Senator Wiener’s Climate Corporate Accountability Act Passes Senate

January 26, 2022

SACRAMENTO - Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco)’s Senate Bill 260, the Climate Corporate Accountability Act (CCAA), passed the Senate by a vote of 23-7. 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 Secretary of State’s office. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) will analyze this data and create a report for the Secretary of State to publish online. This legislation is the first of its kind in the country, and will create more climate transparency and accountability from major corporations.

SB 260 is co-sponsored by Carbon Accountable, Sunrise Bay Area, and the California Environmental Voters. 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.

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 experiencing 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.

“Corporate transparency and accountability are critically important when it comes to addressing our climate crisis,” said Senator Wiener. “Corporate emissions are a huge contributor to climate change, but frankly, we don’t yet know the scope of the problem. That’s why we need to act quickly and decisively to ensure corporations are reporting their emissions. This is a landmark bill, and today’s vote is a big step forward for California’s fight against climate change.”

“It’s energizing to see the Senate stand up for Californians and our future by sending big climate legislation to the Assembly,” said Mary Creasman, Chief Executive Officer, California Environmental Voters. “This vote was a gut check and it’s good to see Senate leadership act to hold big polluters accountable. One hundred corporations are responsible for 71 percent of all global industrial carbon emissions, so no serious conversation about climate action can leave out corporate disclosures and reductions. This decade is our last chance to prevent irreversible catastrophe and ensure a safe and healthy future for all Californians. Today’s vote was just the beginning, and we are grateful for Senator Weiner's vision and tenacity in this fight.”

“The California Senate sent a clear message to the world today with the passage of the California Corporate Climate Accountability Act (SB 260),” said Catherine Atkin, Esq., Director of Carbon Accountable. “California has a long history of leadership with groundbreaking environmental legislation.  It's time to give consumers, policymakers and investors the information they need to make informed choices and to catalyze needed change and innovation.   By Requiring transparency of the carbon footprint of the nation's largest corporations that reap the benefits of doing business in California, SB 260 moves us closer to that goal.”