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Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance


Environmental, social and governance issues

The profile of corporate sustainability has been growing steadily and pressure on businesses is increasing from multiple angles.

Climate change and the transition to a low carbon economy are top of the political agenda. Governments and regulators are responding to the need to mobilise green, climate smart, environmentally friendly financing. These issues present a range of challenges for businesses and innovation and technology are key to success in the future. We help clients to future-proof their businesses and identify risks and opportunities.

Explore our insights below:


The UK, sustainable finance and climate regulation: the next steps

On 9 and 10 November the UK Government and regulators made a number of coordinated announcements about the UK's plans for climate regulation and commitment to the ESG agenda. Over the past few months climate resilience, similarly to other policy initiatives, has not been the focus of the Government and financial regulators whose priority has been the Covid-19 pandemic as they sought to support livelihoods and limit damage to the UK economy.  However, this week's announcements bring climate resilience and the transition to net zero carbon back to the top of the legislative and regulatory agenda. This alert summarises the key points made and outlines some initial high-level thoughts. Read more about The UK, sustainable finance and climate regulation: the next steps.

What is the role of corporates in society?

Businesses are under increasing pressure to balance profit and shareholder value, with environmental, social and governance factors (ESG). In this extract from a recent client webinar, Clifford Chance experts discuss the challenges of defining company purpose in increasingly uncertain times with John Barton, current chair of easyJet plc and retailer, Ted Baker plc. Read more about the role of corporates in society.

ESG: Managing Sustainable Growth

ESG – Environmental, Social and Governance issues – are a major challenge for boards and board members as public scrutiny grows. In this briefing, our experts discuss the rise in climate change litigation, shareholder activism, managing human rights and social change and the impact of ESG ratings on access to capital. It is clear that the ability of boards to manage these issues effectively will be critical to the reputation and financial stability of many companies. Read more about ESG: Managing Sustainable Growth.

ESG Reporting Issues and Securities Litigation Risk

Investors are increasingly considering the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) credentials of publicly listed issuers when making investments. This has put ESG disclosures (including climate change-related disclosures) in annual reports and prospectuses under intense scrutiny, meaning issuers are at risk of investor and activist claims if those disclosures are inaccurate.

Experience from other jurisdictions (in particular the US) shows that investors are willing to pursue large-scale group claims against companies for inaccurately representing their ESG credentials, and given the growth in the UK securities litigation market more generally, we anticipate that investors in this jurisdiction are likely to follow suit. Read more about ESG Reporting Issues and Securities Litigation Risk.

ESG: Legal Risk or Business Opportunity?

ESG – ‘Environmental, Social and Governance’ issues – sometimes referred to as sustainable or responsible business issues are of increasing importance to businesses for the opportunities they bring, but also the reputational and economic risks that come with making the wrong decisions. Read more about ESG: Legal Risk or Business Opportunity?

Sustainable Finance: European Commission consults on how insurers and asset managers integrate 'sustainability' into their operations

The European Union has taken another step to promote sustainable finance by the publication on 8 June 2020 of draft legislation requiring insurers and asset managers to integrate ‘sustainability’ - environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations - into their investment, advisory and disclosure processes. Six draft delegated acts have been published for consultation, which would amend the UCITS, AIFMD, MiFID, IDD and Solvency II frameworks. The consultation closes on 6 July 2020. Read more about Sustainable Finance: European Commission consults on how insurers and asset managers integrate 'sustainability' into their operations.

Sustainability-Linked Bonds - Making Sense of SLBs, KPIs and SPTs

On 9 June, the International Capital Market Association (ICMA) published the Sustainability-Linked Bond Principles (the Principles), a set of voluntary guidelines aimed at fostering the development of a sustainability-linked bond (SLB) market. SLBs are "any type of bond instrument for which the financial and/or structural characteristics can vary depending on whether the issuer achieves predefined sustainability/ ESG objectives" – the typical example would be a change in interest rate depending on whether a target sustainability key performance indicator (KPI) is met. We take a look at the basics of the Principles and how they might be used. In addition, we discuss some of the points issuers and underwriters should consider when bringing this product to market. Read more about Sustainability-Linked Bonds - Making Sense of SLBs, KPIs and SPTs.

