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“Regulation, enforcement and awareness of greenwashing issues has increased…  Some of the charlatans that entered the space will leave”. 

Dr. Shiva Rajgopal is the Kester and Byrnes Professor at Columbia Business School (CBS). He served as the vice dean of research at CBS from 2017-2019. “My passion is integrating theory with practice”, says Shiva.
His research focuses on (i) ESG and its implications for valuation, governance and social responsibility; (ii) fundamental analysis of financial statements and valuation, especially earnings quality and accounting fraud; (iii) the efficacy of corporate governance and executive compensation; and (iv) the contribution of corporate culture to productivity at the workplace.
Shiva’s work is frequently cited in the popular press, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Financial Times, Business Week, and the Economist.  
Some of the scholarly recognition received by him include the 2006, 2016 and 2018 American Accounting Association (AAA) Notable Contribution to the Literature award, 2006 and 2016 Graham and Dodd Scroll Prize given by the Financial Analysts Journal, and the 2008, 2012 and 2015 Glen McLaughlin Award for Research in Accounting Ethics.


Praveen Gupta: You recently observed that Climate reporting may be the third-best way of focusing on the climate problem?

Shiva Rajagopal: Ideally, Congress should fix the climate issue by considering a carbon tax. However, the state of our politics is such that congressional action on a carbon tax is unlikely. The other argument is that this is best left to the Environment Protection Agency (EPA). But the Supreme Court has two cases pending before it arguing that the EPA has over-extended its authority.  So, the probability that the EPA will address the climate issue, without litigation, is slim. Hence, the statement that climate reporting, albeit a small step in the larger struggle against climate change, is perhaps the third best alternative.

PG: There are references to ESG 2.0. Is this an evolved version?

SR: ESG 2.0 – yes, the process will evolve. Regulation, enforcement and awareness of greenwashing issues has increased and that to me is a welcome development.  Some of the charlatans that entered the space will leave. I hope that ESG 2.0 will, at the very least, move the conversation forward with greater rigor and authenticity.

PG: Are the financial institutions procrastinating? The IFRS had a serious blind-spot in not having a sustainability component. How does ISSB change it all? Any remedy for greenwashing, as well?

ISSB might become the default standard setter for the world in the area of sustainability unless the SEC can push through the climate disclosure rule in some form or the other.

SR: The last few weeks have seen a flurry of activity in this respect. The Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) action against Vale. The German Government going after DWS for greenwashing. The SEC’s new ESG funds rule, the names rule and of course the climate risk disclosure rules should all help us mitigate the greenwashing problem somewhat. ISSB might become the default standard setter for the world in the area of sustainability unless the SEC can push through the climate disclosure rule in some form or the other.

PG: Does the SEC prescription cover ‘Scope 3’ adequately?

SR: Yes, it recognizes the difficulty associated with measuring scope 3 and allows for a staggered implementation strategy and a litigation safe harbor. Some have asked for even more relaxed regime where scope 3 is required for say companies with a market cap of $10 billion or more. Attestation and/or assurance can also be quite difficult for scope 3 as of now.

PG: Twenty-two leading law and finance professors have urged SEC to withdraw the Climate Disclosure Proposal. Any thoughts?

SR: You must have seen the two comment letters I was part of. One, in my individual capacity, and one signed by several ex-SEC commissioners. These two letters offer a counter-perspective to that of the 22 leading law professors both in terms of cost-benefit analyses and in pushing back against the idea that the SEC has no authority to enact climate risk disclosure rules.

Yes, the Global South has a huge tradeoff to confront between lower emissions and lost GDP as a result.

PG: What ideally should a transition pathway look like? Any differentiation between Global North and South?

SR: The transition pathway is idiosyncratic by definition to an individual company. There is perhaps no ideal “one size fits all” path for everyone. All I am asking for is transparency with respect to how the firm intends to fulfil its pledges. Yes, the Global South has a huge tradeoff to confront between lower emissions and lost GDP as a result.

PG: Many thanks Dr. Shiva Rajgopal, for these brilliant insights!

