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Britain to be among first to apply new climate disclosure rules

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 Britain will be among the first countries to apply corporate sustainability disclosure standards from a new global board to be unveiled soon, a government minister said on Tuesday.

The London-based IFRS Foundation is set to unveil a new International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) in the run up to next month’s COP26 conference on climate change in Glasgow.

Backed by leading nations, it seeks to replace a patchwork of standards on climate-related company disclosures with a single set of global rules that investors say would make it easier to compare companies from different countries.

“The government strongly supports this development and aspires to be among the first countries to adopt them for use by domestic companies,” business minister Martin Callanan told an event organised by the ICAEW, an accounting industry body.

Officials at the IFRS Foundation, which already oversees the IASB, a global accounting rules-setting body, expect the ISSB to issue its first set of disclosure standards next year.

Callanan said the business ministry is developing proposals for endorsement and adoption of ISSB disclosure standards and will consult on them next year.

He said Britain would make a “fantastic home” for the ISSB, adding that UK finance minister Rishi Sunak has said the UK would support the new body wherever it is located.

Germany, Switzerland, Japan and Canada have also offered to host the ISSB.

Separately, Britain is due to set out next month how it will shake up the UK audit market and corporate governance after a series of company collapses.

Callanan said a public consultation showed broad support for a mandatory annual “resilience statement” detailing why companies believe they can meet challenges to the business over the short, medium and long term.

The ministry has also proposed tough U.S. style accountability for directors regarding the financial information they provide to markets, but Britain’s accounting watchdog on Monday signalled this could be watered down due to compliance costs.

“With regard to larger companies, I think it’s reasonable that directors should take a little bit more responsibility for the quality of the information produced by the company for the accounts,” Callanan said, declining to elaborate ahead of the formal announcement.

 

(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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Biden says he’s concerned about Chinese hypersonic missiles

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U.S. President Joe Biden said on Wednesday he is concerned about Chinese hypersonic  missiles, days after a media report that Beijing had tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic glide weapon.

Asked by reporters as he was boarding Air Force One for a trip to Pennsylvania whether he was concerned about Chinese hypersonic missiles, Biden said, “Yes.”

The Financial Times said at the weekend that China had tested a weapon in August that flew through space and circled the globe before cruising down toward a target that it missed. China’s foreign ministry denied the report.

 

(Reporting by Nandita Bose; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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Alibaba founder Ma spotted in Mallorca in rare trip abroad after China scrutiny

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Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma was on the Spanish island of Mallorca where his luxury yacht is anchored, two Spanish newspapers said on Wednesday, on his first trip abroad since he fell out with China’s regulators in 2020.

The Chinese billionaire has largely been out of public view since he publicly criticised China’s regulatory system in a speech last year. His empire promptly came under heavy scrutiny by regulators, that even led to the suspension of Ant Group’s $37 billion blockbuster IPO.

The Diario de Mallorca newspaper said Ma was seen on Tuesday in the port of Andratx buying home decor at a local store.

The superyacht Zen  has been moving along Mallorca’s northwestern coast for the past few days and was in Andratx on Tuesday.

It dropped anchor on Wednesday near the beach town of Santa Ponsa, but a Reuters cameraman could only see smaller support boats returning to the superyacht from the shore empty, with Ma nowhere to be seen.

Without citing any sources, El Pais newspaper said Ma had been visiting Spain’s Balearic Islands since Saturday, accompanied by various Chinese business people and his security detail.

The sleek five-deck, vertical-bowed motor yacht, measuring 88 metres (289 ft), can accommodate up to 16 guests and a crew of 25, according to the Superyacht Times edition. It was built in the Netherlands and delivered in April.

Ma, a globe-trotter not known to shy away from the limelight before falling out with regulators, retired as Alibaba’s chairman in 2019.

Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba, reported on Tuesday that Ma was in Spain for a study tour on agriculture and technology related to environmental issues after spending “private time” with his family in Hong Kong.

Alibaba Group’s Hong Kong shares rose nearly 10% earlier on Wednesday, extending gains for the fourth consecutive session, with brokers saying that investors saw Ma’s trip as a sign of the central government relaxing its scrutiny over the group.

A Spanish banking industry source told Reuters Ma had visited Mallorca in his company in 2019 and that the billionaire liked to “often spend time” in the Balearic Islands.

 

(Additional reporting by Belen Carreno and Andrei Khalip; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Restricting travel over vaccine type could be discrimination, PAHO warns

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Countries should grant entry to vaccinated travelers regardless of which shot they received to prevent discrimination and facilitate business, a top official of the Pan American Health Organization(PAHO) said on Wednesday.

With vaccination rates on the rise, countries are facing fresh questions about how to contain the spread of COVID-19 while easing pandemic travel restrictions.

The United States last week said it would reopen the land border with Mexico – the busiest in the world – but only allow people who have been inoculated with vaccines authorized by the World Health Organization (WHO), leaving out two shots heavily used in Mexico – Russia’s Sputnik V and one from China’s Cansino Biologics.

“It is very important that countries can reach bilateral, multilateral agreements, so that all the vaccines that are being used can be accepted,” PAHO Assistant Director Jarbas Barbosa told a news conference.

“It can facilitate tourism, it can facilitate business, it is in the interest of society,” Barbosa said.

Turning away people based on their vaccine could unfairly impact certain travelers, he said, adding, “This could undoubtedly create a kind of discrimination.”

Millions of Mexicans have been vaccinated with Sputnik V and Cansino shots. Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he will urge the WHO to speed up approvals.

Forty-one percent of people across Latin America and the Caribbean have now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, although not evenly across the region, PAHO Director Carissa Etienne said.

The COVAX vaccine sharing program is scheduled to provide another 4.6 million shots to the region by the end of the week.

Etienne urged people to get vaccinated against both COVID-19 and influenza, noting that some people could have lower defenses against the flu from staying at home and social distancing.

 

(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot)

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