18 October 2022

Future of failed California climate disclosure law

Catie Stewart, communications director for California's State Senator Scott Wiener, talks plans to reintroduce the California Corporate Accountability Act. Interview by Sam Groves.

SB 260 California Corporate Accountability Act

  • Sponsored by Senator Scott Wiener
  • Would require reporting entities to disclose Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions to a non-profit 'emissions registry'.
  • Reporting entities would be businesses with over $1bn in annual revenue that do business in California
  • The Bill was voted down as it failed to get a majority in the California State Assembly (37 votes in favour, 25 votes against, 18 abstained) in August.

Scott Wiener said it was "very likely" that the bill would be reintroduced next year. Would there be a change of approach if it was to be reintroduced?

I don't think so because we were really, really close, we were one or two votes short. Governor Gavin Newsom had pushed through some big and important climate bills at the last minute and so a lot of members were just really exhausted.

We think the bill is pretty viable so we're not going to change the strategy dramatically by any means. We think we've got to a really solid place, we've worked with a lot of stakeholders to refine Scope 3 and we're feeling good about that.

Is there a timeline for when you plan to reintroduce the bill?

We are looking to reintroduce it either this December or next January.

Corporate lobby groups criticised the bill for being too burdensome for SMEs. What is your response to these criticisms?

They're not going to want to report their carbon emissions. I'm not surprised, it's going to show how much they are polluting. If I was a corporation who was like, 'I'm so green, look at all these things I'm doing', would I want to report on these things? No of course not.

So we weren't surprised and they were throwing a lot of different things out there that we just thought were nonsense arguments of how it's going to hurt SMEs. People are scared or transparency

Is there much scope for compromise with corporate lobby groups on climate disclosure laws?

There are corporations that are supporting or supported SB 260 and it wasn't a full suite of opposition. There were corporations who are genuinely committed to offsetting carbon emissions and being sustainable.

The opposition to our bill was definitely there but our bill wasn't public enemy number one. It's a pretty hard thing to say that it's not good, it's hard to argue against.

An alliance of climate NGOs in California played a big role in campaigning for the bill, will they continue to play an important campaigning role when it is reintroduced?

Absolutely, yes. Those groups are our lifeline on this kind of thing. They're the ones on the ground doing the organising work to get this done and who have a lot of really amazing expertise that we make use of.

How would the Bill align with the US SEC's proposed climate disclosure rule?

We introduced our bill two years ago and since then the SEC has introduced their proposal. We think it's great and we need this at every level of government. We think our bill is really strong, provides a really comprehensive set of rules that will hopefully complement the SEC.

How would a California disclosure law align with the proposed international reporting standards from the IFRS?

We all want to complement each other. California is the fifth largest economy in the world and every major corporation in America, and honestly the world, does its business in California so we want our standards to hold up on an international level and complement the work that's happening.

We want to show that America can be a positive for the climate and the fight against climate change. Given that our country is not always trying to do this, we're trying to do it in California.