SB 260: The Climate Corporate Accountability Act

For far too long, large corporations constantly dump their pollutants into the land, air and water. The constant dumping is harmful to the state’s environment and its citizens. These businesses contaminate California every step of the way: in their construction, goods production, transportation, and, of course, natural resources extraction. Seasonal wildfires and record-setting droughts of recent years demonstrate the impact of pollution on California. This crisis is affecting our most vulnerable peers. California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment projects that pollution driven climate change will impact rural populations, urban poor, agriculture workers, and elderly the most. The California Legislature must continue to take drastic steps to combat the climate crisis. In particular, companies doing business in California must be held accountable for the climate impacts of their operations. SB 260, the Climate Corporate Accountability Act by Senator Scott Wiener, brings us one step closer to a clean corporate sector.

Purpose and Strategy of SB 260

SB 260 targets publicly traded companies with at least 1 billion dollars of annual revenue. It would install several regulations if adopted. First and foremost, SB 260 would require mega-corporations to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions data. This data would be evaluated and approved by an emissions expert appointed by the State Air Resources Board. Evaluated emission numbers would be made available to the public on high-traffic digital platforms using accessible language and visuals. Citizens, as well as politicians would be able to hold corporations accountable for their pollution – this is true accountability.

Additionally, these billion dollar corporations would have to meet with the State Air Resources Board to set science-based emission goals determined by a panel of climate experts. The large corporations targeted by the bill have no excuse for not achieving the targets. Corporations will be incentivized to meet these targets as California “is a highly desired consumer market for the globe’s most profitable corporations.” Thus companies will comply because the cost of leaving California’s massive economy is too high.

SB 260’s Progression through Congress

There is also talk of the contents of SB 260 getting amended into another bill. SB 449. SB 449 would require financial institutions such as banks, insurers, and investment advisors, to publicly issue climate-related financial risk reports. In combination, these two bills would make great strides in cleaning up the money that flows through California.

Currently, policymakers rely on voluntarily reported emission numbers from big businesses to regulate them. Therefore, it is no surprise that these corporate self reports often vastly underrepresent the companies’ emissions levels. We need full transparency. As stated in the bill, “California has demonstrated its leadership in the battle against climate change and the climate actions of the state have inspired and contributed to bold actions in other states and across the globe.” If passed, this bill would serve as a national precedent for other states to follow.

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