18 February 2019
Expectations are high for this year's UN Climate Change Conference in Paris. Delegates are expected to build on previous efforts including those in the 2013 meeting (above). Photo: HKEJ
Expectations are high for this year's UN Climate Change Conference in Paris. Delegates are expected to build on previous efforts including those in the 2013 meeting (above). Photo: HKEJ

How accountants can help make the world a greener place

The countdown has begun for the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2015, also known as COP21, scheduled for Nov. 30 to Dec. 15 in Paris.

The international community has high expectations for this conference.

Hopefully, major countries can reach a historic agreement to cap the rise in global temperatures at 1.5 degrees celsius to 2 degrees celsius by the end of the century, thereby alleviating global warming and reducing the impact of green house gases on our planet.

As many as 40 countries have submitted proposals on emission reduction under their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) to lowering overall emission of greenhouse gases.

That shows the international community is taking the global warming issue very seriously.

US President Barack Obama announced his own clean energy proposal last week, pledging to reduce carbon emission from US power plants by one-third in 15 years, as part of the US-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change.

The proposal has sparked controversy in the US, with some coal miners and power companies vowing to fight him all the way to US Supreme Court, but it’s clear Obama is determined to take on the climate change issue.

Some commentators believe Obama is motivated by politics, saying he wants to put the climate issue high on the agenda of next year’s presidential election.

The Republicans, who are against tougher regulations on carbon emission, could be forced to deal with the issue nationally against the Democrats.

Among the key topics in COP21 is green finance and related technologies, a new type of financial activity that supports low carbon emission projects.

As an international financial hub, Hong Kong should seize the opportunity to play a leading role in developing green finance in Asia.

As a legislator, I have been involved in various discussions about environmental affairs in Legco.

The accounting profession and environmental protection are in fact closely related.

Professionals from both sides can work hand-in-hand to achieve a common goal.

For example, we can use our expertise to carry out value-for-money assessment of green projects and provide oversight of waste management, air quality improvement, energy recycling and conservation projects to make sure taxpayer’s money is spent accordingly.

Professional accountants can offer companies advice on how to balance profitability, social responsibility and environmental protection by calculating related costs and risks.

This will help companies better manage their sustainability initiatives.

With the help of professionals, companies can learn how to implement a green procurement policy in a cost effective way or assess the investment value of low-carbon emission projects.

Traditional financial statements are gradually giving to way to integrated reporting, known as ESG (environmental, social and governance) disclosure.

Integrated reporting not only improves transparency in corporate performance but also encourages companies to implement environmentally friendly policies.

Producing this new form of company report can lift the general standard of service of the accounting profession.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug. 12.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Member of Legislative Council (Functional Constituency – Accountancy)

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