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Accounting roundup: BP, Glencore under pressure on climate change

Environmental lawyers at ClientEarth have written to oil company BP and commodity giant Glencore warning of “the risk of investor lawsuits based on statements about future fossil fuel demand in their reporting”.

The move is the latest salvo in the campaigners’ battle to force businesses to address climate-related issues in their company reports.

ClientEarth lawyer Alice Garton said in a statement: “Fossil fuel majors are facing unprecedented disruption to their business models. By continuing to offer bullish forecasts, BP and Glencore could be setting themselves up for future problems.”

ClientEarth wrote to the two firms to warn them of the “potential for future claims but also to encourage investors to engage with the companies and encourage them to move away from self-serving scenarios when reporting on likely future trends for their business”.

The campaigners alleged that both BP and Glencore published scenarios for future commodity demand in their latest corporate reports “that paint a picture at odds with expert analysis”.

ClientEarth also said the two companies were being “optimistic when compared to competitors’ forecasts”.

A Glencore spokesperson pointed to the company’s recent AGM, at which the company’s non-executive chairman Anthony Hayward said: “I think we have come a very long way in the last couple of years.”

He argued that Glencore’s coal business was “robust to even the most, I suppose, on the one hand aggressive, on the other hand, conservative views of climate”.

Hayward added that Glencore supported the Financial Stability Board’s recommendations on climate change and expected to adopt them.

BP did not respond to requests for comment.

It comes after shareholders in ExxonMobil this week voted against the recommendation of the oil giant’s board to force more disclosures about the impact of climate change on its future prospects.

US president Donald Trump last night vowed to pull his country out of the landmark Paris agreement on climate change.

IASB puts pensions accounting work on hold

Meanwhile, the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) has confirmed that it will take no further action on its pensions accounting research project for the time being.

The project is currently allocated to the board’s research ‘pipeline’. This means that the board might activate it when it has the resources to do so.

IASB director Peter Clark said during the board’s May meeting: “On the research pipeline, we are not recommending bringing anything forward in the next few months.”

The IASB’s website also revealed that staff were drafting a final document summarising their work on discount rates under international standards.

The document is slated for release within the next six months.

New standard for insurance accounting

Finally, the IASB has published a new International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS) dealing with insurance accounting.

IFRS 17, insurance contracts is a step change in financial reporting for insurers. It requires them to measure and present their liabilities on a more uniform basis at a current fulfilment value.

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