persistent heatwave, with land surface temperatures widely exceeding 35°C. (95°F.), with peaks of 48°C. (118.4°F.) near Verkhojansk, 43°C. in Govorovo and 37°C. in Saskylah. In Saskylah, on the day this image was acquired, a temperature of 31.9°C. was recorded, the highest since 1936.

Every once in a while a storyline comes along that is so simultaneously all-inclusive yet trivial to the big picture that it derails progress on everything else. Such is the case this week with the sudden furor over whether companies can add “safe harbor” legal protections from lawsuits to their climate disclosures.

In a week where temperatures reached 118°F. in the Arctic Circle; in a week where the Federal Reserve said climate change poses a “significant economic risk” to the global financial system; in a week where the United Nations warned in a landmark, 4,000-page report of collapsing food systems and species extinction — the biggest storyline is how companies can disclose climate risk without any risk.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has received thousands of comment letters from companies in a broad swath of industries, right up to the big tech giants themselves, generally in favor of more climate reporting but with provisions that protect them from bad data or missed warnings. It is a fair point, and one worthy of a short debate, before a compromise is hashed out.

Instead, at a time when action from companies is desperately needed, it has shifted the debate from whether they should be forced to disclose climate risks to investors and government to why they should be protected if they present inadequate data. The concept of action has been lost. Disclosure is not the endgame. Just table stakes.

Climate reporting metrics are still all over the place. And as the former CEO of a public company, I understand the legal concerns when it comes to new financial reporting requirements. But investors deserve full disclosures of climate risks, and they deserve the data behind those disclosures to be accurate, and backed by the companies reporting it. When in doubt, favor investors.

When the history of the climate finance world’s actions in 2021 is written, it is temporary derailments like this that will be cited as prolonging a disaster that is already upon us.

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Wednesday’s subscriber insights: Three ways new types of sails can help reduce marine shipping pollution

. . . . Is sailing, the oldest form of sea transportation, the new answer to the world’s marine shipping pollution problems? We look at three innovations in wind propulsion making their way over the horizon. Read more here. . . .

. . . . The European Banking Authority is requiring banks to have 10-year plans on how they will deal with environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks to their bottom lines. As a start, it’s an idea worthy of replicating, especially downstream to the bank’s loan customers. Read more here. . . .

Editor’s picks: Oracle races to 100% renewables; plus, LEGOs from discarded plastic

Oracle commits to 100% renewable energy in 4 years

Oracle Corp. (ORCL), the integrated cloud application and platform services provider, pledged  today it will power its global operations, both its facilities and its cloud, with 100% renewable energy by 2025 — just four years from now. Oracle CEO Safra Catz said in a company statement, “Oracle will always make its biggest impact on the environment by providing customers with technology that enables them to reduce their carbon footprint, but this new goal reflects the shared values of our customers, partners and investors.” The company said it will maintain its goal of achieving 100% renewable energy use at all next-generation Oracle Cloud regions by 2025; continue efforts to reduce e-waste; and expects 100% of its key suppliers to have an environmental program in place. Oracle’s European Cloud regions are already powered with 100% renewable energy, and Oracle has 51 offices around the world using 100% renewable energy.

LEGOs made from discarded plastic

Danish toy maker LEGO Group today unveiled a prototype LEGO brick made from recycled plastic which, if successful, will go into production. The new brick uses PET plastic from discarded bottles and is the first brick made from a recycled material to meet the company’s quality and safety requirements, it said in a statement. The prototype is made from recycled PET sourced from suppliers in the U.S. that use FDA- and European Food Safety Authority-approved processes to ensure quality. On average, a one-liter plastic PET bottle provides enough raw material for ten 2 x 4 LEGO bricks. LEGO said its research team will continue testing and developing the PET formulation and then assess whether to move to the pilot production phase. This next phase of testing is expected to take at least a year. It’s worth noting that LEGO bricks have a place in ocean lore: More than 23 years ago, a container ship tilted over 45 degrees in stormy weather, causing 62 containers to go overboard. One of these containers carried 4.8 million LEGO pieces. Even today, LEGO bricks are still washing up on Cornish coastlines in southwest England.

Climate change as a cause of death?

Will death certificates soon carry “climate change” as a cause of death? A recent study published in The Lancet urges that “Death certification needs to be modernized, indirect causes should be reported, with all death certification prompting for external factors contributing to death, and these death data must be coupled with large-scale environmental datasets so that impact assessments can be done.” The study is titled “Heat-related mortality: an urgent need to recognize and record.” One of the authors, Arnagretta Hunter, of Australian National University College of Health and Medicine, writes, “We can make a diagnosis of disease like coronavirus, but we are less literate in environmental determinants like hot weather or bushfire smoke … Climate change is the single greatest health threat that we face globally even after we recover from coronavirus.”

Data driven: By 2048, no more fish?

. . . . According to The World Counts, the world’s oceans could be virtually emptied of fish by 2048. A study shows that if nothing changes, we will run out of seafood in less than 30 years. “The disappearance of life in the oceans is a problem in itself. It also illustrates that the fine balance between human consumption and nature has been thrown way off. Current trends will put an end to oceans as a source of food for the world human population. The world population will reach almost 10 billion people by 2050. If we want to preserve the ecosystems of the sea, change is needed.” Sources include the World Economic Forum and National Geographic. . . .

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