2024 - and there's a lot going on
Posted on 26th January 2024 at 15:15
2024 is up and running, we are nearly through January with the year ahead stretching out in front of us and there’s a great deal to contend with.
Of course, my usual focus would tend to be to dive straight into the latest in the sustainability world. We had COP28 only 6 weeks ago hosted in Dubai and with all the noise and accompanying global media storm that brings including the rows about oil & gas lobbying taking up much of the rhetoric. Then the Christmas decorations are only just back in their storage boxes and it’s time for the annual get together hosted by the World Economic Forum on the chic slopes of Davos in Switzerland where the power brokers and politicians rub shoulders in the snow, so there’s much to reflect on.
This year alongside climate, multiple issues will be competing for our attention. Perhaps above all geopolitics, and particularly the conflict-riven areas of the world - the Israeli-Hamas fighting, the ongoing war in Ukraine, and escalating US-China tensions - will drive instability at an increasingly rapid rate.
Climate change has been factored into military planning as a key risk for many years; every year one of the key outputs from Davos is the World Economic Forum’s global risk register. This year interstate armed conflict and extreme weather events are in the top 5 short-term risks. And 2024 is going to be a record election year – globally, more voters than ever in history will head to the polls as over 60 countries (plus the European Union), representing a combined population of about 49% of the people in the world, are holding national elections. The voting outcomes from these increasingly polarised electorates will be highly significant creating impacts for years to come. This will again force political and business leaders to manage energy security and supply chain risk as well as dealing with the swirling changes of electoral campaigns.
On top of all that, the first month of the year is always a challenge following the delights - and the excesses - of the festive season, and including Blue Monday, typically the 3rd Monday of the month and said by some to be the most depressing day of the year. January 2024 has also brought us the damaging effects of storms Henk, Isha and Jocelyn hitting the UK in rapid succession, bringing ferocious winds and heavy rainfall, and resulting in extreme flooding, with tens of thousands without power and leading to at least four deaths. According to Liz Bentley, chief executive of the Royal Meteorological Society, storm Jocelyn marks the first time on record that the UK and Ireland have reached “J” in the alphabet so early in the season.
We know that climate change resulting in warming oceans, and the subsequent increased energy in meteorological systems, is the engine driving the storms, causing extreme weather events to become more frequent and more intense. And we know that climate change results primarily from the burning of fossil fuels. We know we have to reduce carbon emissions and move away from fossil fuel-dependent energy systems. The agreement finally reached at COP28 to “transition away from fossil fuels” has been fêted as a positive achievement, but even that significantly diluted wording (as opposed to “phased out”) was bitterly fought over and only agreed in the final hours of the conference. There was however one very positive result achieved at COP - the loss and damage fund designed to support climate-vulnerable developing countries was agreed on the first day of the conference, with hundreds of millions of dollars so far committed for the fund.
Alongside all of this, the sustainability agenda has been changing. Biodiversity has become the rock’n’roll topic de rigeur. Last week the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) announced that 320 organisations from 46 countries have committed to starting nature-related disclosures based on the TNFD Recommendations released in September last year. Hot on its heels came the notification of the GRI Biodiversity Standard. GRI 101: Biodiversity 2024 is aligned with the goals and targets of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, will help organisations to better understand which decisions and business practices lead to biodiversity loss, where in their value chain impacts occur, and how they can be managed. At JS Global we have been working over the past year with experts in the field, and are delighted that we are the Official Business and Finance Advisor to the Global Biodiversity Standard, the world’s only international certification that recognises and promotes the restoration, protection and enhancement of biodiversity.
And then there’s ESG – the term came under serious fire at Davos and what was the ultimate buzzword for corporate consciousness has not just fallen but plummeted into disrepute or frankly much worse – descriptions flying around the mountain tops included “dead”, “dying" and even “beyond redemption“. Following the backlash and division ESG has stirred up in political circles, the theme of this year’s WEF meeting was Rebuilding Trust. And in the current climate of political hostility and extreme short termism if it could lead to getting more votes, that goal is going to become even more elusive. As to ESG – the rejection of the acronym is one thing but we have to be careful we don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. What ESG stands for – not simply the words Environment, Social, Governance – is the sense and ethos of building better outcomes for all, protecting the natural world and enabling a just and fair transition to a sustainable future. The focus should be on how to build global, national and local cooperation, working together to give 2024 a fighting chance for us to foster trust and a shared vision for the future. Where’s the election manifesto spelling that out?
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