Australia is well on the way to
having new mandatory disclosure requirements for industrial greenhouse gas
emissions following a ministerial meeting last Friday.

Federal and state environment
ministers recommended greenhouse reporting and public disclosure be mandatory
for all companies emitting more than 25,000 tonnes of CO2 or using more than 100
terajoules of energy – and that’s a lot of companies. The recommendation now goes to
COAG – which in
February acknowledged public reporting was an “important” part of any climate
change action agenda.

The best option for public
disclosure would be to expand the scope of the National Pollutant Inventory
already a treasure trove of data on other emissions by larger companies.
Friday’s meeting of environment ministers agreed to release a proposal to do
just that. Depending on the public comment outcome, the NPI could be expanded to
cover greenhouse gases by next April, or even sooner. Victoria has led the push
for greenhouse disclosure to be done through the NPI, with the federal
government ambivalent at best.

Meanwhile, a largely overlooked
recommendation in last week’s parliamentary committee report on corporate
responsibility says companies should disclose their “top five” sustainability
risks and their strategies to manage them. The concept of a corporate “top five”
might be hard to define. But it’s indisputable that greenhouse gas emissions
constitute a major risk for large emitters. According to Coalition committee
members, the push for “top five” disclosure should be through ASX best practice
guidelines.

Labor members went further, saying the
Corporations Act should be amended to introduce a “flexible, mandatory”
requirement to disclose. The thoughts of the ASX Governance Council, which
issues the best practice guidelines, will become clearer in the next few months.
The council is due to release a discussion paper shortly on how its guidelines
could be changed to better tackle issues such as material non-financial
risks.

Peter Fray

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