Route map to climate accountability and a just transition

Published date: 14 February 2024

Two weeks to go in consultation on the new GRI Climate Change and Energy Standards

Global debates are ongoing as to how organizations can do more to meaningfully contribute to solutions for the climate change and biodiversity crises – by taking responsibility for their impacts on people and planet. Currently, no disclosure mechanism exists that fully reflects these requirements – yet that is about to change.

The proposed GRI Climate Change Standard, launched for public comment in November 2023 alongside revisions to the Energy Standard, closely examines the severe social impacts associated with climate change – with efforts to achieve a low-carbon, just transition at its core. It does this by widening reporting, both within and beyond the value chain, ensuring impact transparency for an organization’s activities and operations.

The climate change exposure draft introduces a new disclosure on the social aspect of climate change and the concept of just transition with regard to impacts on workers and local communities. This would involve reporting of multiple metrics on transition plans, such as what it means for jobs and training, and details on agreements reached with local communities and Indigenous Peoples. The draft also covers the social impacts in disclosures on adaptation plans, carbon credits and GHG removals.

Climate disclosures have too often treated the human impacts of companies’ climate strategies as an afterthought or stopped at general commitments to 'leave no one behind'. It's time to move from rhetoric to data – and we know enough today to start doing so. It is heartening to see GRI's climate standard move clearly and decisively in this direction.

Caroline Rees, President and Co-Founder of Shift

Climate change is unfolding on an unprecedent scale and South Africa is particularly vulnerable to its impacts, which is why the focus on a just transition in GRI’s proposed Climate Change Standard is much needed. We need organizations to use reporting on their climate change impacts to then make changes in their underlying practices, which will ultimately lead to the protection of both social and planetary boundaries.

Brandon Abdinor, Climate Advocacy Lawyer and Zahra Omar, Attorney at the Centre for Environmental Rights in South Africa

Climate change and the biodiversity nexus 

Climate change is a direct driver of biodiversity loss, which in turns accelerates climate change processes. This means that interactions between climate and biodiversity need to be considered in an integrated way so that relevant challenges can be addressed effectively.

Biodiversity is referenced in multiple disclosures throughout the climate draft. Organizations are urged to consider and disclose impacts associated with their transition and adaptation plans on biodiversity and be transparent about their actions to manage these impacts. The draft standard also covers use of carbon credits, to monitor and evaluate how these projects directly contribute to biodiversity conservation. 

And as addressed in the newly updated GRI Biodiversity Standard, there are synergies and trade-offs between the biodiversity and climate topics, which reporting companies need to consider and disclose.  

Emission cuts are essential to limit global warming  

The GRI climate change and energy drafts prioritize the reduction of GHG emissions as the primary mitigation action that organizations need to take. This makes clear the expectations for companies to report GHG emissions reduction targets with annual disclosure of emissions inventories and transition plan progress. 

Companies will have to cut carbon emissions at unprecedented pace and scale to help the world halve emissions by the end of this decade. At Ørsted, we were the first energy company in the world to have its science-based net-zero emissions target validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). We are very pleased to contribute to increased quality and transparency of corporate reporting by providing inputs to GRI as part of the Technical Committee for the new Standards on Climate Change and Energy.

Svend Brun Hansen, Senior Climate & Environment Manager at Ørsted

The UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative was also represented on the Technical Committee that helped shape the exposure drafts.

How organizations communicate and demonstrate accountability for their impacts on the environment, economy and people is of utmost importance to the work of UNEP FI. Therefore, we urgently need aligned voluntary metrics and progress on reporting across initiatives. The world is not on track to achieve 1.5°C, but enhancing more standardized data disclosure is a critical element for making progress on managing and ultimately reducing emissions.

Jessica Andrews, Investment Lead for UNEP FI

The public comment period for the exposure drafts on climate and energy is open until 29 February, with individuals and organizations around the world encouraged to review the proposals and help shape the final standards.