EU finalises Sustainable Finance Taxonomy: New obligations for financial market participants and large public-interest entities

This briefing analyses the changes in the Taxonomy Regulation, sets out the impacts for different entities, and in an Annex, provides an overview of the Taxonomy. Read more about the EU finalising Sustainable Finance Taxonomy.

ESG issues for corporates: risks and opportunities

Sustainability and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors have fast risen towards the top of the board agenda — corporates are increasingly aware that a failure to address these matters can be detrimental to their businesses, both financially and reputationally. This briefing examines reporting frameworks, standards and requirements, highlights key issues for boards to consider and action to take to ensure they are doing everything to mitigate ESG risks and seize ESG opportunities. Read more about the ESG issues for corporates.

Green Finance

Consultation on a proposed GB Green Gas Levy

This briefing explains the background to the proposed levy and its key features. Read more about the consultation on a proposed GB Green Gas Levy.

Blue Bonds: Expanding to The Oceans

The blue economy is of growing importance and gaining momentum amongst policymakers across the world.

The earth’s surface is made up of 71% water, and billions of people rely on the oceans for their livelihoods and socioeconomic well‑being. However, the effects of climate change and human activities are destroying the biodiversity of our oceans. Read more about Blue Bonds.

Greater China Region: The Development of The Green Bond Market

The governments and agencies within the greater China region have continued at their respective pace with the advancement of China’s green financing. Over the course of the past five years, regulators in the greater China region, including those of Mainland China and the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau, have announced and implemented a number of policies and guidelines in support of the overall policy direction on green financing. Read more about the development of the the Green Bond Market in the Greater China Region.

Middle East: the evolution of sustainable capital markets

In keeping with global trends which have seen sustainable finance continue to expand to the level where, at the start of 2018, global sustainable investment in five major markets across the globe amounted to roughly USD30.7 trillion (source: Global Sustainable Investment Alliance), the development of sustainable finance, including through the use of green bonds, green sukuk and green loans, continues to evolve across a region more readily associated with its conventional energy resources, oil and gas. Read more about the evolution of sustainable capital markets in the Middle East.

Sustainability linked loans: the star performer of the loan markets?

The growth of sustainability linked loans has been the success story of the European loan markets over the last 12 months. We explore what this means and how the market has developed. Read more about sustainability linked loans.


Corporate Energy and Carbon Reporting Framework – A Primer

As from 1 April 2020 the first businesses covered by the UK's new carbon and energy reporting framework began preparing disclosures for their annual reports. The framework imposes more significant carbon and energy reporting obligations on UK quoted companies and UK Large unquoted companies and LLPs than the pre-existing reporting schemes. This primer explains the key obligations under this new framework. Read more about Corporate Energy and Carbon Reporting Framework – A Primer. 


Belgium - Potential of CH in Belgium and Europe

Clean hydrogen is on the rise as a viable alternative for fossil fuels and an energy storage reservoir for renewable energy. The term clean hydrogen refers to initiatives which are either based on renewable or low-carbon hydrogen technologies. Unlike grey hydrogen (which is produced using fossil fuels such as natural gas), renewable (or "green") hydrogen is produced entirely from renewable sources. This method builds on existing green infrastructure by using energy from other renewable sources in an electrolysis process that produces hydrogen without carbon emissions. As it also does not release harmful emissions at the point of use, renewable hydrogen could become a vital technology in tackling climate and environmental-related challenges and accelerating the energy transition. To satisfy demand for hydrogen during a transition phase in which large-scale production of renewable hydrogen is gradually being achieved, renewable hydrogen is likely to be complemented by the production of low-carbon hydrogen. Low-carbon (or "blue") hydrogen is based on natural gas, combined with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, or other low-emission pathways if they are commercially available. Read more about Belgium - Potential of CH in Belgium and Europe


