Jones promises ‘ambitious’ climate agenda in 2023–24 Budget

ACSI federal budget Stephen Jones climate change

4 May 2023
| By Rhea Nath |
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Speaking at the 2023 Australian Council of Superannuation Investors Annual Conference, Minister Stephen Jones said the government would prefer doing “too much too soon”, rather than “too little too late” on its sustainability agenda in the upcoming Federal Budget.

Asked about the government’s plans for sustainable finance and investment, he promised a “big” agenda that had been in the works over the last 11 months.

“I don’t think anyone could be left in doubt about ambition and momentum in the stuff we want to do,” Jones stated.

In March, the government announced it would be co-funding the initial development of an Australian Sustainable Finance Taxonomy to crack down on greenwashing in partnership with the Australian Sustainable Finance Institute (ASFI).

This included $4.3 million to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) to crack down on businesses making misleading claims about the sustainability or efficiency of their products.

“Sustainable business strategy has to start in boardrooms and in investment decisions, not in the marketing department,” Jones said.

“The funding allows ASIC to increase its existing surveillance of suspected greenwashing by listed companies, superannuation funds, and investment managers. ASIC will also be able to pursue larger and more complex matters.

“It will ensure ASIC keeps pace with overseas regulators who are concentrating on greenwashing-related enforcement. This is about ASIC enforcing existing laws, not about introducing new obligations.”

Earlier this week, Future Super became the second superannuation fund after Mercer Super to receive an infringement notice over alleged greenwashing. 

Last year, fund manager Vanguard received three infringement notices from the corporate regulator over alleged greenwashing.

Jones added that greenwashing corrodes the credibility of financial markets and that not acting in this area was not an option for the Albanese government. 

“My view is that, until we get the taxonomy right, enforcement action by ASIC will only be able to catch out the most egregious examples of greenwashing. That is not the reason to hit the amber light — we should be going after the egregious examples at the same time as we’re putting the work into taxonomy development,” Jones said.

“Investors need a common language and standards to measure what is green and sustainable. We’ve spoken before about the critical role that we see for a taxonomy that aligns with global standards but has an Australian accent. 

“Capital markets can’t work effectively unless there’s transparency and credible information. Australia can’t sit back as new rules on what is green and sustainable are being written offshore without our engagement.”

Jones also expected to release a draft of the government’s sustainable finance strategy for consultation in the second half of the year. 

“We will know the sustainable finance strategy has worked when we’re no longer talking about it. We’ll know it worked when sustainable finance is just called finance. It’s just the stuff we do,” he said.

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