By Ira Srivastava

1. The United States shares Fifth National Climate Assessment. The Biden administration released the fifth National Climate Assessment last week with much fanfare. Here are some highlights from the report:

  • Emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases dropped by 12% from 2005 to 2019, with transportation becoming the highest emitting industry over electricity generation
  • Resilience, adaptation and restoration are top of mind. Examples of these include ecosystem restoration, improving flood control, drought resistant agriculture strategies, developing methods to control urban heat island effects, and more
  • Since 2018, the number of municipalities and states around the country acting to manage climate change has increased dramatically
  • The United States is facing unprecedented challenges due to climate change as extreme weather risk grows
  • Risk of property and infrastructure damage, disruption of food supply, and community health impacts are all increasing

Find the full report summary here.

2. Building cybersecurity knowledge in the boardroom. Cybersecurity risks are only growing more and more significant, and board members need to be prepared to manage them in a world of rapidly developing technology. The World Economic Forum estimates that cyberattacks cause US$2 trillion of damage annually, and that number is expected to grow to US$10 trillion in the coming years. Boards must consider cybersecurity from all angles, not just as a technology issue. External guidance from cyber experts, insurance, and training exercises are valuable but the internal team must be strong as well. Just having one member of the board who is well versed in cybersecurity is not enough, as every director should play a role in strong cybersecurity. 

3. The European Union’s new Nature Restoration Law weakens. The Nature Restoration Law (NRL) aims to restore 20% of all marine and terrestrial ecosystems by 2030 and all damaged ecosystems by 2050. However, negotiators carved out exceptions that weaken the law from the initial proposal. The requirement to prevent ecosystem degradation was “severely undermined” as loopholes were created for agriculture. A final vote on this law will be held at the end of 2024, with an assessment of funding and impacts occurring one year after its implementation. 

4. Cost of living and climate change fuel drop in consumer spending. The cost of living is skyrocketing around the world and consumers are acting accordingly ahead of the festive season. The EY Future Consumer Index surveyed 22,000 people around the world and found that almost half are extremely concerned about climate change and 80% are concerned about their personal finances. More than half of respondents were reducing their purchases and consumption, but 39% shared they were reducing consumption for environmental reasons. Consumers are shunning takeouts and restaurant meals, favouring saving money by cooking at home. 42% of those surveyed were considering changing their diets to become more sustainable. Companies should take stock of these trends heading into the end of the year when spending is typically at its highest. 

5. United Nations releases stocktake ahead of COP28. Last week, United Nations Climate Change published a report analysing each country’s nationally determined contributions for climate change mitigation. The key takeaway from this report is that governments around the world “are taking baby steps” when they “must make bold strides forward… to get on track”. Essentially, while action is being taken it is nowhere near sufficient to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis. The UN also called on countries and organisations to lay out strategies to achieve their targets and go beyond just setting them. Emissions need to be reduced by 43% from 2019 by the end of this decade to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and so far the world is not on track.

Ira Srivastava is Competent Boards’ Program Coordinator. Follow Competent Boards on LinkedIn.

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