Key developments in clean energy: Part 1: Repowering renewable power projects

The repowering of existing renewable energy projects, by replacing, refurbishing or updating existing generation technology with fresh investment to extend project life and increase project capacity and efficiency, is becoming a reality rather than a distant future prospect. Read more about Key developments in clean enerygy: Part 1: Repowering renewable power projects

Climate Change

Implications of President-Elect Biden's plan to combat climate change

As part of his campaign to be elected as President of the United States, Joe Biden set out an ambitious climate plan which, among other things, calls for a goal of net-zero emissions in the U.S. by 2050 and actively combating climate change. This publication outlines the implications of the Climate Plan for the U.S. and the international community under the new Biden-Harris Administration. Read more about the Implications of President-Elect Biden's plan to combat climate change.

Climate Change test case settles: $57bn Australian super fund responds to pressure on climate change policy

The McVeigh v Rest settlement announced 2 November 2020 is likely to result in an increased focus by Australian superannuation funds and other managed funds globally on the management and disclosure of climate change and other ESG risks. Read more about Climate Change test case settles: $57bn Australian super fund responds to pressure on climate change policy.

Proposal from the European Parliament on Deforestation Due Diligence

We recently gave our views on a proposal from the UK Government to establish a due diligence obligation in respect of commodities that are the product of illegal deforestation and degraded ecosystems, which would represent the first piece of UK supply chain due diligence legislation. Now the European Parliament has published its own recommendations to the European Commission for importers and traders of forest and ecosystem-risk commodities (FERC) to be subject to an EU-wide due diligence legal framework to halt and reverse EU-driven global deforestation. The EUP Recommendations are generally broader and more stringent than the UK's proposals. In this briefing, we have analysed the key differences and discuss some of the implications. Read more about the proposal from the European Parliament on Deforestation Due Diligence.

U.S. Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Sets out $2TN Clean Energy, Infrastructure and Climate Plan

Last week, Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden released a major update to his original 2019 climate plan for an overhaul of the U.S.'s clean energy and infrastructure policies and practices. Biden's updated plan is more far reaching than his previous proposal, and, among other things, commits to an accelerated investment of $2 trillion in sustainable infrastructure and clean energy over four years. Former Vice President Biden has positioned his Climate Plan as a central part of his proposed policies and efforts for reviving the American economy in the wake of the coronavirus public health crisis, while achieving a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 and combating climate change. Below we have outlined a few key tenants of Biden's Climate Plan and how, if enacted, Biden's Climate Plan could present potential opportunities in the clean energy sector. Read more about U.S. Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Sets out $2TN Clean Energy, Infrastructure and Climate Plan.

Carbon Price Clarity: A New UK Emissions Trading System from 2021

The UK Government has confirmed that it intends to establish a UK emissions trading system ("ETS") from 1 January 2021. The ETS could operate either as a standalone system or be linked to other systems such as the EU ETS. The design of the system has borrowed heavily from the EU ETS but it is more ambitious in its climate targets, adopting an initial emissions cap that will be 5% lower than the UK's notional share of the EU ETS cap for Phase IV of the EU ETS. This briefing sets out the key points to note from the proposal. Read more about Carbon Price Clarity: A New UK Emissions Trading System from 2021.

Carbon Offsetting: Coronavirus and beyond

Until the economic impacts of coronavirus started to bite, the voluntary carbon market had been experiencing something of a rebirth. In the preceding twelve months, we saw a significant increase in demand for carbon credits, from airlines, industry and other businesses looking to offset their emissions. 

This was being driven in large part by the growing pressure on businesses to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and to commit publicly to carbon reduction  targets. Carbon offset providers were scrambling to find enough credits and to develop new offset projects as quickly as possible to meet the increasing demand. Read more about Carbon Offsetting: Coronavirus and beyond.

European Commission proposes Net Zero Climate Law

The European Commission has published its proposed 'European climate law' setting a binding EU target of net zero greenhouse emissions by 2050.

