Senator Wiener’s Climate Corporate Accountability Act Passes Senate Judiciary Committee

April 28, 2021

SACRAMENTO - Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco)’s Senate Bill 260, the Climate Corporate Accountability Act (CCAA), passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 8-2. 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 to the California Air Resources Board (CARB). Once disclosed, CARB will publish a report detailing the necessary reductions a company must make to align them with warming levels at or below 1.5 degree celsius of pre-industrial levels. CARB will make recommendations for how an entity would accomplish these reductions, as well as an estimate of emissions levels in 2030 and 2045 if California’s GHG reduction and clean energy goals are met.

SB 260 is co-sponsored by Carbon Accountable, Sunrise Bay Area, and the California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV). 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 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.

CARB will manage the process, and will have one year to create a reporting structure, and companies will have one year to comply. Companies subject to SB 260 will be required to use a CARB-approved third party auditor to conduct their carbon emissions inventory

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 more incentives for companies to lower their emissions.

Currently, many of the largest corporations doing business in California are not subject to GHG reporting laws, and those who do report their emissions usually do not report their full emissions 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 of 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.

Senator Henry Stern (D-Calabasas) is a joint author of the legislation. 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), Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), Alex Lee (D-Fremont) and Mark Stone (D-Santa Cruz) are co-authoring the legislation.

“The Climate Corporate Accountability Act is a groundbreaking piece of legislation that will make corporations more accountable to the people,” said Senator Wiener. “It’s far past time for all large corporations to report the full scope of their climate emissions, and for Californians to experience full transparency from these companies. Transparency and accountability from corporations – who are some of the largest emitters of greenhouse gasses – is critical in our fight to stop the worst impacts of climate change.”

"We're thrilled to see SB 260 pass out of its second policy committee in the State Senate and we will continue to push for this first-in-the-nation corporate carbon emissions disclosure policy to become law," said Mary Creasman, Chief Executive Office, CLCV. "Corporations making $1 billion and more have the resources to reduce emissions and really fight climate crisis. SB-260 will require corporations to disclose their entire carbon footprint with the public in a manner that is both understandable and accessible. This is necessary for our future-for all our futures-and we need policy makers, company shareholders, and the public to hold the large corporations in California accountable."

“It is very exciting to see SB 260 get the support of the Senate Judiciary Committee and for their recognition that information on a company’s GHG emissions is no longer “nice to have” but critical company data that consumers, investors, and policymakers need to inform their choices and climate actions,” said Catherine Atkin, Director of Carbon Accountable and one of the bill’s co-sponsors. “SB 260 is a critical next step that will drive private sector GHG emissions reductions needed to protect California and its residents, including BIPOC communities that are disproportionately impacted by climate change.”

"We think it’s pretty simple: If you’re turning a profit here in California, we deserve to know how your business contributes to the climate crisis, and what your plan is to address it," said Andrew Klutey with Sunrise Bay Area. "We applaud the Justice Committee for supporting this visionary bill, and for taking another step towards a future when people across this state and nation can hold big polluters accountable for their contributions to the climate crisis."