Carbon pricing: challenges and opportunities for India
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced, at the recently concluded COP26, that India's emissions intensity would drop by 46%-48% from 2005 levels. "Carbon pricing is the most cost-effective and flexible way to achieve emission reduction," said Rajnish Gupta, Associate Partner, Tax and Economic Policy Group, EY.
"The biggest advantage of the carbon tax is that it is easy to implement because you can put it as part of GST. However, carbon taxes are not politically palatable. Nobody likes taxes, so to be able to get this strategy across the line is very difficult," he added.
As far as emissions trading in India is concerned, the government may first have to set targets for particular industries. This will help add some subjectivity. Next, policymakers may need to create mechanisms to measure emissions, set institutional authority, and freeze the permissible limit for emissions. A clear regulatory framework for carbon pricing in India can help increase businesses' uptake of carbon pricing. However, while improving enforcement across sectors is vital, the real challenge is to explore the potential for linking with the global carbon markets.
Need for global policies and regulations to make decarbonization happen
In the past, businesses might have responded to stakeholders’ demands with well-chosen words and glossy pictures in the annual report. But today, such tactics are neither adequate to manage ESG as a public relations issue nor enough to handle the demands of investors. What investors want is convincing evidence of a sustainable economic model. This requires the disclosure of a set of nonfinancial metrics. The question now is: which ones? And this is where the concept of materiality comes in.
Panelists echoed the sentiment that companies can publish as much data they want on which theyare doing well. But if those items are not critical to their core business, itis elusive.
Disclosure is not transparency
Discussing an investors' perspective and deliberating on the issue of transparency, one of the panelists shared that almost 75% of the disclosures looked at by the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) are not material. Also, 90% of the adverse events do not get disclosed. This speaks a lot about the lack of transparency in ESG disclosures.
The reality is that the demand for transparency over ESG activities is set to increase. Businesses that do not share relevant information or publish inaccurate data will miss out on access to capital. Those able to hit the right notes with investors and stakeholders will gain an edge.
Looking at the ESG risks and opportunities from investors' perspectives, the panel agreed that there would always be concerns around the trade-off between risk and reward. Investors need to consider the time frame in which they want to see the delta in their performance and whether their competition is doing it simultaneously.
So, how can investors navigate these challenges?
Answering this question, the panelists reiterated the importance of transparency. The best way for investors is to watch out for gaps in ESG reporting, the authority of the top management to deal with issues, and their intent to deliver on promises. Investors should do a thorough background check and invest only if they get comfort.