“Climate reporting is too often seen as a pure compliance exercise”

HASfter a summer of 2022 marked by a series of extreme weather events and the energy crisis this fall, the climate emergency is at the heart of concerns. All call for significant efforts and, first of all, companies are invited to control, or even limit, their carbon footprint.

But are the commitments they make in favor of the climate really credible and consistent with the objective of carbon neutrality by 2050, set by the Paris agreements? [de 2015] ?

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In a recent study, (“Integration of climate issues in financial statements”, by Walid Ben Amar and Isabelle Martinez, study report for theAccounting Standards Authority2022), carried out over the period 2019-2021 on a sample of 199 listed European companies, belonging to the Stoxx Europe 600 index [qui regroupe 600 grandes valeurs européennes]spread over seventeen countries and six climate-sensitive sectors, we show that, in fact, the integration of climate issues in financial statements and audit reports remains very marginal for the time being.

Absence of constraints

On average, only 5% of the total information that could be made public on the subject is found in company accounts. The annual reports, for example, quite often mention the impact of climate risks on the business model through the analysis of different scenarios or the measurement of climate performance.

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On the other hand, the impact of climate change is little taken into account at the accounting and financial level, while companies should adjust, for example, the useful life of their fixed assets according to the disruption in progress, or record provisions and liabilities possible for fines and penalties in the event of non-compliance with climate-related objectives.

We also observe that auditors rarely check whether the accounting assumptions and estimates used by companies are aligned with the carbon neutrality objectives defined by the Paris agreements (4% of companies in 2021 for 1% in 2019). In general, our analyzes reveal a lack of link between what companies do to limit climate change and what they record.

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This observation is largely explained by the absence of binding international accounting standards on this topic. Companies are required to mention in their accounts the significant risks that they run or cause to run, in general, but there is no explicit reference to the climate issue. Companies are subject in this area only to recommendations, such as those defined in 2017 by the Task-Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure (TCFD).

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