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The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, a San Francisco-based non-profit looking to standardize how companies report their social and environmental impact, saw 1,092 new users per day on its website in February, more than double the rate last year. Many of the visits came from accountants and lawyers overseeing corporate filings. (Reuters)

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Talking point: The uptick in interest follows BlackRock CEO Larry Fink’s annual letter to shareholders, which this year urged companies and investors to take responsibility for their contribution to climate change and mitigate their impact. Fink committed to doubling the number of ESG exchange-traded funds, and to dropping portfolio firms with more than a quarter of their revenues made from thermal coal. There had already been momentum among institutional investors in disclosing their financial risk related to climate change, but there’s still no agreed-upon set of standards for companies to follow, or means of holding them accountable for reporting. As my colleague Zane reported in January, Canada’s big banks and pension funds have promised more action on climate change in light of Fink’s letter; the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, Desjardins and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan all promised to pull back from coal investments.

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Members of the Climate Finance Partnership, a group led by BlackRock that includes France, Germany and the Hewlett and Grantham charitable foundations, will provide the first US$100 million, which will be used as a safety net for possible losses incurred by other institutional investors for the remaining US$400 million. The fund will focus on projects in Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America. (The Logic)

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Talking point: This is the latest in a string of climate-related commitments from the world’s biggest asset manager. In his annual letter to chief executives last week, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink stressed the need to address climate change in business and investment decisions; he committed to doubling the number of ESG exchange-traded funds and dropping portfolio firms with more than a quarter of their revenues from thermal coal. Days earlier, BlackRock signed onto Climate Action 100+, a global initiative in which institutional investors pressure the biggest carbon-emitting companies to curb their environmental impact. BlackRock’s investment decisions tend to have a ripple effect in the finance community, with its stance on gun control and corporate responsibility, for example, driving industry-wide change. The concept of considering climate change in financial decisions already had momentum before BlackRock went all in on the file, but its new commitments could sway some holdouts or encourage bolder strategies.

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The world’s largest asset manager will double the number of ESG exchange-traded funds it offers to 150 and drop firms with over a quarter of revenues from thermal coal from its actively managed portfolios. BlackRock will also vote against management that are not making progress on ESG factors and push firms to disclose how they would operate “under a scenario where the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to less than two degrees is fully realized.” (The Logic)

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Talking point: BlackRock’s moves follow multiple climate-change protests outside its offices, letters from U.S. Congress members and several analyses showing it has among the worst records on climate-change voting. The Sunrise Project, which was part of the protests, mostly welcomed the changes, saying they would put pressure on similar firms like Vanguard and State Street Global Advisors. The changes come one week after BlackRock signed the Climate Action 100+ pledge, promising to pressure its portfolio companies to do more on climate change. Today’s announcement goes further, laying out sweeping changes for BlackRock’s portfolio and its own operations. The changes were announced in BlackRock CEO Larry Fink’s annual letter, which has driven industry-wide change in the past. In his 2018 missive, Fink called on CEOs to explain their wider social purpose beyond shareholder returns. That helped spark a broader movement, including a 2019 announcement from 181 of the top CEOs in the U.S. that shareholder value was no longer their first priority. In a separate 2018 letter, Fink called for greater action on gun control.

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Consultants hired by ExxonMobil’s Canadian subsidiary knew as early as the late 1960s that its activities harmed  the environment, and warned Imperial “could be encouraged to support the electric car, nuclear energy and other technology favouring competitive fuels.” Instead of addressing the problems, the company launched a public relations campaign to quiet the backlash to climate change, among other actions. An Imperial spokesperson told The Intercept the archival documents “reflect the conversations that were happening at the time” around climate change. (The Intercept)

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Talking point: The revelations add to the growing body of evidence showing widespread complacency among oil and gas companies about their contributions to global warming. Imperial’s consultants flagged the company’s role in the impending climate crisis when scientists now say there was still time to reverse many of the effects of global warming. More than 50 years later, fuel-reliant industries are moving toward electric cars the alternative energies, as Imperial’s consultants predicted. But Imperial itself has been slow to invest in renewable energy, even by oil industry standards. In 2018, the company said it would reduce its carbon emissions from the Alberta oilsands by 10 per cent over its 2016 levels.

