Climate change and sustainability

The urgency is steadily intensifying as meteorologists around the world are seeing the effect of climate on the weather as it is becoming more and more extreme. Record rainfall, drier droughts, and longer periods of life-threatening heat are just some of the weather patterns that are having a devastating impact in recent decades.

This issue has risen to the top of the news agenda this week following the decision of the US administration to renegotiate the Paris Climate Agreement.

The move is a backward step that threatens the world’s progress in tackling climate change. The decision essentially moves away from the concrete steps the world has committed to in controlling carbon emissions, which may represent short-term gain for the few, but the move threatens longer term inclusive and enduring prosperity creation, both in the US and around the world.

The Caribbean is certainly on the frontline when considering the climate change agenda. It has long been established that tropical regions across the world will suffer the worst effects of climate change, most notably by the poorer countries.

Countries in the Caribbean are amongst those at most risk, and the region has seen its fair share of extreme weather recently in the form of hurricanes, for which climate change is hotly debated as the root cause.

Last year the region had to contend with a category 5 storm, Hurricane Matt hew which wreaked havoc. Haiti was the Caribbean’s worst hit country and its effects have caused their largest humanitarian catastrophe since the earthquake in 2010, according to the United Nations. Tropical storms are not uncommon to the Caribbean and unfortunately disaster occurrences cannot be eliminated. However, Hurricane Matt hew was a stark reminder of the dangers posed by extreme weather.

Extreme weather threats require robust disaster risk management. In the public sector, many government departments work together in a disaster response to save and sustain live protect livelihoods.

The consequences of not being able to recover from a natural disaster in a timely manner can include loss of reputation in the eyes of public and other government departments, inability to provide timely reporting and the loss of public confidence.

Organisations need to have a robust disaster risk management plan in place. This includes asset and threat identification, quantifying the potential losses, assessment of vulnerabilities, and evaluation of counter measures. It should also include definition of incidents and crisis assessment criteria, escalation procedure; and crisis management team roles and responsibilities. Without effective plans in place, businesses can find it difficult to respond immediately. But it’s important to remember that a plan only works as a safety net to mitigate the impact of a disaster.

The world has come a long way to secure widespread recognition that climate change is one of the biggest risks facing our economies and societies, and even further to have policymakers around the world seeing that it can also be an engine of economic dynamism, replete with opportunities for economic renewal and transformation Business and finance leaders from the US and around the world have already condemned their decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, including several who are involved in fossil fuel related activities.

At a ti me when the world needs collaborative and committed leadership to solve complex, interconnected global challenges, the US government seems to have made a short-sighted decision.

The role for the accountancy profession here is clear: we need to provide leadership and clarity on the economic opportunities to ensure the much-needed transformation away from fossil fuels happens with or without the US.

ACCA and its members will continue to support companies and governments around the world as they finance new opportunities, enhance corporate monitoring and reporting of environmental and social outcomes, and mitigate emerging climate-related risks.

The increased severity and frequency of extreme weather events prevents people from recovering before facing the next event, making them more vulnerable to disasters. Accountant will play a strategic role in ensuring investments are made in risk-reduction activities.


"Climate change and sustainability"

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