A drama on the high seas: Are we watching?

https://illuminem.com/energyvoices/b9385884-1d97-4b0a-83f8-07e2de5d7890

This Op-Ed, for #Illuminem, is an outcome of my ‘research’ in connection with the recent #International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) event. While #shipping became a dominant catalyst of #globalisation, its reckless ways is wrecking the planetary health.

More than four-fifths of the international trade in goods is carried by sea. About nine out of 10 items are shipped halfway around the world on board some of the biggest and dirtiest machines on the planet. 

Like aviation, shipping is not covered by the Paris Agreement on climate change because of the international nature of the industry. “Instead, it is the job of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to negotiate a reduction in emissions from the industry.” Environmentalists blame the organisation for the industry’s slow response.

“The ocean has absorbed one third of the carbon we’ve produced and 93% of the extra heat being trapped inside the atmosphere by the extra blanket we’re wrapping around our planet. Marine species are migrating 10 times faster than species on land … and they’re also being affected by pollution, sewage, massive algae blooms from fertilizer runoff, and 14 million tons of plastic every year. Why aren’t we talking about what’s happening in the oceans more?” Says Katharine Hayhoe, Climate Scientist.

“The ocean is our greatest ally in our fight against the climate emergency”, remind Alex Rogers at REV Ocean and Steve Trent of the Environmental Justice Foundation.

The importance of ‘green carbon’ stored on land, such as in forests, is widely recognised by the public and governments and it is included in many commitments under the Paris Climate Accord.

However, blue carbon, the carbon stored in coastal and marine ecosystems, has not been fully recognised, even though the ocean is the largest active carbon sink and store in the earth’s system.

Carbon uptake and storage by marine ecosystems must now be considered in every aspect of ocean management, from coastal development to fisheries management and shipping.

Even “If we become carbon neutral tomorrow, atmospheric carbon dioxide will still pass 500ppm, and oceanic pH will drop below 7.95 and all carbonate base life including coral reefs will dissolve within 25 years.We could survive climate change, we will not survive the loss of marine life and the Ocean Drifters upon which Life on Earth depends’’, warns Dr. Howard Dryden.

Can the IMO live up to the responsibility vested on it or will it succumb to the alleged corporate capture? Will marine insurers demonstrate leadership as general insurers and reinsurers struggle making up their mind? Would attempts at invoking #ESG be just lip service? Can Poseidon Principles navigate the shipping industry out of the dire straits?

The Sanctuary Debate!

June 18, 2022

The Panel in action!

Wonderful teaming up with @Meenakshi Menon and @Aarti Khosla in a spirited session, earlier this evening. Mainstreaming Insurance and converging its importance in the Climate, Biodiversity and Pollution play can be challenging. However, it is getting increasingly critical and there is a serious urgency.

Needless to mention a growing consensus, in particular, to widen the scope and meaning of environmentalism. Associated neo-capitalist stereotypes such as dystopia and doom ought to go!

Here I am tempted to quote Christian Gollier (Pricing The Planet’s Future): “It is crucial that we allocate our present sacrifices for the future in the way that maxiizes the increase in welfare of future generations”.

Congratulations @Bittu Sahgal and @Sanctuary Nature Foundation – for this memorable event.

Meenakshi Menon (to my right) and Aarti Khosla (left): brilliant debating – against the motion.

Confronting the implications of Climate Change on Insurance Industry

June 14, 2022

National Insurance Academy (NIA) & The Institute of Cost Accounts of India (ICAI) co-hosted this event, earlier today. Presented my perspective on the Climate Crisis.

Can Marine Insurance facilitate decarbonisation of the insurance industry?

Richard Turner and Jan-Hugo Marthinsen

June 2, 2022

Honoured to run a panel on “The growing importance of sustainability and ESG in marine insurance” at the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) Asia Forum 2022, earlier today in Mumbai. Jan-Hugo Marthinsen, Vice President, Head Offshore Energy Claims, Gard AS (seated to my left) and Richard Turner FCII, IUMI President & International Head of Marine, Victor Insurance Holdings were the two distinguished panelists.

Congratulations to the General Insurance Council for the first ever Indian insurance industry spotlight on Environment, Societal and Governance (ESG) in the midst of a burgeoning #ClimateCrisis. While marine insurance accounts for a small piece in the overall insurance pie – the fact remains that about 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is water-covered, and the oceans hold about 96.5 percent of all Earth’s water. Shipping has some grave implications for the health of our oceans, thereby overall planetary well-being. #Pollution#Biodiversity loss and resultant #Climate impact being the critical ones.