The proposal also provides for the Commission to review its current 2030 climate targets and includes a controversial power allowing the Commission to set a trajectory for emissions reductions from 2030 to 2050. This law will entail the strengthening of renewable energy, energy efficiency and interconnection targets and will lead to the introduction of more stringent measures at EU and national level designed to cut emissions. This briefing considers the detail of the proposal. Read more about the Commission's proposed European climate law.

Climate Change in the 2020s: The decade for insurers to lead

Climate change is at the top of the agenda for policy makers, regulators and globally significant companies. It is an unprecedented risk and is under increasing scrutiny by shareholders and regulators. For insurers, climate change also presents opportunities for the industry to do what it does best – assessing and providing protection against risk – both in managing their own business and providing innovative products for policyholders to protect them against some of the economic implications.

The 2020s will be a decisive decade in the race to deal with climate change and insurers may well play a key role in deciding the outcome of these efforts. Read more about climate change in the 2020s.

COP25: Disappointing lack of progress at Madrid Climate Conference

The COP 25 Madrid International Climate Change Conference has finished with a disappointing lack of progress in key areas of international action on climate change. In particular, agreement on a new carbon trading mechanism remained elusive, giving cause for concern over the timing of a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol mechanisms. Read more about the lack of progress in key areas of international action at the climate conference in Madrid.

European Green Deal - Resetting the Environmental and Climate Change Agenda

The European Commission has published a bold package of climate change and environmental policies with ambitious aims including climate neutrality by 2050, a zero pollution environment, and a halt to biodiversity loss.The 'European Green Deal' Communication contains a wide range of sector-specific and economy-wide measures to be put in place over the next 2 years.

In this briefing we consider some of the key measures proposed. Read more about the European Green Deal.

A vision for the future of the UK financial system: the van Steenis report – how financial services might evolve in response to technological, social and environmental changes

The Bank of England published a report in June 2019 on the future of the UK financial system and what that means for the Bank. The report, authored by Huw van Steenis, examines how financial services might evolve over the medium term in response to technological, social and environmental changes and how the Bank should respond. It sets out an ambitious vision for the future of the UK financial system and the role of the Bank as a leader of global regulatory standards supporting a global economy.

The van Steenis report identifies wide-ranging drivers of change that are shaping the UK economy, from big data and cyber-crime to climate change and an ageing population. It considers the role of finance in this changing environment and how a responsible and resilient finance industry can serve and support these changes. Finally, the report sets out recommendations for the Bank of England, identifying areas where it could take action to enable innovation, empower competition and build resilience in the financial system. Read more on the van Steenis report.

Climate change disputes: an overview on developments and drivers

Climate change has been dominating the public debate for some time now. The increasing number of lawsuits underlines that legal risks relating to climate change are increasing for companies acting in the oil, gas, energy and even the financial sector. This newsletter provides an overview on the developments and drivers in the field of climate change disputes. It highlights which legal challenges companies face due to the impact of climate change on the society in general and the business operations in particular. Read more about climate change disputes.

Climate change litigation: tackling climate change through the courts

Litigation is becoming an important element of efforts to combat climate change. The number of climate change-related actions now stands at about 1,500 worldwide.

This article looks at some of the major trends and cases involving corporations and governments, outlines the challenges to pursuing climate change litigation, and considers what corporations, financial institutions and other businesses need to do next. Read more about tackling climate change through the courts.

Focus on Hydrogen

Five Key Energy Trends in Europe

As part of #EUHydrogenWeek the Clifford Chance Clean Hydrogen Taskforce has highlighted the top five hydrogen trends they are seeing across Europe. Read more about Five Key Energy Trends in Europe

Portugal's Clean Energy Plan Gathers Pace

This summer the Portuguese Government approved its National Hydrogen Strategy, which aims to promote the gradual introduction of hydrogen as part of a more comprehensive transition strategy to a decarbonised economy. This briefing explores the key features of the strategy and notable developments in the Portuguese hydrogen market that have since gathered pace. Read more about Portugal's Clean Energy Plan Gathers Pace

A Clean Energy Solution for Aviation?

