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The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is seeking public comment on its recently released  exposure draft for the sector standard for coal.

The aim of the draft is to open improved public disclosure on the most significant sustainable development challenges facing companies in the coal sector.

According to GRI sector project manager Noora Puro, of all greenhouse gas emissions, 40 per cent come from the burning of coal.

“Given the sector’s wide-ranging impacts in areas such as biodiversity and human rights, in addition to climate change, the rationale for developing a new reporting standard is clear,” Puro said.

Ahead of this year’s UN Climate Change Conference, which will focus on the need for zero-net emissions, Puro said this aim would fall short without a radical decrease this decade in the share of coal in global energy generation.

“Indeed, taken together, the coal, oil, and gas sectors are the single main cause of climate change due to their production of greenhouse gas emissions,” she said.

“With the global public comment period on the Coal Sector Standard’s exposure draft open until 30 July, we need your input on its comprehensiveness and relevancy.

“We encourage all interested parties and stakeholders to complete the online questionnaire.”

Puro said the proposed standard acknowledged the challenges faced by the coal sector in balancing opposing expectations.

“On the one hand, organisations have a responsibility to mitigate and combat the effects of climate change — manifested, for example, in how they are transforming their business models to lower-carbon alternatives,” Puro said.

“At the same time, they have a remit to ensure ongoing operations are conducted responsibly. After all, in some regions, coal mining and consumption is still growing. At least 50,000 people continue to be employed in the coal sector, while hundreds of thousands of jobs are indirectly connected.”

Puro said further development would follow the public comment, with the final standard expected to launch in 2022.

“Ultimately, this process is about ensuring GRI can deliver a standard that meets global requirements and expectations for the best transparency practices in the coal sector,” she said.

“At the same time, we remain ready to help coal companies’ fulfil their responsibilities towards a just transition through acknowledging and managing their impacts on people and planet.”

GRI is an independent, international organisation that provides the world’s most widely used standards for sustainability reporting.