Chairman Jay Clayton provided his own view of climate disclosure criteria, and two other commission members also provided insight at the end of last month. This indicates that climate disclosure issues are top of mind for members and staff at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The chair indicated that he would continue to rely on the principles that have guided SEC disclosures for decades. For environmental and climate-related issues, the guiding principle of materiality remains the foremost indicator of a disclosure obligation. Climate is one of several issues that the chair notes as “evolving.”
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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo just signed into law an ambitious statewide climate change agenda – the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). The CLCPA focuses on greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction through adoption of renewable energy and energy sector mandates for GHG reductions, although the legislation leaves open the exploration of other means of GHG reduction and the expansion to economy-wide regulation. The legislation also focuses on adaptation mechanisms, including hardening infrastructure to withstand disasters. Commercially, the CLCPA goals present massive investment opportunities to help fund and develop this transformation. But investors are looking for incentives, and it remains unclear how future regulations will encourage future investments, rather than mandate them.
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Integrating green remediation and sustainable practices can accelerate site cleanups, reduce costs, lower emissions of greenhouse gases, and contribute to meeting state and local renewable energy standards. Commonly used technologies like pump and treat systems may be effective but are energy intensive and expensive to maintain.
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Earlier this month, the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance issued a no-action letter saying that ExxonMobil could exclude a shareholder proposal that called for the disclosure of specific greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets – specifically, targets that correspond with goals outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement.
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The latest development in climate change litigation came out of last week’s Eastern District of Pennsylvania dismissal – spurring more speculation that these issues will eventually be appealed to and decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. This is one of several novel cases around the country attempting to hold the federal government responsible for climate change.

The decision comes on the heels of a similar, closely watched, and highly publicized suit filed by 21 minors – Juliana v. U.S. – in which  an Oregon federal judge denied a comparable motion to dismiss, but granted interlocutory appeal, opening the door for it to be presented to the Ninth Circuit.
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