The Climate Corporate Accountability Act

SB 260 — the first bill of its kind in the nation — mandates all companies with over $1 billion in gross annual revenue disclose and set up targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Sacramento — Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced Senate Bill 260, the Climate Corporate Accountability Act (CCAA). SB 260 would be the first law in the country to require U.S.-based companies — those doing business in California and generating over $1 billion in gross annual revenue — to disclose all of their greenhouse gas emissions and set science-based targets to reduce those emissions. SB 260 is co-sponsored by Carbon Accountable, Sunrise Bay Area, and the California League of Conservation Voters. This legislation will hold corporations accountable for their emissions, significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the near- and long-term, and help California stay a national leader in the fight against climate change.

Under the Climate Corporate Accountability Act, companies will make annual public disclosures with a complete carbon emissions inventory encompassing three scopes: first, the corporations’ direct emissions, including fuel combustion; second, their emissions from purchasing and using electricity; and third, indirect emissions stemming from a number of sources, mainly a corporation’s supply chain. This will be the broadest and most comprehensive set of emissions reporting requirements in place for large corporations. The bill will impact the vast majority of the country’s largest corporations, who almost all conduct business in California. Currently, corporations can voluntarily disclose their emissions, but few do.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) will manage this process. CARB will have one year to create a reporting structure, and companies will have one year to comply. SB 260 also gives companies until 2025 to begin setting their emissions reduction targets — this process will also be overseen by CARB. Companies subject to SB 260 will be required to use a CARB-approved third party auditor to conduct their carbon emissions inventory, as well as to determine their emissions reduction targets.

Climate change is an existential threat to our planet. With wildfires in California getting worse every year and sea levels rising, the people of California are already feeling serious impacts of climate change. We must act quickly and boldly to change course. Even in California, we have not made nearly as much progress on reducing carbon emissions as needed to reverse the impacts of climate change. SB 260 will help drastically reduce corporate pollution by providing an accurate representation of corporate emission data and thus creating strong market incentives for companies to lower their emissions.

Currently, many of the largest corporations doing business in California are not subject to carbon reporting laws, and those who do report their emissions usually do not report their full carbon footprint. Corporations who do currently report their emissions — in order to appear as though they have a smaller carbon footprint — may only report on some their activities, leaving out critical aspects of their supply chain and operations. The lack of transparency from corporate polluters makes it more difficult to regulate emissions and set appropriate reduction targets.

The people of California have a right to know how much corporations are polluting, and how their activities may be irreparably damaging our planet. Additionally, this information can help consumers make informed decisions about the impact of their choices when purchasing, patronizing and making investments in corporations.

Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) and Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) are principal co-authors. Senator Dave Min (D-Costa Mesa), Assemblymembers David Chiu (D-San Francisco), Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), Robert Rivas (D-Hollister), Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles), and Mark Stone (D-Santa Cruz).

“We’re in a climate emergency and have no time to lose to spare our planet the worst impacts of climate change,” said Senator Scott Wiener. “We no longer have the luxury of half measures. We must be bold, and do everything in our power to save the planet. If we don’t, many millions of people in California and around the world will suffer. Ensuring corporations are transparent about and accountable for their carbon emissions is a critical and effective strategy to fight climate change. If you want to do business in California, the public has a right to know what your carbon footprint is. We’re not asking for anything radical — we’re asking for large corporations to be honest about their carbon footprint and set science-based goals to reduce their emissions. The time to act is now.”

“As a consumer protection attorney, I’ve seen firsthand how information and power go hand in hand in our economy,” said Congresswoman Katie Porter (D-Orange County). “Corporations spend billions to conceal environmental abuses from the public. Our state has already borne witness to the damage climate change is causing, and it’s clear we need to take bold action — including requiring corporations to disclose their emissions — to save lives and livelihoods. Senator Wiener’s bill would contribute to healthier capitalism and help address the climate crisis.”

“Certainly, we can all agree that those most benefiting from our state’s economic infrastructure and contributing the most to climate change should be the most accountable for our pollution,” said Assemblymember Cristina Garcia. “The least they should do is to come up with a plan to ensure that their prosperity does not continue to increase our planet’s carbon footprint while at the same time pollute the air and further impact the vulnerable neighborhoods of the same working families that in so many cases assist in their profitability, but very rarely enjoy the any of the real economic benefits.”

“While we work together to recover from this pandemic, we cannot allow ourselves to slide back into business-as-usual,” said Assemblymember Ash Kalra. “Let us not forget; we are still in a climate crisis. That’s why we need to pass the Climate Corporate Accountability Act to send a powerful signal to global markets that unfettered corporate pollution will not be tolerated in California.”

“If California wants to truly lead the world in the fight against climate change and for basic human rights and dignity, we must first recognize the full scope of our environmental impacts,” said Assemblymember Robert Rivas. “We can’t build a green paradise here in California on the backs of less-developed countries. I’m proud to coauthor the Climate Corporate Accountability Act, which will place California at the forefront of global climate policy once again and will apply our core principles of fairness, equity, and environmental justice to all the products and services we use.”

“Our country may have rejoined the global Paris Agreement, but our state has never before taken the step of documenting the carbon footprint of greenhouse gas emitters — for the purposes of accountability and transparency — until now,” said Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo. “We face nothing less than potentially catastrophic global warming and altered weather patterns. Climate change requires actions taken with all deliberate speed. Renewability, sustainability, and carbon neutrality require data on climate-risk, disclosed in real-time, and acted on with urgency,”

“We all must pitch in to address the climate crisis,” said Assemblymember Phil Ting. “If we are asking citizens to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, corporations must also be part of the solution. Publicly available data on a company’s carbon footprint is another valuable tool for consumers looking to spend their money with businesses that take global warming seriously. I hope once we implement this in California, others will follow.”

“We cannot wait to take bold steps to address our climate crisis,” said Assemblymember David Chiu. “If we are serious about saving our planet, we have to make sure the largest actors in our economy are part of the effort to reduce carbon emissions. I look forward to working with Senator Wiener to pass this bill.”

“It’s past time that the nation’s most profitable and powerful corporations publicly disclose their entire carbon footprints and set science-based emissions reduction targets. This will lay the foundation for the scale and pace of reductions needed to save our planet”, said Michael Schmitz, Director, Carbon Accountable. “SB260 is a game-changer that will allow us to build a movement for carbon accountability that will benefit our state, the nation and the world.”

“Just 100 energy companies are responsible for 71% of global industrial carbon emissions,” said Mary Creasman, CEO of California League of Conservation Voters. “You don’t improve what you don’t measure, and if we are serious about leading on climate action California needs to mandate transparency and accountability for big corporations doing business here. For too long, major corporations have profited off of unregulated growth that has grossly exacerbated our current climate, economic, and public health crises. CLCV is proud to sponsor SB 260, because protecting our collective future means taking this critical step.”

“The apocalyptic state of the climate crisis is the result of a culture of a lack of accountability for corporations and people who pollute our air, poison our water, and destabilize our atmosphere,” said Kalpana Narlikar, Sunrise Bay Area member and San Francisco-based ninth grader. SB 260 is a critical tool for replacing opacity with transparency, and negligence with accountability.”

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