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Accountant’s role in reporting climate change

I WILL start off by defining what climate change is. The National Geographic Organisation defines climate change as a long-term shift in global or regional climate patterns. Often climate change refers specifically to the rise in global temperatures from the mid-20th Century to present.

The impact of climate change

Climate change has brought about negative impacts associated with rising global temperatures as discussed below. The deadly impact of climate change:

Cyclones

The rising global temperatures are associated with changes in weather patterns. Scientific studies indicate that extreme weather events, such as heat-waves and large storms are likely to become more frequent or more intense with human-induced climate change.

One such weather event experienced in Zimbabwe is Cyclone Idai.

Cyclone Idai showed the deadly reality of the impact of climate change in Africa.

The rains and the ferocious winds characteristic of the cyclone caused flooding, landslides, destruction of infrastructure and crops and left many without homes.

Cyclone Idai that ripped across Mozambique and Zimbabwe in early 2019 killed at least 162 people with scores more missing.

Impact of climate change on tourism

Lake Kariba is one of the largest lakes and reservoirs in the world. It lies on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. At over 224 km long and 32 km wide, the maximum depth of the lake is 97,5 metres.

The lake is a key resource in agriculture, fisheries and hydroelectric power generation in Zimbabwe.

The water level has been declining following the increase in temperatures brought on by climate change.

At its worst the Lake has been 29% full due to the effect of rising temperatures.

 As the water level reduces, islands and trees that were once submerged are now over the water body.

The community has seen a decline in fishing activities, the country is experiencing longer and more frequent power cuts due to the declining water levels which result in insufficient inflows to support the power producing capacity of Lake Kariba.

Industries are not operating at capacity due to power cuts, which have significantly affected Zimbabwe’s GDP.

Climate change on agriculture

Zimbabwe, once the bread basket of Southern Africa, definitely has the lands and the expertise to return to this title.

A majority of Zimbabweans live in rural areas and rely on farming to survive, to buy basic commodities and to provide basic needs such as education to their kids.

Families now can no longer rely on their farming output to sustain them as before. Our parents tell stories of their parent’s farming activities taking them through school.

Climate change has affected the seasons, with irregular rainfall now being experienced, rains are now coming earlier or later into agricultural seasons.

This has affected the output of farmers, as well as the types of crops they can grow. There is a young boy in some village unable to make a future for himself through education as a result of climate change.

The inability to produce our own food has resulted in the country resorting to imports which makes the cost of living significantly higher for the average Zimbabwean.

Climate change on cattle ranching

With rivers drying up across Zimbabwe as a result of climate change, cattle ranchers are greatly affected.

In El Nino periods various farmers have lost their cattle due to shortage of watering holes for the animals as rivers dry up.

During 2019 and 2020, the nation lost an estimated total of 30 000 head of cattle, says Pilate Moyo of the Ministry of Agriculture's Department of Veterinary Services.

The main cause of the dwindling herd is recurrent drought, which diminishes water supplies and reduces grazing pastures nationwide.

Addressing climate change

A World Vision article highlighted ways to address the impact of climate change. The following could be adopted by both individuals and organisations to mitigate climate change:

Restoring natural environments

This entails ecosystem restoration through regeneration of trees and shrubs. Individuals and organisations can both participate.

In a bid to promote restoring of natural environments the government of Zimbabwe has implemented various policies and projects including the following:

Commemorating tree planting day on the first Saturday of December every year.  The day is set aside to motivate the nation to plant and conserve trees, enlighten the nation on the importance of forests, enhance biodiversity and household food security.

Laws requiring mining companies to rehabilitate land after completing their mining activities.

Building climate-smart livelihoods

Communities cannot reduce the impact of future climate change crises like Cyclone Idai without addressing and taking actions to eradicate poverty and inequality. 

Sustainability should be at the forefront of all economic activities, by prioritising sustainable natural resource management, climate-smart agricultural approaches and development of inclusive market systems to strengthen sustainable agricultural production and market access.

All this can be achieved through awareness, training and development campaigns centred on mitigating the impact of climate change.

Supporting children’s participation

The most vocal age groups advocating for climate change are the millennials and GenZ. The future we are building is for our children, thus it is important to create spaces allowing children’s activism for issues relating to climate change.

The role of the accountant

Although the daily duties of an accountant in relation to climate change will differ based on the accountant’s position and organisation, some of the most common tasks and responsibilities of accountants include:

Ensuring the accuracy of financial documents, as well as their compliance with relevant laws and regulations — climate related information will need to be included in the financial statements. This would be in the form of actual costs incurred, obligations related to company commitments. Climate-related costs will need to be quantified. Furthermore, climate related reporting should be met without material omissions or misstatements.

Preparing and maintaining important financial reports — financial reports will include actual costs incurred in the statement of profit or loss and other comprehensive income, any obligations raised as provisions where there is a present obligation. Disclosure will be expected for contingent liabilities not of a remote nature. On top of quantitative information, qualitative information will be expected to be disclosed on sustainability, the entity’s response to climate risks and strategic decisions relating to climate change.

Evaluating financial operations to recommend best practices, identify issues and strategise solutions, and help organisations run efficiently.

Offering guidance on cost reduction, revenue enhancement, and profit maximisation in line with addressing climate risks.

Conducting forecasting and risk analysis assessments — analysis of risk related to climate change should be considered as part of reporting.

Mhindu is a chartered accountant with a passion for teaching and have had vast experience in that regard at the Chartered Accountants Academy, as a trainee accountant and as the head of financial accounting and reporting. Enjoys, learning new things, technology and experiencing new adventures in the outdoors with mother nature.LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/hope-mhindu-ca-z-55a370a0/

 

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