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April 14, 2008

Australian accountants urged to tackle climate change

Accountants have a vital role to play in the reduction of carbon emissions, according to CPA Australia president Alex Malley.

CPA Australia has regularly participated in consultations on climate change and business sustainability in the country. According to Malley, the association’s involvement is particularly vital because businesses will face a critical challenge to manage resources in a way that both reduces carbon emissions and meets stringent government regulations.

“Accountants with specialist business skills in the accumulation, processing, presentation and interpretation of business information are fundamental to enabling businesses to successfully prepare for and adapt to climate change,” Malley said. “So accountants are really at the coalface of this issue… Through our continuing professional development programme we will also ensure that our members are equipped to operate in this changing landscape.”  

CPA Australia recently released a discussion paper ‘Emissions trading and related policy initiatives’, to inform and educate its members on the challenges climate change presents on the economy, financial reporting and corporate social responsibility.

Malley explained: “In it we recommend a series of tax and other fiscal incentives that government must provide to encourage behavioural change among those businesses not directly involved in emissions trading. These include initiatives such as increased tax concessions for research and development of low emissions technology.

“Smaller and medium-sized businesses will be fundamentally affected as [they are] clients, suppliers, contractors and so forth to the big emitters. There is also the significant issue of consumer sentiment, which increasingly demands a greater consideration of sustainability issues.

The upshot of all this is a greater demand for accountants to provide timely and rigorously prepared information, which can be applied not only to compliance with emissions regulations but to critical areas such as sustainable capital investment.”

CPA Australia said it is determined to adopt a ‘practice what we preach’ approach and has already commissioned the Carbon Reduction Institute to audit its global greenhouse gas emissions. CPA Australia’s carbon footprint in 2006 was just over 18,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions, which is relatively low for an organisation of its size and type, the association said.

Melanie White

Australia greenhouse gas emissions breakdown by industry sector

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