As part of its key initiatives, IUMI is addressing alternatives particularly to dirty fuel that ships use and discharge; over-fishing and the business of ship breaking. Before tipping points result into domino effect, a serious sense of urgency is called for.

CC Poseidon Principles for Marine Insurance


Theater of the absurd

Climate and Capital Media: May 25, 2022

Theatre of the Absurd

Op-ed for Illuminem: May 16, 2022

https://illuminem.com/energyvoices/1abf9737-eede-4a30-a243-5cc39b64909c

Who would not agree with Ukrainian scientist Svitlana Krakovska: “Let me assure you that this human-induced climate change and war against Ukraine have direct connections and the same roots. They are fossil fuels and humanity’s dependence on them”. That insurers, like the rest of the financial world, end up being facilitators of this process ought to not surprise anyone either. As we navigate ourselves into dire straits, we seem to be enacting a theatre of the absurd.

“It is astounding to me that our current economic model expects to continue to grow our energy use exponentially forever”, I quote Erin Remblance. Referring to her recent Op-Ed in Environmental Finance, says Desiree Fixler. “I call out the hypocrisy of the net zero-pledged asset managers who continue to invest in coal, oil and gas expansion projects. There is just no way for investors to achieve net zero without setting fossil fuel exclusion policies.”

All the World’s turning out to be a theatre of the absurd! “The fate of the earth rests in the hands of JPMorgan Chase.” World’s biggest financier of fossil fuel. Points out Billy Gridley 🇺🇦Climate & Capital Media. He further reminds: “Dimon and JPMorgan cannot and will not walk away from oil and gas profits. To do so would present the company, its shareholders and civilization as we know it, with the greatest financial risk ever in the history of banking. You only have to read Carbon Tracker, PRI (Principles for Responsible Investment) and Climate Action 100+ research on Peak Oil, stranded asset risk and looming accounting and audit issues, to get a sinking feeling the entire banking industry is as dependent on the future of fossil fuel as the oil and gas industry.

In that sense, the war in Ukraine is a godsend. To save democracy, it is now the patriotic duty of the industry to extract as much fossil fuel as it can, and in as short a time as possible”.

“What will his legacy be?” Bill Gridley moves the spotlight on to Warren Buffett.

“Let’s start with carbon pollution. The allocation of investment capital beloved by Buffett is headed smack into a science-based brick wall of rising heat. What does Mr. Buffett have to say about that?

At $125 billion Mr. Buffett is one of the richest men in the world, yet he eats breakfast at Mcdonald’s every day. He is 91 years of age and will be damned! He wants to remain chair and CEO.

But his source of profit comes from companies that are coming under scrutiny for promoting a deteriorating quality of life. Increasingly, Buffett will be judged by more than profits and his ability to spin the media. Carbon pollution, diabetes – think cherry coke and DQ delights – and air pollution spewing from power plants in poor neighborhoods may be his central legacy. Only when he leaves office does he promise to split the role of chair and CEO. He is Emperor Buffett. In the meantime, his message to shareholders: Let them eat Big Macs”.

Last but not the least, “only 8% surveyed insurers on course to achieve climate resiliency” says Capgemini. Time running out for the script and the stars!

“In order to protect our planet, we will need to feel and recognize our connection with the natural world again.”

Molly Ferrill is a photographer, writer, filmmaker and correspondent dedicated to documenting global environmental, human rights, and animal rights issues. Based at Puerto Morelos, Mexico, her work for National Geographic involves shooting environmental stories (photography and film) for National Geographic Magazine, News, Travel and Television. Molly is a recipient of National Geographic Explorers Collaboration grant in 2020 to produce visual stories about the illegal turtle trade; National Geographic Explorers grant in 2019 to direct and host a documentary film series about female park rangers and the species they protect around the world; National Geographic Explorers grant in 2015 to document the conservation and cultural significance of elephants in Myanmar. She is a public speaking representative at their several events.


