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Sharon Kimathi
Energy and ESG Editor, Reuters Digital


As summer approaches in the northern hemisphere, what would normally be a pleasant time of year for many is now highlighting some of the realities of climate change as surging temperatures are putting lives and livelihoods at risk.

Workers in India are struggling as the nation grapples with an unprecedented heatwave, whilst soaring temperatures are testing the Texas power system after a power plant failure. The news comes as a recent industry report shows that only 8% of insurers are preparing adequately for climate change’s impact.

India's vast majority of poor workers, who generally work outdoors, are vulnerable to the scorching heat. High temperatures in the New Delhi area, which soared above 120 Fahrenheit (49 Celsius) in some regions on Sunday, have often caused construction worker Yogendra Tundre, and his wife Lata, who works at the same construction site, to fall sick. That in turn means they lose income, they told Reuters.

"There is too much heat and if we don't work, what will we eat? For a few days, we work and then we sit idle for a few days because of tiredness and heat," Tundre said. Scientists have linked the early onset of an intense summer to climate change, and say more than a billion people in India and neighboring Pakistan are in some way at risk from the extreme heat.

Meanwhile, a heatwave in Houston will put pressure on the Texas power system this week after power plant failures late Friday caused prices to spike, forcing the grid operator to urge homes and businesses to turn up their air conditioner thermostats to conserve energy.

AccuWeather forecast temperatures reached 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 Celsius) on Monday before easing to the low to mid 90s F for the rest of the week, which compares with a normal high of 86 F in the city at this time of year. The extreme weather reminds Texans of the 2021 February freeze that left millions without power, water and heat for days during a deadly storm as the Electric Reliability Council of Texas scrambled to prevent a grid collapse.

Both of these heathwaves come amid a new report by consultants Capgemini and financial industry body Efma who found that insured losses from natural catastrophes have increased 250% in the last 30 years. Perils such as wildfires and storms have been particularly impacted by climate change, causing an even faster rise in insured losses.

"We've seen with the flooding in Europe and wildfires in Australia, wildfires in California, it's becoming a broader geographic issue, affecting a broader percentage of the earth," the report said.

Talking Points

Indonesian palm oil farmers take part in a protest demanding the government to end the palm oil export ban, outside the Coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairs office, in Jakarta, Indonesia May 17, 2022. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan
Hundreds of Indonesian smallholder farmers on Tuesday staged a protest in the capital Jakarta and in other parts of the world's fourth most populous country, demanding the government end a palm oil export ban that has slashed their income.
Colombia's presidential front-runner Gustavo Petro wants, if he wins later this month, to stop all new oil exploration and move his country to a greener future.
A state court judge found California's law requiring publicly held companies to include women on their boards unconstitutional, dealing another blow to the state's push to diversify corporate leadership.
Big Oil has enjoyed an easier ride at shareholder meetings so far this year compared with last year's punishing run of hostile investor votes tied to climate concerns, as those issues have been eclipsed by tight oil supplies.
Breakingviews: We do know, though, that it takes the ocean hundreds of years to break plastic down. Nowhere is this problem more acute than in Asia, which produces more than 80% of marine plastic waste.

In Conversation

Peter Bakker, CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)
"It is vital for business to support solving the climate emergency, nature loss and mounting inequality. Collectively, business has the reach to ensure the urgent sustainable transformation the world requires – but only if we change how business is done.

"Current disclosures initiatives are highly welcome, but we also need to redefine the value of business. That includes accounting for long-term value as well as widening valuation beyond financial performance to a true value system which acknowledges environmental and social impacts – both positive and negative - as well as financial.

"Thus both investors and companies can make better decisions, delivering the necessary business model innovations that generate true value considering all forms of capital. Strong sustainable investor relations will drive capital towards businesses that deliver true value for society.

"This is the future of business and within companies the role of CFOs in particular. Companies that don’t act now to embed sustainability within all aspects of their business will fall behind."
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ESG Lens

Reuters graphics, global food prices, May 16.
Global food prices started to rise in mid-2020 when businesses shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, straining supply chains. Russia's invasion of Ukraine in late February dramatically worsened the outlook for food prices.
The U.N. food agency said prices hit an all-time record in February and again in March. The people most impacted by higher food prices live in the developing world, where a larger percentage of income is spent on food.

ESG Movers and Shakers

Maggie Buggie and Neil Ryland have joined Normative, a carbon-accounting startup based in Sweden.

Buggie joins as chief operating officer (COO) after holding senior executive roles at German software company SAP, French multinational tech firm Capgemini and Japanese multinational comms and tech company Fujitsu. Ryland joins as chief commercial officer (CCO) with executive experience from Peakon, a tech firm acquired by human capital tech firm Workday and cloud-based software company Huddle.
The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), a partnership of climate groups that helps corporations develop emissions targets in line with the goal of limiting the industrial-era global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, will be saying goodbye to its two co-founders, Cynthia Cummis and Heidi Huusko.
As co-founders, Cummis and Huusko - along with Pedro Faria and Alberto Carrillo Pineda - built the foundations of the SBTi. Co-founder and managing director, Pineda, will be assuming the role of chief technical officer. The initiative says it will be making an announcement soon about its enhanced governance.
M&G Investments has appointed Rana Modarres as impact director within the firm’s catalyst team. Rana joins from Oxfam GB where she was director of investing and social impact, with almost a decade’s experience in social and impact investing.

Quote of the Day

“Unlike fossil fuels, there is no replacement for water. And what water we have left, we are polluting – 80% of all wastewater leaves homes, factories or farms untreated, further degrading the freshwater we do have. There is enough water to meet our needs, but there has been a catastrophic failure of management.”
Cate Lamb, global director of water security at disclosure not-for-profit CDP

Looking Ahead

Top executives from ExxonMobil Australia, Chevron Australia, Woodside Petroleum speak about the impact on the energy industry from a "world in flux", at an Australian oil and gas conference taking place today.
The European Commission will present its plans to end Europe's reliance on Russian oil and gas by 2027 on May 18. It will seek to expand renewable energy faster, invest more in energy savings and source alternative gas supplies.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) will launch a ‘state of the global climate’ report that will assess how warm 2021 was versus historical records on May 18.
The European Parliament's environment and employment committees will vote on the EU's proposed social climate fund on May 18. The fund would shield consumers from potential costs under a planned new carbon market for heating and transport fuels.
Nigerian entrepreneur Mustapha Gajibo has been converting petrol mini-buses into electric vehicles at his workshop, but he is now going a step further to build solar battery-powered buses from scratch in a push to promote clean energy and curb pollution.

Africa's top producer and exporter of crude oil has heavily-subsidized gasoline and a patchy supply of electricity -- a combination that might discourage anyone from investing in electric vehicles.

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