ACCA - The global body for professional accountants
The profession [accountancy] has extensive experience of measuring, reporting, and validation mechanisms, all of which will be vital for any credible action on climate change. The profession must use its expertise to make a positive contribution to the formulation of credible policy frameworks and agreements
—Rachel Jackson, head of sustainability, ACCA

Profession needs to evolve and adapt experience and expertise to climate change mitigation processes

Accountants have the technical skills and expertise to make a real difference to climate change mitigation activities, according to businesses and climate change experts in a new report from ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) as COP 17, the latest stage in international efforts to limit human impacts on the environment, gets under way in Durban, South Africa.

‘The climate change debate isn’t something that accountants can stand by and watch from the sidelines,’ says Rachel Jackson, ACCA’s head of sustainability. ‘Accountants need to take a leadership role when it comes to shaping international climate change mitigation policies. The profession has extensive experience of measuring, reporting, and validation mechanisms, all of which will be vital for any credible action on climate change. The profession must use its expertise to make a positive contribution to the formulation of credible policy frameworks and agreements.’

The latest expert opinion on the role of accountants in the fight against climate change is collated in ACCA’s new report 'COP 17 and accountants: where next?' The report contains the thoughts of experts from the worlds of business, including those from Vodafone, Shell, and HSBC, and also from accountancy firms such as Deloitte and PwC, as well as international climate change negotiators.

The experts agreed accountants have a vital role to play in providing attempts at reducing or controlling emissions contributing to climate change. However, they added, the profession needed to develop new knowledge and mechanisms to meet new demands; and reshape its educational curricula and skills requirements to provide the necessary confidence and trust in the capabilities and integrity of the profession.

‘Currently there is no reliable way of independently verifying the emissions reductions that some countries or businesses are claiming. This prevents the development of trust in climate change mitigation activities that could dissuade crucial private sector investment,’ adds Rachel Jackson. ‘The profession has work to do to get to where it needs to be on sustainability accounting, but the profession has been flexible in the past and should rise to this new challenge.’

Our experts also argued that:

  • Private enterprise and finance have an important role to play in mitigating climate change. They provide innovation and resources, but they are currently not utilised nor supported enough by the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention for Climate Change) process.
  • Expectations of COP 17 are low, but discussions can still produce small steps needed to reach an eventual more comprehensive agreement.
  • Voluntary emissions targets are a necessity without an international, binding agreement but they are not guaranteed credibility, while uncoordinated action may not be enough to avert catastrophic climate change.
  • The Kyoto Protocol was a breakthrough agreement, but a flawed one. Its failure to address the future obligations of countries not covered by the agreement has created a political stand-off preventing any new international agreement on emissions reduction.

‘The fight against climate change is going to be a collaborative effort,’ concludes Rachel Jackson. ‘Accountants, countries, and private enterprise and finance will all have a role to play. Private enterprise and finance need to speak up to make sure their concerns, experiences, and innovations are shared, while the UNFCCC process needs to bring private enterprise into the process if it is to meet the goals it has set itself.’

The report can be found in the 'Related Documents' section at the bottom of this press release.

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For further information, please contact:

Nick Cosgrove, ACCA Newsroom
+44 (0)20 7059 5989
+44 (0)7963 496144

Notes to Editors

  1. ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants. We aim to offer business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management. 
  2. We support our 147,000 members and 424,000 students in 170 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. We work through a network of over 80 offices and centres and more than 8,500 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through our public interest remit, we promote appropriate regulation of accounting and conduct relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence. 
  3. Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability. We believe that accountants bring value to economies in all stages of development and seek to develop capacity in the profession and encourage the adoption of global standards. Our values are aligned to the needs of employers in all sectors and we ensure that through our qualifications, we prepare accountants for business. We seek to open up the profession to people of all backgrounds and remove artificial barriers, innovating our qualifications and delivery to meet the diverse needs of trainee professionals and their employers. 

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