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Impact Insights #8

August marked great strides in the heated climate and nature debate. Now, let's delve into the most recent insights on sustainability.

Curated by our Sustainability Specialist, Kenza Akallal.

Violation of international human rights

Climate and human rights agendas are aligning. In an unprecedented letter, the UN is warning Saudi Aramco that the company and its financiers may be in violation of international human rights rules due to the company's significant contribution to climate change. Aramco is the world's single biggest corporate emitter of GHG emissions and refuses to align with the Paris Agreement nor to achieve net zero on its Scope 3 emissions. This letter is important as it could help set a new legal standard for companies' direct and indirect complicity in climate-related human rights abuses. The letter itself is not a legal judgment, but it can be referred to in future legal actions.

Climate change is an increasing financial risk and should not be a matter of politics

Nicolai Tangen, the head of the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund has expressed concern that political resistance to climate and environmental measures is spreading from the US to the UK. “What we have seen this summer is you go from global warming to global boiling. Lately there is a much closer link between climate and inflation. That’s why it’s a proper financial risk. We have to ratchet up the work on climate”.

Beware of fossil fuels subsidies headlines

The world is headed for a record year of investment in the energy transition. Global low-carbon energy transition investment surged past USD 1 trillion for the first time last year, and almost certainly will be spent again in 2023. The International Monetary Fund calculated that over USD 7 trillion in subsidies went to fossil fuels last year. It is important to note, however, that the vast majority of subsidies are implicit, that is, adjusting for environmental costs not reflected in prices for fossil fuels. Explicit subsidies are on par with investment in the energy transition. If anything, it shows the direction of travel is clear, and calls for phasing out both explicit and implicit fossil-fuel subsidies.

Thinking in systems

The statistics that half of global GDP is dependent on nature is often cited as a way to justify the need for investors, businesses and governments to take action. In this fantastic in-depth look at biodiversity's importance, this quote from Donella Meadows captures the essence: “When you understand the power of system self-organization, you begin to understand why biologists worship biodiversity even more than economists worship technology. The wildly varied stock of DNA, evolved and accumulated over billions of years, is the source of evolutionary potential, just as science libraries and labs and universities where scientists are trained are the source of technological potential. Allowing species to go extinct is a systems crime, just as randomly eliminating all copies of particular science journals or particular kinds of scientists would be”.

Direct democracy to save nature

Here's a statement that's nearly impossible to comprehend: Just one hectare of Yasuní National Park land contains more animal species than the whole of Europe and more tree species than exist in all of North America. In a historic vote, Ecuadorians voted 59 per cent to 41 per cent to ban oil drilling in a section of one of the most biodiverse regions in the world in the Amazon rainforest. Ecuador's national oil company, Petroecuador will have to close all 225 of its active oil wells and all other infrastructure from said portion of Yasuní National Park in a year.

Bleaching coral and missing ice

Another month, another wave of record-breaking ocean heat, heatwaves, wildfires, hurricanes and rainfall. In particular, on August 1st, average global sea surface temperatures reached an all-time high of 21C. This record is particularly disconcerting because March is usually the hottest month for the world’s oceans. And in Antarctica sea, missing ice has left an area of open ocean bigger than Greenland. Heatwaves typically affect around 10 per cent of the oceans at any one time. The proportion experiencing one is now 44 per cent. Meanwhile, evidence is mounting that investors are underpricing climate risks.

Sign language adapts to climate change

Closing on good news, now there are 200 environmental science terms that have their own new official signs in British Sign Language. For deaf children, teachers and scientists, talking about things like "greenhouse gas" or "carbon footprint" used to mean spelling out long, complex scientific terms, letter by letter. The hope is these new signs will inspire and empower the next generation of BSL-using students and allow practising scientists to share their vital work with the world.

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