Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Should Companies Report Global Warming Risk?

Businesses seem to be flocking to appear green, lessen their carbon footprint, and talk about global warming. But scant mention of it was made in most of the reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) this year. Should investors be concerned?

A group of state officials, state pension fund managers, investors, and other organizations think so. They are asking the SEC to make all public companies formally address the financial risks their company could face as a result of climate change.

Supporters - led by organizations like Ceres (a network of investors and organizations working on sustainability issues) and the Calvert Group (an assets management firm) – have asked for this disclosure before, and the SEC ignored them. This time, they’re hoping for action by filing a formal petition stating public companies should reveal their total global warming emissions, provide a strategic analysis of the risks and opportunities present by global warming, assess the physical risks to their operations, and analyze any regulatory risk (such as limiting carbon dioxide emissions).

So far, the SEC hasn’t said much except that the requirement for triggering disclosure is that the impact or potential impact has to be material to a company and therefore material to investors.

The petition argues that the threat and impacts of global warming are financial risks and are material. It’s the SEC’s job to ensure investors have the information they need to make smart decisions, and because climate change will have major impacts on business, those risks need to be disclosed.

While some companies are reporting on global warming already, others find it difficult to do so. Differences in potential regulation – such as a carbon tax versus a cap-and-trade policy – means different outcomes for certain industries and difficulty in assessing the risks. One attorney who advises utilities and energy firms told the Washington Post:

"For some of our electric power clients, depending on how allowances are distributed, they lose or gain hundreds of millions of dollars. Some are winners under some schemes and vast losers under other schemes."

Green Wombat
Washington Post

Cross posted at Green Options

1 comment:

eredux said...

Check out this US Carbon Footprint Map, an interactive United States Carbon Footprint Map, illustrating Greenest States to Cities. This site has all sorts of stats on individual State & City energy consumptions, demographics and much more down to your local US City level...