Carbon Emissions Disclosure Bill Is Headed to the Governor

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The California legislature passed a bill today that would require all large corporations that do business in California to measure and publicly report their carbon emissions. S.B. 253 is a first-in-the-nation bill from Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who successfully fought off stiff opposition from companies and business groups who argued that its straightforward provisions would be too difficult or onerous for companies to fulfill.

S.B. 253 disclosure requirements also apply to supply chains, where a large portion of a company’s emissions can come from. This could be called the Anti-Greenwashing bill, as it will make it much harder for companies to feign interest in fighting climate change while emitting unknown amounts of harmful climate pollutants.

The problem of greenwashing is no joke. Corporations have gotten pretty good at saying all the right things and pretending they are reducing their emissions but basically straight out lying about it, and it hasn’t been easy to catch them at it.

The disclosures required by S.B. 253 will make that a little bit harder. It will also give the public better information about who is contributing most to climate problems, so everyone can make more informed choices when buying – and voting.

This is Senator Wiener’s second try at a corporate transparency bill along these lines. Some of the conversations on this bill and last year’s, S.B. 260, were mind-bogglingly twisted, with corporate representatives throwing every argument they could think of at it. The California Chamber of Commerce, for example, vehemently complained that the bill “sets businesses up to fail” and that they cannot be “both complete and accurate” in their emissions accounting (and therefore shouldn’t have to do any?).

This time around, a bigger and more diverse coalition publicly supported the bill, with industry leaders and corporations joining climate advocates. Senator Wiener’s office says that many companies are already disclosing their climate impacts voluntarily; S.B 523 would make sure that all of them do, including fossil fuel companies that currently pretend to care about the environment but refuse to disclose the numbers on their emissions.

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