Editor's note

Issue 652 • December 2023

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Global sustainability targets and finance promises debated at COP28 

As we approach the end of 2023 the global news cycle is still dominated by the ongoing conflict in Gaza, the seeming stalemate of the war in Ukraine and ‘significant’ accords during COP28 in Dubai, UAE.

With 118 countries signing a pledge to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030, and a group of 22 nations further declaring that they will triple their nuclear energy capabilities by 2050, there has nonetheless been much criticism from two interesting quarters: Antonio Guterres, the secondary general of the UN, was scathing about the global decarbonisation accelerator - the primary initiative from COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber in which big energy companies, representing 40% of oil output, pledged to eliminate emissions from their set ups by 2050. Guterres pointed out that their pronouncements “say nothing about eliminating emissions from fossil fuel consumption” which implies a certain double-dealing within the agenda.

At the same time, the non-profit Climate Trace Project has published new data showing that many countries have been significantly underreporting their green-house gas emissions. Does all of this then signify a profound level of greenwashing? The proof of the pudding will probably come over the next couple of years when it is expected that individual nations will have to pass the laws necessary to meet global environmental targets.

Regardless of this backdrop, the UAE Banks Federation, representing 56 lenders, pledged $272 billion (Dhs1 trillion) in sustainable financing by 2030 at the COP Summit.

Aisha U-K Umaru, Analyst, Thematic Intelligence at GlobalData offered their view, “The inextricable link between finance and sustainability was a key focus of COP28’s finance day. In addition to climate finance being a main topic with $272 billion pledged by UAE banks, ensuring accountability for carbon commitments was also an important method of progress highlighted by John Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change. Governments must take meaningful steps to ensure carbon reporting and follow through, to show that profit does not supersede sustainability and finance can be a vital tool in enabling change.”

The impact on the accounting industry will be to create some degree of strategic flux, until industrial and business sectors align with new jurisdictional regulatory frameworks.

There are currently at least eight major standards and frameworks in use globally.

Meanwhile in this issue: read our cover story where accounting leaders share their thoughts and predictions for 2024; Allinial Global presents a summary of its Global Forum 2023 - Winning Together with AI; GlobalData reporter Isaac Hanson discusses the challenges of standardising the different frameworks for carbon accounting reporting; CIPD’s research looks at how businesses are attracting new candidates by offering flexibility; we hear how a myriad of tax accounting commitments means the rumoured ‘death of the tax return’ may just remain a provocative soundbite; Marga Hoek, author of Tech for Good, explains that CFOs play a vital role in implementing ESG Strategies; Karan Gupta of SPC NXT discusses how increasing AI investment is powering accounting outsourcing; Damon Anderson, UK MD at Employment Hero, debates the impact on the UK’s accounting profession of expanding pay-gap reporting requirements that could arise if a Labour government comes in to power; and finally, Laurent Charpentier, CEO at Yooz, explains the challenges rising wage demands are creating for UK finance leaders.

There are rankings reports on the Netherlands and Nordics and further rankings tables for Spain. There is also the usual news round up.

I would like to thank you for your continued interest in reading International Accounting Bulletin and following our rankings reports and supplements.

Do also look out for IAB’s AI supplement this month.

Wishing you all the best for 2024.

Zoya Malik