Praveen Gupta: You wear many hats: photographer, writer, filmmaker and correspondent – dedicated to documenting global environmental, human rights, and animal rights issues. What takes your most time?

Molly Ferrill: It varies from project to project; some months I’ll focus more heavily on a film production, while others will be dedicated mainly to writing and research. At the moment I would say that I dedicate most of my time to still photography projects.

PG: What symptoms of climate crisis do you experience?

MF: I have covered several stories where I’ve witnessed symptoms of the climate crisis. One thing that I have noticed in particular is the way that changing weather patterns can put humans and wildlife in conflict with each other in ways that were not previously seen. For example, the Baird’s tapir is a very water dependent species.

A drastic shift in weather patterns in Southeastern Mexico has recently led to droughts that affect these tapirs’ habitat and lead them to venture onto farmland searching for water. They sometimes eat farmers’ crops, which can lead to conflict or retaliatory killing of the tapirs. This is just one of many situations that I have seen confirming the climate crisis and how it affects both people and animals on a local level. 

Many women working in these roles are challenging stereotypes in their communities (field work is considered a man’s job in many places), and paving the way for a younger generation of women to follow in their footsteps.

PG: Women, particularly in the developing world, bear the most brunt of climate emergency. Would you like to allude to some great work that you witness?

MF: Yes! I have met a number of female park rangers and wildlife protection officers around the world, and I find their work to be very inspiring. Wildlife protection officers working in the field are some of the world’s most knowledgeable witnesses of what is happening to nature on the ground, and serve as the first line of defense against poaching, trafficking, and environmental degradation.

In addition to the importance of their conservation work itself, many women working in these roles are challenging stereotypes in their communities (field work is considered a man’s job in many places), and paving the way for a younger generation of women to follow in their footsteps. I recently finished the pilot episode of Women of the Wild, a documentary film series that I hope to continue about female wildlife protection officers and the species they protect around the world. 

Slow Loris that was rescued from trafficking, now kept at a wildlife sanctuary.

PG:  Do you see large land animals getting the priority focus over the smaller ones?

MF: I do think that elephants and other large charismatic species often receive more attention in conservation work. In communicating environmental concerns, highlighting these charismatic species can be useful if they can serve as “ambassadors” that encourage the protection of their entire ecosystem. However, I think it is also important to recognize the importance of smaller, lesser-known species that also play essential roles in their ecosystems and are worth protecting.

I am currently working on a National Geographic grant project focused on preventing the illegal trade of freshwater turtles and tortoises in Southeast Asia, alongside National Geographic Explorers KM Reyes and Astrid Andersson. Turtles might be some of those smaller species considered less charismatic by some people, but to me all wildlife is worth protecting. 

It has been proven over and over again that conservation strategies that integrate indigenous people as leaders and advisors are much more successful long term.

PG: Any thoughts on the role of indigenous people in preserving nature?

MF: I see indigenous people as essential leaders in the fight to preserve nature. Many indigenous communities hold valuable knowledge about ecosystems and species based on generations of experience and connection to nature. It has been proven over and over again that conservation strategies that integrate indigenous people as leaders and advisors are much more successful long term.

I have had the opportunity to interact with several indigenous communities working in ecotourism and environmental conservation, and one of the things that has struck me most is their understanding of our interconnectedness with nature. Many of us have forgotten that connection; I think that in order to protect our planet, we will need to feel and recognize our connection with the natural world again. 

African Lion at Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania.

PG: With several wildlife trafficking hotspots in Asia, aren’t these only bound to aggravate the existing challenges?

MF: I view wildlife trafficking as one of the greatest threats to biodiversity today. I also see it as a global health concern, since wildlife trafficking can lead to the spread of zoonotic diseases like the pandemic we are experiencing today. 

It worries me that there is not a more central focus in the global conversation surrounding the prevention of future pandemics. There are, however, some international groups taking the risks of wildlife trade very seriously and spreading the word, such as the EndPandemics Alliance. 

A butterfly on a tree outside my house in Puerto Morelos, Mexico. Quarantine at home during COVID-19 has led me to seek out and photograph some surprising wildlife in my own backyard.”

PG: Best wishes for your insipring work, Molly! Please keep educating us. Thank you!

