California bill would require corporations to report and cut down carbon emissions

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Andrew Sheeler
·3 min read
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Large California corporations would be required to publicly disclose their carbon footprint and take active steps to reduce emissions, under a proposed law announced Wednesday morning.

The bill, Senate Bill 260, would apply to any business that reports more than $1 billion in gross annual revenue. It would give the California Air Resources Board power to track and enforce compliance, including instituting penalties.

The bill’s author, Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, said the proposed law is about transparency and accountability for major corporations.

“Right now we don’t even know what their carbon footprint is because they have no obligation to disclose it,” Wiener said.

Climate change poses a major threat to Californians, from rising sea levels to worsening fire seasons, the senator said.

“Sometimes with climate change, it’s easy to become like a deer in the headlights. We know it’s a problem, we know we have to take bold action, we know that things are going to get really bad for the world and California if we don’t take action,” Wiener said. “We can avoid the worst impacts of climate change if we act now and we act decisively.”

Under SB 260, major corporations would be required to disclose on an annual basis a complete inventory of their carbon emissions, including direct emissions (such as fuel combustion), secondary emissions (such as using electricity) and indirect emissions (such as the corporate supply chain and employee commutes).

Wiener’s bill would give companies until 2025 to begin setting their emission reduction targets, subject to state approval. The bill requires that companies use a third-party auditor to conduct their carbon emissions inventory.

The Democratic senator acknowledged that the bill is likely to receive opposition from some in the business community.

“I think we’re going to see some businesses supporting this bill, or at least quietly supporting it, because a lot of companies understand that climate action is good for business,” Wiener said.

The bill has some support in the Legislature, and also at least one supporter in Congress.

U.S. Rep. Katie Porter, D-Irvine, said that without corporate transparency on carbon emissions, it’s very easy for those businesses to avoid responsibility.

“This bill is a concrete way that we can show that people come before polluters,” Porter said.

Business lobbyists issued reserved statements on the bill after Wiener announced.

Leah Silverthorn, a policy advocate with the California Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement that “we are reviewing the bill and will continue conversations with the Legislature about the impact of these and other sweeping climate policy proposals that will undoubtedly cause ripple effects throughout the California economy.”

California Business Roundtable President Rob Lapsley said he’d oppose the bill, arguing that it would burden employers by raising their operating costs.

“SB 260 tries to place the blame on companies for not adopting climate-reduction strategies, but the state remains the main barrier to allowing large companies to reduce their employees’ commute times and carbon footprint. Large-scale telecommuting can be one of the most impactful and immediate ways the business community can reduce its carbon emissions, but state legislators and the governor refuse to modernize state law that would allow more employers to offer this option to their workforces,” Lapsley said in a statement.