By Kalpana Narlikar
The Climate Corporate Accountability Act (SB 260) was introduced on Wednesday, January 27, 2021, by California state Sen. Scott Wiener and co-sponsors Carbon Accountable, the California League of Conservation Voters, and Sunrise Bay Area. I spoke on behalf of Sunrise Bay Area at the press conference. It has been a year since I joined Sunrise and now, as a freshman in highschool, my drive for climate justice has shifted to enabling legislative climate action. I’m excited about this bill because it will help get corporations fully involved in protecting the future of our planet.
SB 260 would require all United States-based corporations doing business in California that make more than $1 billion a year in total revenue to measure and publicly disclose all of their carbon emissions. The covered corporations would also have to develop and report emissions reduction plans to meet science-based targets (SBT) set by the California Air and Resources Board (CARB).
I have learned about the impact this bill will have on corporations by speaking with multiple people who have been working with corporations to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Over the past twenty years there has been a progressive institutionalization of transparency in corporate emissions reporting. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) established global standards and infrastructure for corporate GHG emissions reporting. Over the last ten years the Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) movement among investors drove greater adoption of GHG reporting. The SBTs set by CARB under SB 260 will require corporations to create emissions reduction plans in line with the most bold goal laid out in the Paris Agreement, which is to limit the average global warming to 1.5º C by the end of the century compared to pre-industrial levels.
The Biden Administration is also ready to enable the United States to uphold its end of the Paris Agreement. On April 22, the 51st anniversary of Earth Day, the Biden Administration is set to put forth a national emissions reduction target that aims to cut our GHG emissions by 50% compared to 2005 levels. This will support Biden’s goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. SB 260 and the soon-to-be-announced national emissions reduction plan mark the return of the United States to aggressive climate action, after a four-year absence.
While many corporations have been monitoring and reducing their carbon footprints for anywhere from less than a year to more than twenty years, SB 260 will standardize these efforts to all covered corporations. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 successfully incentivized corporations to shift from using fossil fuels to renewable energy sources by providing loan guarantees for those that find or use technologies that do not release GHGs. The sustainability movement of the 90s, provided corporations with the expertise to become energy efficient and reduce their GHG emissions.
SB 260 is not introducing untested demands on industry, and many corporations are ready for it. Corporations in different industries have been making sustainability reports and carrying out emissions reduction plans without getting hurt by the cost. In fact, renewable energy is becoming cheaper than fossil fuels. Several corporations already have sustainability officers and teams in charge of measuring the majority of their emissions. Furthermore, new technologies have been developed to measure the more hard-to-track emissions. The future workforce and consumers coming from my generation will prefer to work for and support businesses who do their part in mitigating the climate crisis.
The Climate Corporate Accountability Act brings all covered corporations into the regime of transparency of GHG emissions disclosure, including those who have been lagging behind. This is the right law for our planet’s citizens, and is coming at the right time for corporations.
Kalpana Narlikar is in 9th grade at Proof School in San Francisco.