PAVING THE PATH TO DECARBONISATION

The Journal, Chartered Insurance Institute: 22.4.22.

https://thejournal.cii.co.uk/2022/04/22/paving-path-decarbonisation: This is a sequel to – TAKING THE WHEEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE (December 20, 2021), where I highlight the role of climate change in driving major changes to insurance supervision and regulations in the US. And here, the actuarial profession under the spotlight.

Borrowing from Doug Sheridan: “15 months into his Presidency, many of Biden’s voters are still waiting for him to deliver on his climate pledges. And for young people in particular-frustration has turned to anger… pace of the admin’s climate action has slowed to a trickle.”

However, there is a silver lining: Wind-Water-Solar provided 96.34% of all new US electrical nameplate capacity in the first two months of 2022. Also, in Jan/Feb 2022, U.S. renewable output was 22.8% of all electricity generation versus 19.7% in 2021 (www.renewablesnow.com).

The good part is the executive continuing to nudge the regulators to align the insurance industry with the goals of #parisagreement. Much of this sequel relates to the growing role of the actuarial profession in the climate space.

Climate Science: A Summary for #Actuaries, presented on April 13th, 2022, summarises the #IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) Working Group I (WGI) report in a manner tailored for the actuarial community. Actuaries, it emphasises, as risk professionals need to understand the physical impacts of climate systems and climate changes. Such impacts will affect how risks are underwritten, priced, managed, and reported, whether for general, life or health insurance, pensions, other financial institutions, or social security. It is important for actuaries to understand the magnitude of the potential changes, the uncertainty of their frequency and intensity, and the inherent volatility of such risks.

At a recent online event I asked the IAA panel – How can the IAA influence particularly North American insurers to cut their fossil fuel exposure?

Gabor Hanak, Chair of the Climate Risk taskforce answered: “IAA is not a lobbying organisation. Our influence is entirely through our contributions, papers and discussions. What’s more, the IAA is a global organisation and there is a basic principle how the IAA is operating, it is called the principle subsidiarity. So the IAA will never interfere with region’s policies unless the respective actuarial organisation in that region requests to do so. I don’t think it will happen in terms of North America.”

“If it’s not already, climate and #climate#riskmanangement need to move to front of mind for every organisation – quickly. This is not based merely on ideology, but on the undeniable link to risk management and our responsibilities as custodians of our organisations. Governance Institute of Australia’s Guide for boards and management on the path to net zero will assist with this mindset shift”, says Megan Motto 😊, CEO of the institute. The report has significant inputs from eminent actuaries.

Navigating through muddied water or is it an oil spill?

Op-ed for Illuminem: April 20, 2022

https://illuminem.com/energyvoices/8a3bd58b-089f-4391-969e-25eacfadd4f9

Was it just the challenging circumstances under which the #securitiesandexchangecommission (SEC) announced the disclosure of climate rule that seems to be drawing much flak? Shiva Rajgopal has an interesting perspective: “Climate reporting may be the third-best, not even the second-best, way of focusing corporate minds on the climate problem…”

Estimated damages in the US – from floods, drought, extreme heat, wildfires, and hurricanes – have grown to about $120 billion a year. These are bound to grow if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated. For the first time in history, via the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) the US federal government is formally accounting for risks of climate change.

It’s been fifty years since The Club of Rome came up with ‘The Limits to Growth’. Is #degrowth anywhere close to getting into vogue? “Global North people, businesses and institutions have operated in excess of their fair share of global resources for far too long…” says Jennifer Wilkins, author of a recent paper ‘The Degrowth Opportunity’. She quotes Colombian-American Professor of Anthropology Arturo Escobar: “We are being ecologically and culturally impoverished by a ‘patriarchal Western capitalist modernity’ and the ‘constitution of a single globalised world’…

The #globalnorth versus the #globalsouth debate gets intensified by the #colonisation dimension. The #IPCC has finally made room for it. While we are all in the same boat, the global north must quickly come clean and take a lead so as to become a good role-model.

“Crucial systems, such as food, healthcare and lifeline utilities, must be radically and justly transformed so that all people’s needs, everywhere, are provisioned using a fraction of the resources and emitting a fraction of the pollution we see today”, reminds Ms. Wilkins.