Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is spearheading an effort by Democratic senators to bring a bill that would require public companies to disclose more information about their exposure to climate-related risks.
The bill, called the Climate Risk Disclosure Act, would direct the SEC, in consultation with climate experts at other federal agencies, to issue rules within one year that require every public company to disclose:
• Direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions
• All fossil-fuel related assets it owns or manages
• The effect on the company’s market valuation if climate change continues at its current pace or if greenhouse gas emissions were restricted in compliance with the Paris accord goal; and
• What strategies are in place to address the physical and transition risks posed by climate change.
The bill is co-sponsored by Warren’s fellow Massachusetts Democratic Ed Markey and Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Kamala Harris of California and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. It comes more than a year after President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement, which has the goal of limiting the global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius by reducing greenhouse emissions. That goal is a crucial one as insurers have said anything higher would make the world uninsurable.
In 2013, former Vice President Al Gore wrote in a blog that investors typically overlook the risk to their portfolio of climate change and made some recommendations.
“First, identify carbon asset risks across portfolios…Second, engage corporate boards and executives on plans to mitigate and disclose carbon risks…Third, diversify investments into opportunities positioned to succeed in a low-carbon economy.”
Gore, who in 2006 starred in an Oscar-winning documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” about his campaign to educate citizens about global warming, strongly supports the measure.
“Senator Warren is demonstrating strong leadership by introducing legislation to assess the financial risks of climate change and require that they be disclosed to the public. This is a critical step toward breaking our addiction to fossil fuels and accelerating the transition to a clean energy economy,” Gore wrote in a press release issued by Warren.
The bill directs the SEC to develop disclosure requirements that are tailored to different industries and to require additional disclosure requirements for companies specifically engaged in the commercial development of fossil fuels.
Warren also received a letter of support signed by twenty-nine organizations, including The Sierra Club, Greenpeace and the Center for International Environmental Law, that strongly support the Climate Risk Disclosure Act of 2018.
“The bill is a necessary step to ensure that shareholders have the information they need to adequately mitigate financial, physical and legal climate-related risks to their investments. By ensuring that private capital can appropriately assess climate-related risks, the bill will help accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels to cleaner and more efficient energy sources and reduce the risk of financial instability,” they wrote.
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