MONTREAL: Industry executives have joined activists and negotiators from nearly 200 countries at this month’s UN nature summit in Montreal, where negotiations on a global pact to protect nature could lead to tougher disclosure requirements for businesses.

Sectors such as mining, agriculture, oil and fashion are under scrutiny at the COP15 talks, due to their heavy impact on nature with activities that can contaminate soil, foul waterways or pollute the air.

As negotiators work to agree on conservation targets by the summit’s scheduled end on Dec 19, momentum is building for a measure to require businesses to disclose their harm to the environment.

The measure, as currently drafted, would also ask companies to halve those negative impacts by 2030, which could mean additional costs for businesses, said Franck Gbaguidi, senior analyst for energy, climate and resources at the Eurasia Group risk advisory.

But a weak deal without global agreement on how businesses should behave could also raise company costs — by opening the door to a global patchwork of different biodiversity regulations and requirements that makes compliance more difficult, Eurasia Group said in a policy statement. Here is a look at how key sectors could be affected by the COP15 talks:

Fashion and retail

Fashion and retail are facing pressure from consumers and governments to reduce waste and emissions throughout their operations. For them, a strong deal that forces all companies to report any harm would work toward assuaging some consumer concerns.

In a letter to world governments in October, more than 330 companies including Swedish fashion giant H&M Group, furniture maker IKEA, British pharmaceutical and biotech company GSK and Switzerland’s Nestle came out in support of a COP15 deal that includes mandatory disclosure of companies’ environmental impacts by 2030.

Smaller companies with limited resources for monitoring and accounting could find a disclosure requirement more challenging.

Mining

For companies mining metals and coal, an environmental disclosure requirement could force companies to reveal the impacts not just from the blasting and drilling they do on site, but also from the logging and deforestation carried out in creating access roads.

Mining companies are also concerned about the central goal of the COP15 talks — to set aside 30pc of Earth’s land and ocean areas for conservation by 2030. That could cut into areas rich with resources for extraction.

“There are going to be some places which are just going to be ‘no go areas’, and that can be hard for the mining sector,” said Aimee Boulanger, executive director of the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance.

The International Council on Mining and Metals, which represents 26 of the world’s largest mining companies, would back a deal that sets “a level playing field” with uniform rules in all regions, said the group’s chief executive, Rohitesh Dhawan.

Agriculture

With new disclosure rules, the farming sector would face an increased burden of reporting on activities like land clearing and pesticide use. Hefty reporting obligations could burden smaller farms and ranches, some industry groups warned.

“A lot of our producers are family businesses,” said Larry Thomas, manager environment and sustainability with the Canadian Cattle Association.

Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2022

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