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Directors face litigation if they ignore climate change

MUNICH: Siemens has announced plans to half its annual CO2 emissions of 2.2 million tonnes a year by 2020, and be carbon neutral by 2030.

To do this the company says it will invest €100 million over the next three years in energy management and automation systems for buildings and production processes, as well as energy-efficient drive systems for manufacturing.

As a result, Siemens expects to slash its energy costs by €20 million a year with a resultant 20 percent return on investment. "Cutting our carbon footprint is not only good corporate citizenship, it's also good business," said Joe Kaeser, president and CEO of Siemens AG.

Siemens 1Jan Rabe, Siemens' Sustainability director added: "We have reached a point of no return. So there will be decarbonization. It's now more a matter of doing it right and making it a profitable business case for everyone."

Alice Garton, from London-based activist lawyers ClientEarth, said recent comments by Bank of England governor Mark Carney that climate change is an immediate, material business risk should sound warning bells for anyone working in the financial sector.

Acknowledging the recent change in policy by the U.S. Department of Justice she said: "The case for litigation brought against those ignoring climate change risk grows ever stronger. If directors fail to manage the risks and opportunities presented by climate change, they could be found personally liable for losses incurred by the company in the future.

"Investors such as pension fund trustees and their advisors also have legal duties to manage the risks affecting their portfolios. ClientEarth is examining these duties and we may bring legal challenges if we find that funds are failing to meet their obligations," she added.

James Thornton, CEO of ClientEarth noted: "Figures from the Pope to the governor of the Bank of England have warned of the dangers of climate change in the past few months. Shell has made the decision to stop drilling in the arctic. The divestment movement has grown hugely. Coal has finally become a dirty word.

"All of these positive developments mean the pressure on policy-makers in Paris in December will be greater than ever. They know the determination of individuals and groups across the world to bring about a low carbon future is growing. And that is the greatest reason for hope," he declared.

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