Van Hollen, Warren, Casten, Colleagues Reintroduce Bill Requiring Public Companies to Disclose Climate-Related Risks
The Climate Risk Disclosure Act Would Accelerate the Transition from Fossil Fuels
United States Senators Chris Van Hollen
(D-Md.) joined Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representative Sean Casten
(D-Ill.) today in introducing the Climate Risk
Disclosure Act of 2021 which would reduce the chances of
environmental and financial catastrophe by requiring public companies to
disclose more information about their exposure to climate-related risks. By
increasing market transparency, this bill will empower investors to
appropriately assess climate-related risks and accelerate the market transition
from fossil fuels to cleaner and more sustainable energy sources that mitigate
climate change. The introduction of this bill follows a
new poll from Data for Progress showing that a majority of voters in the
United States "want the government to enact and enforce mandatory
disclosure rules so Wall Street does not hide behind their investments that are
driving climate change."
The Climate Risk Disclosure Act is cosponsored by Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.). U.S. Representative Sean Casten introduced the House companion legislation, along with Representatives Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), Bill Foster (D-Ill.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), Joe Neguse (D- Colo.), and Mike Levin (D-Calif.).
Climate change is an existential threat to our planet and poses severe risks for our economy. As Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard recently stated, "Climate change is already imposing substantial economic costs and is projected to have a profound effect on the economy at home and abroad...Financial market participants that do not put in place frameworks to assess and address climate-related risks could face significant losses on climate-sensitive assets caused by environmental shifts, by a disorderly transition, or both."
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has issued guidelines suggesting that companies consider the effects of the climate crisis on company assets, but it has not mandated that public companies disclose their exposure to climate-related risks. As a result, investors lack access to basic information about the potential impact of the climate crisis on American companies, creating enormous environmental and financial risks.
The Climate Risk Disclosure Act directs the SEC, in consultation with climate experts at other federal agencies, to issue rules within two years that require every public company to disclose:
- Its direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions;
- The total amount of fossil-fuel related assets that it owns or manages;
- How its valuation would be affected if climate change continues at its current pace or if policymakers successfully restrict greenhouse gas emissions to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal; and
- Its risk management strategies related to the physical risks and transition risks posed by the climate crisis.
The bill directs the SEC to tailor these disclosure requirements to different industries and to impose additional disclosure requirements on companies engaged in the commercial development of fossil fuels. It will help the market appropriately assess the risk of climate change and push private and government actors to address the climate crisis with the seriousness that it deserves. Without costing the taxpayer a penny, this bill will help promote financial stability at home and abroad.
"The climate crisis poses an imminent threat to our environment and our economy. Investors have a right to know what steps companies are taking to address these threats and what losses they may suffer as a result of inaction. This legislation will not only provide the transparency investors deserve, but will also ultimately help incentivize corporations to step up in the fight against climate change," said Senator Van Hollen.
"It's time to wake up and fight back against giant corporations that want to pollute our environment and ask taxpayers to clean up the mess," said Senator Warren. "I'm glad to reintroduce the Climate Risk Disclosure Act to give investors, and the American public, the power to hold corporations accountable for their role in the climate crisis."
Rep. Casten said "Climate change poses a grave and imminent threat to the stability of our financial system and its ability to sustain our economy. Senator Warren and I introduced the Climate Risk Disclosure Act requiring publicly traded companies to disclose their climate related risks to provide investors with unambiguous disclosures to accurately convey their exposure to this massive and rapidly growing risk. The right time to safeguard our financial system against climate change was a decade ago, but our last chance is now."
"Coloradans and Americans see the threats climate change poses to every sector of our economy," said Senator Michael Bennet. "Shareholders and the public deserve to know the full picture of a company's exposure to climate-related risks, as well as the steps it is taking to reduce emissions and protect their financial stability."
"This bill will ensure corporate giants play their part in fighting climate change. The climate crisis is here, and publicly traded companies should analyze its risks to their companies and the economy, and make that information public. The Climate Risk Disclosure Act would require them to do just that, helping spur investments in clean energy and avoid a financial crisis," said Senator Blumenthal.
"Climate change is one of the greatest threats we face. Rising seas, more intense weather, and warming temperatures will continue to have increasing and significant impacts on our country's infrastructure and economy. Equipping investors with a better understanding of the climate-related risks facing America's public companies will enable smarter and safer investment decisions, provide greater long-term stability to the American economy, and help our nation fight climate change," said Senator Booker.
"We continue to experience the harmful effects of climate change, including more frequent and dangerous wildfires, droughts, floods and hurricanes. That is why the risks that climate change poses to companies must be made clear to the public and shareholders. They need to be able to factor the potential consequences of climate change into their financial decision-making," said Senator Feinstein
"Climate change poses severe threats not just to our environmental health, but also to the long term strength of our economy. For decades, big companies have polluted our environment with little transparency with the public and it's time they disclose the climate-related risks that burden consumers and hurt workers," said Senator Gillibrand. "I'm proud to join Senator Warren in this fight to address the climate crisis and hold corporations accountable for their climate risks."
