On 28 July 2022, 161 States voted in favour of a United Nations General Assembly (“UNGA“) resolution declaring access to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, a universal human right (“UNGA Resolution“). In a remarkable display of global solidarity, the resolution received zero ‘against’ votes, and eight ‘abstain’ votes. This vote follows the passing of a similar resolution in the United National Human Rights Council in October 2021. UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, David Boyd, hailed the UNGA Resolution as having the potential “to be a turning point for humanity”.

Continue Reading Business and Human Rights: New Universal Human Right To Access A Clean, Healthy And Sustainable Environment

On July 28, 2022, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (the “MAS“) published a circular (the “Circular”) on new disclosure and reporting guidelines for retail ESG funds in Singapore. The Circular was published alongside a Sustainability Report 2021/2022 issued by MAS and coincides with the issuance of Singapore’s first green bond (which was announced here). Pursuant to the Circular, retail ESG funds are required to provide details on their investment strategies, criteria and metrics used to select investments, and risks and limitations associated with the funds’ strategies. The Circular will take effect on January 1, 2023.

The Circular is published in the midst of a growing investor interest in ESG-related investment products in Singapore. The Circular intends to mitigate the risk of greenwashing, where investments are falsely or misleadingly claimed as environmentally sound, and to help investors make more informed investment decisions. According to Ravi Menon, the managing director of MAS, the new disclosures will need to be made on an ongoing basis, and the relevant ESG funds are required to publish annual reports detailing how their ESG focus in investments or strategy has been achieved.  

The Circular forms part of the series of actions by the Singapore authorities to change the ESG reporting landscape in Singapore, which we discussed here.

The Biden Administration’s attempt to tackle the climate crisis has made its way to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Executive Order 14008, dated January 27, 2021, stated “domestic action [on climate change] must go hand in hand with United States international leadership, aimed at significantly enhancing global action,” and called on government agencies to take action.[1] In response, this June, the USPTO unveiled the Climate Change Mitigation Pilot Program (the Pilot Program) in response to Executive Order 14008. The Pilot Program “is designed to positively impact the climate by accelerating examination of patent applications for innovations that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”[2]

Continue Reading USPTO Rolls Out the Climate Change Mitigation Pilot Program in Response to Executive Order 14008 on Climate Change

In our blog post here, we discussed the amendments to the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited’s (SEHK) Corporate Governance Code and Listing Rules, which prohibit single-gender boards among listed companies and IPO applicants in Hong Kong, effective from January 1, 2022. Existing issuers with single-gender boards will have a three-year transition period to appoint a director of a different gender by December 31, 2024.

In a recent article published by AsianInvestor here discussing board diversity in Hong Kong, our partner Susanne Harris is quoted for her comments on the development of ending all-male boards in Hong Kong. Susanne said that, “having a single woman on a board doesn’t sound like much but when you look at it in terms of 800 new board positions for women it feels more substantial”. Susanne added that the move is already mobilising stakeholders, but achieving diversity and inclusion in all Hong Kong boardrooms will take time.

Bonnie Chan, head of listing of the SEHK, once said, “the addition of women to the boardroom is not a silver bullet, but it can be the beginning of deep rooted and much needed cultural change within an organisation”. Hong Kong companies are now encouraged to embrace change and ensure that the diversity of their board reflects their long-term business goals, and meet the expectation and needs of the communities and different stakeholders.

Litigation is increasingly being used as a means of advancing – or delaying – effective climate action.

As discussed in our recent legal update on the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment’s 2021 Global Trends in Climate Change Litigation Policy Report (the “2021 Report“), between 2015 and 2021, there was a marked increase in the number of such climate-related cases being brought against private sector actors.  This reflects the growing recognition by prospective litigants of litigation as an effective means of influencing the actions private sector actors are taking to address climate change.

Most recently, the London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment’s 2022 Global Trends in Climate Change Litigation Policy Report (the “2022 Report“) confirms that litigation against private sector actors continues to expand as an avenue for climate action.  We discuss the trends identified in the 2022 Report in this blog post.

Continue Reading The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment publishes its 2022 global trends in climate litigation report

On 29 June 2022, the Brazilian Superintendence of Private Insurance (“SUSEP”) published Regulation No. 666/2022, setting forth sustainability requirements applicable to the Brazilian insurance sector. Its goal is to establish guidelines for management of risks that are directly related to ESG policies of insurance and capitalization companies, local reinsurers and pension funds.

Continue Reading Brazilian insurance regulator publishes guidelines on sustainability requirements for the insurance sector

In May we published a legal update on the recent Australian federal election (here) and what a new Labor government may mean for the renewables industry in Australia. The note highlighted that no specific legislation was planned for hydrogen.

Australia’s states have been more active in trying to jump on the hydrogen bandwagon. In our recent legal update here, we provided a brief overview of the existing and planned legislation for hydrogen in Australia’s six states and two territories.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) on 20 May 2022 released a revised draft decision on the proposed direct power purchase agreement (DPPA) pilot scheme for stakeholder consultation (May 2022 Draft Decision). Vietnam is seeking to implement a DPPA pilot scheme which, for the first time, will enable renewable energy generators to sell clean electricity to private offtakers via a contract for difference (CfD)/virtual power purchase agreement (PPA) arrangement. In our legal update here, we discussed the legislative background and status of the DPPA pilot scheme, changes made under the May 2022 Draft Decision (compared to the two most recent draft legislative instruments on the pilot scheme), and the impact of the pilot scheme.

On 1 July 2022, the Brazilian Supreme Court issued a ruling on ADPF 708 (Ação de Descumprimento de Preceito Fundamental), which is another climate litigation case under the court’s scrutiny (please read here and here for more information about other climate litigation cases submitted to the Brazilian Supreme Court). In summary, political parties filed ADPF 708 in June 2020, claiming the Brazilian Federal Administration had not taken appropriate measures to ensure allocation and use of funds from the Brazilian Climate Fund, which is supposed to play an important role in “climate financing”, pursuant to the Paris Agreement, by supporting climate change mitigation projects in Brazil.

Continue Reading BRAZILIAN SUPREME COURT RECOGNIZES THE PARIS AGREEMENT AS A HUMAN RIGHTS TREATY

A lot can happen in ESG in three days. By Wednesday last week, there were three important developments in the world of ESG and sustainable finance from the European Securities and Markets Authority (“ESMA”), the International Capital Markets Association (“ICMA”) and the UK Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”). Read more about these developments, which relate to ESG ratings, sustainable bonds / securitisations and ESG-labelled debt here.