Tue, 26 Mar 2024
Demystifying the Impact Significance of Omitting Scope 3 Emissions in US SEC Rules

On March 7, 2024 the US SEC voted and announced the details of its climate disclosure rules mandatory for US companies. Following a series of previous verbal indications by the SEC leadership Gary Gensler, it came to no surprise to us, that Scope 3 GHG emissions were not considered mandatory for any US companies, with the exception of large public US companies that have either deemed Scope 3 emissions material or have clear reduction targets for Scope 3 in place. The rules faced polarized criticism in the US, on one hand by the political movement that is actively against the climate disclosure rules to be imposed on US companies at all, and the pro-climate activist organizations on the other hand, which expected the SEC to be better aligned with the stricter disclosure requirements employed in the rest of the World. The truth is that, with California's SB-260 coming closer to approval and the already mandatory EU CSRD & SFDR disclosure regulations, the share of US institutions whose business operations are material to curb down global emission levels are affected & will comply with the disclosure & GHG emission reduction regulations, including Scope 3. 

In summary, California's SB-260, known as the Climate Corporate Accountability Act, currently progressing towards enactment, having been passed by the California Assembly Appropriations Committee with an 11-4 vote on August 1, applied to all US partnerships, corporations, LLCs, and other business entities generating over $1 billion in annual revenue that operate in California. Overall this law, which will be impacting approximately 5,200 entities, mandates their disclosure of Scopes 1, 2, and 3 GHG emissions following the GHG Protocol and ensuring that disclosures are transparent and accessible to citizens of California. The law additionally requires  verifications must be done by approved auditors or through the emissions registry, under the California Air Resources Board's guidelines. Implementation regulations start in 2024, with first reports released in early 2025 and inability to comply is followed by civil actions for violations and financial penalties. 

The mandatory disclosure requirements are even stricter in the EU under the two main pillars of the EU Action Plan, namely the EU taxonomy & CSRD/SFDR for non-financial and financial institutions respectively. EU regulatory has made CSRD mandatory for all European public companies excluding micro institutions only, as well as all large private EU-based institutions and all non-EU institutions with an EU presence and a net turnover of 150 million euros in the EU. The rules are affecting close to 50,000 EU based companies and over 10,000 non-EU companies, including more than 3000 US institutions operating in the EU, all of which will be required to track, assess and report on all Scope 1, 2 and 3 GHG emissions. 

In summary, the SEC's Climate Disclosure rules seem to represent a strategic balancing act between the two sides of the political discourse. Acknowledging the degree of their true impact and significance, SEC’s seems strict to its fundamental mission, which is to first and foremost enhance transparency and act in the best interest of US investors. 

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