"From farms underwater in the heartland to raging wildfires out west to shipping delays on our waterway infrastructure, we're seeing the consequences of climate change in communities across the country," said Senator Klobuchar. "This legislation will ensure that public companies are adequately assessing climate-related risks to our economy and sharing that information with the public. We cannot close our eyes to the climate change that is already happening around us. We must act."
"We can protect our economic stability and protect the planet at the same time. The climate crisis is an immediate and ongoing threat to our economy, businesses, and communities-and everyone needs to know the risks it poses. Our goal is 100 percent clean, renewable, zero-emissions energy sources, and disclosures in our financial system need to reflect the future of that energy system," said Senator Markey.
"We're already feeling the impacts of climate chaos all around us-from lives lost, displaced communities, and billions of dollars in damages from wildfires, devastating and more powerful hurricanes, and droughts," said Senator Merkley. "Investments in fossil fuels continue to fan the flames of this crisis, while also putting investors' money at grave risk-sometimes without them even knowing. It's time for transparency and open communication about those risks, so Americans can make a truly informed choice about where their money is going."
"Publicly traded companies have an obligation to their shareholders to disclose all material risk, and climate change is no longer a theoretical problem to be contended with some time in the future. It is here, and it is costing companies money. That cost must be analyzed and disclosed," said Senator Schatz.
"Climate change represents an existential threat to our country, our economy and our planet," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. "That's why we must use every tool at our disposal to protect the environment and ourselves from the risks posed by climate change. I'm proud to co-sponsor the Climate Risk Disclosure Act, which will help to hold corporations accountable and combat the climate crisis by accelerating the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, making our world a safer and healthier place for generations to come."
"Climate change is a serious threat but there's great economic opportunity if we all rise to the challenge of responding to it," said Senator Smith. "This bill holds public companies accountable for their direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions, as well as for their investments in the oil and gas industries. It also aims to encourage public companies to act on climate, by requiring them to assess the risk of climate change on their valuation. This will promote financial stability and improve our climate, without spending taxpayer money."
"We are on the precipice of a climate catastrophe. Experts by the dozen warn that its leading edge will be a massive hit to our economy," said Senator Whitehouse. "Companies that ignore their exposure to climate-related risks disserve both their shareholders and the public. Accurate disclosure of those risks will help us avert wide-reaching environmental and financial disasters."
"Harms to people, communities and companies across the country are
rising due to climate impacts such as flooding, heat and other extreme weather
events. Investors and the public deserve comprehensive, consistent and
comparable disclosures about climate change risks--one of the biggest threats
to the global economy and individual corporations. The Climate Risk Disclosure
Act will increase transparency and help ensure science and data are available
to help companies better plan for a low-carbon future and provide investors
with the information needed to make smart decisions. Mandatory, standardized climate
risk disclosure allows companies and investors to plan for the future with
their eyes wide open and incentivizes ambitious climate action," said Kathy Mulvey, Accountability Campaign Director, Climate & Energy Program,
Union of Concerned Scientists.
"Investors, companies, municipalities and communities lack the information they need to act decisively on climate change risk. Without this information they are flying blind. Today's voluntary corporate disclosure approach is not meeting the urgency of the climate crisis. There's broad consensus that current disclosures are spotty and unreliable, and that the existing system is extremely inefficient for investors and companies, and the broader capital markets. We simply don't have enough information to price climate risk. That's why we support the Climate Risk Disclosure Act. This would solidify in legislation important protections for investors, companies and all stakeholders," said Steven Rothstein, Managing Director for the Ceres Accelerator for Sustainable Capital Markets, Ceres.
"The PRI welcomes the reintroduction of the Climate Risk Disclosure
Act, which directs the US Securities and Exchange Commission to issue rules
requiring companies to disclose information about their exposure to risks
caused by climate change. The Act would enable investors to better assess and
manage climate-related risks and opportunities in their portfolios. The PRI
supports mandatory climate and ESG disclosure from issuers, and The Climate
Risk Disclosure Act is an important step towards this goal," said Fiona
Reynolds, CEO, PRI.
The legislation is endorsed by
350.org, Americans for Financial Reform, Center for American Progress,
Ceres, Data for Progress, Earthjustice, EarthRights International, Evergreen
Action, National Whistleblower Center, Oxfam America, Principles for
Responsible Investment (PRI), Public Citizen, Publish What You Pay - United
States, Sierra Club, Sunrise Movement, Union of Concerned Scientists, and US
SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment.
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