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The European Central Bank (ECB) president plans to use the bank’s upcoming monetary policy review, announced last week, to address climate change issues, according to sources who spoke to the Financial Times. This will be the first time the institution has factored climate change into a comprehensive review. (Financial Times)

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Talking point: The move would challenge the convention that national governments, not central banks, legislate climate change policy. Germany’s central bank president Jens Weidmann, for instance, has said he would be critical of the ECB’s use of monetary policy to tackle climate change. U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Jay Powell recently told Congress that climate change is the mandate of “elected officials, not us.” And while Mark Carney, the Bank of England governor who’s championed climate change factors in financial decision-making, plans to stress-test banks with “catastrophic” climate scenarios, even he isn’t going as far as as Lagarde might.

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A UN report shows that the rollout of renewable energy technology is an “easy win” in the battle to mitigate the climate crisis, but warned that clean energy needs to be deployed much more quickly to limit global heating. (The Logic)

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Talking point: Despite the increasing use of climate-friendly tech—including a US$272.9-billion global investment in renewables in 2018, three times more than was spent on coal and gas—steep emissions cuts are nowhere on the horizon, according to the UN’s 2019 Emissions Gap report. Canada is singled out as one of the handful of G20 countries set to either miss its targets or “not achieve them with great certainty.” The report mentions Canada is on track to meet its 2030 coal phase-out commitment, but notes those plants will be replaced with natural gas variants, which may increase emissions. Canada’s 2019 budget has also committed to a $300-million investment in zero-emission vehicles, with 100 per cent sales targets by 2040, and a $5-billion Clean Power Fund intended to help shift Canadian industries toward clean electricity. Those measures aren’t enough for Canada to meet its pledge to reduce its greenhouse emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, the UN report finds. The report notes that overall, with demand for energy services growing 30 per cent by 2040, “the sheer scale of investment needed for accelerating energy transitions is very large.”

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The plan commits the bank to “robust” climate-related governance and reporting. It says it will integrate climate risk assessments more in lending, financing and investing, decarbonize its operations and create a “Climate Change Centre of Excellence.” (The Logic)

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Talking point: The pressure to shift toward sustainable financing has increased since May, when the Bank of Canada first listed climate change as one of six vulnerabilities in the Canadian financial system. The central bank recognized that investors are not seeing prices that factor increasingly serious climate risks (due to a lack of transparency around carbon exposure), which could lead to “fire sales” that may destabilize the economy. Scotiabank, which manages more than $1 trillion in assets, issued its first green bond in July at US$500 million that invested in renewable energy, clean transportation and green buildings.

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The report from the consulting firm also says the world is likely to see greater temperature increases than just 1 C. It found that emerging economies with warmer climates are likely to be worse off compared to larger, industrialized economies in cooler climates. Meanwhile, new research from the federal Treasury Board says Canada’s buildings, coastlines and northern communities are most vulnerable to the risks of climate change. (CBC)

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Talking point: Today’s report is the latest attempt to analyze what the economic impacts of climate change will be on Canada. In April, a report from Environment and Climate Change Canada found that Canada is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world. An analysis done by non-profit CDP found that some of the world’s biggest companies anticipate that climate change will harm their bottom lines in the next five years. And, my colleague Catherine reported in June that some of Canada’s largest companies are making greater efforts to invest sustainably due to climate change concerns.

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The party would create a two-year tax credit for energy-saving home renovations; reduce the income tax rate for revenue generated by green-technology patents; require companies that emit more than 40 kilotonnes of greenhouse gasses annually to invest in green technology R&D; give tax incentives to industries that reduce emissions in other countries; provide $250 million for green technology venture capital funds-of-funds that raise $1 billion in private money; and make Export Development Canada (EDC) issue more green bonds. The plan, announced by opposition leader Andrew Scheer on Wednesday, does not specify by how much its measures would reduce emissions. (The Logic)

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Talking point: The Conservative leader contrasted his approach with the Liberal government’s carbon pricing system, which he called a “tax grab.” However, the current government has already allocated billions to cleantech. Sustainable Development Technology Canada, which supports commercialization projects, has also increasingly focused on scale-ups with products that are almost ready to sell. And, on Tuesday Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to use all the tax revenue and profits—estimated at more than $500 million annually—from the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion on cleantech investments.