Clean hydrogen is seen as playing a key role in the energy transition. In this briefing we look at whether it could be a solution for the aviation sector. Read more about A Clean Energy Solution for Aviation

Spain's Bid to Play a Leading Role in New Energy

The Spanish government's Hydrogen Roadmap contains a total of 60 measures designed to develop Spain's capacity to become one of the main European powers in the production and exportation of renewable hydrogen. Read more about Spain's Bid to Play a Leading Role in New Energy

Korea's New Energy Roadmap

Korea's Hydrogen Economy Roadmap is a plan to create a comprehensive hydrogen ecosystem in Korea by 2040. This briefing highlights the key aspects of the roadmap and recent developments in pushing forward the hydrogen agenda in Korea. Read more about Korea's New Energy Roadmap

A €7.2 Billion Strategy for Hydrogen Energy in France

The French Government has published its national strategy for the development of decarbonised hydrogen in France. The strategy is backed by a plan for €7.2 billion in public investment by 2030. This briefing presents the main features of the strategy. Read more about A €7.2 Billion Strategy for Hydrogen Energy in France

The Role of Low Carbon Hydrogen in the UK Energy Transition

Over the last few months, several major economies (including the EU) have published national strategies promoting the use of clean hydrogen. We are now eagerly waiting for the UK Government to take similar steps. In this briefing we set out the latest developments on hydrogen in the UK in anticipation of a national strategy on hydrogen later this year. Read more about The Role of Low Carbon Hydrogen in the UK Energy Transition

Time for New Energy in Europe and France

This briefing looks at the key features of clean hydrogen and its potential and provide an overview of the related European and French policy and regulatory frameworks. Read more about time for new energy in Europe and France.

Accelerating the Energy Transition in Latin America

Latin American countries have an opportunity to leverage their significant renewable energy resources by scaling up green hydrogen production. Green hydrogen could support existing local electricity and transportation demands, and it could be commercialized and exported. Given the range of potential benefits of green hydrogen and Latin America's history of innovative approaches to energy markets, Latin America could be a pioneer in the field. In this briefing, we highlight current market conditions, next steps to support industry development, and pilot projects from across the region. Read more about accelerating the energy transition in Latin America.

The European Commission's Hydrogen Strategy for a Climate-Neutral Europe

After several EU Member States have announced their national hydrogen strategies, the European Commission has shared its vision of how a union-wide hydrogen economy can contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and to the recovery of Europe's economy. This briefing provides an insight into the European Commission's newly published roadmap for building a hydrogen economy for a climate-neutral Europe. Read more about the European Commission's Hydrogen Strategy for a Climate-Neutral Europe.

National Hydrogen Strategy – Germany Aims to Take the Lead

The German Federal Government has adopted its National Hydrogen Strategy. Germany, which will hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of 2020, intends to take a leading role in the development of hydrogen technologies. The strategy provides a number of ambitious measures and goals – 38 in total – underscoring that hydrogen, and in particular green hydrogen, is key for the future of a clean, secure and affordable energy supply. Read more about National Hydrogen Strategy – Germany Aims to Take the Lead.

The Potential of Clean Hydrogen: European and Belgian Opportunities

This briefing looks at the main benefits of clean hydrogen as well as the remaining barriers to its successful roll-out within the industries where it can be used most effectively. We benchmark the current European and Belgian legal and regulatory framework against the potential of clean hydrogen, finding that there is a need for greater harmonisation and policy coherence (e.g. in terms of a common classification and taxonomy) to create a genuine level playing field with established technologies and energy sources. Despite these barriers, the recent surge in pilot projects is a reason to be optimistic about the future prospects of clean hydrogen. Read more about the potential of clean hydrogen: European and Belgian opportunities.

Clean Hydrogen in Australia – a New Export Opportunity

The Council of Australian Governments Energy Council agreed to a National Hydrogen Strategy on 22 November 2019, which outlines an export-oriented approach to clean hydrogen in Australia. This briefing highlights the key aspects of the National Hydrogen Strategy and identifies a number of actions that will be required to facilitate a clean hydrogen industry in Australia – including responsive regulation and community confidence. Read more about clean hydrogen in Australia – a new export opportunity.