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Focus on $2.3 trillion water opportunity as JBS IPO is contested

© Shutterstock / BORJA PDHydropower dam, surrounded by forest.
Hydropower dam, surrounded by forest.

From the opportunities of investing in water security to Ecuador’s landmark referendum, in this weekly round-up we explore the latest developments regarding corporate initiatives, sustainability reports and key industry updates.

Water and green finance in the spotlight

This week saw two major global gatherings: World Water Week, an annual event that focuses on the world’s water-related issues and challenges, and the Seventh Assembly of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), a meeting of environmental leaders from 185 countries. The GEF assembly focused on biodiversity and unlocking financing for environmental purposes and saw the launch of a new Global Biodiversity Framework Fund, with Canada and the UK pledging CA$200 million and £10 million respectively.

Among the many discussions at World Water Week, businesses should look at CDP’s Global Water Report 2022, Riding the Wave, which estimates that $2.3 trillion in commercial opportunities could be unlocked if the private sector acts on water security. The data combines the self-reported financial value from a select group of 591 companies that have regularly reported to CDP between 2018 and 2022, with major corporations such as Hewlett Packard, Mars, L’Oréal, and Nissan reporting commercial benefits.

UN-Water and UN Women also published a report outlining a feminist agenda to tackle the world’s water crisis, calling for a holistic approach to water use and water conservation, one that brings together women, water, and nature and recognises the role of women in their communities as the main collectors, protectors, and managers of water. Advocating for women’s equal representation in leadership and decision-making, the paper traces linkages between social justice, ecological rights, and women’s rights.

Ecuadorians vote in landmark referendum

Ecuadorians voted against the possibility of further mining or drilling for oil in the Amazon’s Yasuni National Park, with a reported 90% of the votes opposing it. The state oil company, which is drilling in the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve already, will have a year to pull out – although areas that are not part of the protected area are still open to exploitation.

The drilling was initially proposed as a means of building the local economy, which will be inevitably hit by this decision. The referendum was originally proposed in 2007, when the then President said that Ecuador would not exploit potential oil reserves in exchange for finance from the Global North. A fund equivalent to half the projected revenues was proposed, worth $3.6 billion, but the money was not forthcoming. The failure of the international community to meet its financial commitments is a real concern for countries that are willing to develop in different ways from the example of the Global North, but are unable to fund such development themselves.

Environmental groups contest JBS’ plan to list on NYSE

Rainforest Action Network, Mighty Earth and World Animal Protection have filed complaints against JBS (BVMF:JBSS3) with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), over the Brazilian meat giant’s plan to list on the New York Stock Exchange by the end of 2023. The proposed restructure, ahead of the listing, could see the founding Batista family acquire up to 90% of the shareholder voting power and it could be the biggest climate risk IPO listing in history, the environmental groups argue.

“This is probably the single most important IPO for the climate in history. There are profound implications for the planet if JBS, the world’s worst Amazon deforester, is given the go ahead to seek billions of dollars from Wall Street to continue tearing down rainforest, polluting on a vast scale, and driving land-grabbing,” said Glenn Hurowitz, chief executive of Mighty Earth.

“Concentrating 90% of voting power in the hands of the Batista brothers, Joesley and Wesley, both acknowledged criminals, restricts the ability of outside investors to push JBS to end deforestation or deal with its outsized emissions. That’s why we’re urging the SEC to fully investigate the claims made in the IPO prospectus, and to pause the IPO until the investigation into our existing whistleblower complaint is resolved.”

Oil and gas companies promote fossils lock-in despite IPCC warnings

New InfluenceMap research maps the European Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) sector’s advocacy since 2021 across an entire value chain, starting with exploration and transportation of fossil fuels in Africa, to the end use of fossil gas in Europe. It found three phases of this advocacy:

  1. Promoting gas exploration and LNG infrastructure in Africa,
  2. Advocating for LNG imports and infrastructure in Europe, and
  3. Lobbying against EU policies designed to reduce fossil gas use, including the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive and Energy Efficiency Directive.

At the same time, several companies with assets in Africa have lobbied against the application of EU standards on methane emissions to fossil gas imports.

“In the face of the war in Ukraine, and subsequent push to replace Russian fossil fuels in Europe, the industry has sought to weaken European climate policy designed to reduce the bloc’s gas demand, while at the same time pushing for new fossil gas development and LNG infrastructure across Europe and Africa,” said InfluenceMap senior analyst Vivek Parekh.

“This push has seemingly overwhelmed more nascent industry advocacy for renewable energy in Africa and, alongside slow progress on international climate finance obligations, possess a significant risk to the region’s energy transition and opportunities for long-term sustainable development.”

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