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Home » Blog » Greenhouse Gas Accounting & Reporting » California Mandates Corporate Climate Risk and GHG Emissions Reporting

California Mandates Corporate Climate Risk and GHG Emissions Reporting

California Climate Reporting

California’s groundbreaking climate risk laws, including SB 253 and SB 261, are leading the charge in environmental accountability and sustainability. These laws mandate large corporations to meticulously disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and evaluate their financial risks related to climate change. Governor Gavin Newsom’s strong advocacy for these measures underscores their importance in driving economic innovation, improving public health, and establishing California as a global leader in climate policy. Through case studies of companies like XYZ and ABC Financial Services, the effectiveness and impact of these regulations are becoming increasingly evident, showcasing the state’s commitment to combating climate change through detailed transparency and risk management.

Understanding SB 253: Climate Corporate Data Accountability Act

The Climate Corporate Data Accountability Act, also known as SB 253, represents a significant step forward in California’s efforts to combat climate change by imposing stringent data transparency requirements on corporations. Enacted to ensure that companies are held accountable for their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, SB 253 mandates that businesses disclose detailed information about their carbon footprint. This legislation is particularly focused on large corporations with annual revenues exceeding $1 billion, requiring them to report their direct (Scope 1) and indirect (Scopes 2 and 3) emissions. Scope 1 emissions pertain to direct GHG emissions from owned or controlled sources, Scope 2 covers indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating, and cooling consumed by the reporting company, while Scope 3 includes all other indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain.

SB 253 impacts roughly 5,000 companies operating in California, providing substantial data that can be used to track and manage industrial emissions more effectively. Notably, the Climate Corporate Data Accountability Act stipulates that these companies must adhere to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, an international set of standards developed to measure and manage GHG emissions. The act also requires that the disclosed data be verified by accredited third-party auditors to ensure its accuracy and reliability.

One of the unique features of SB 253 is its focus on transparency. The disclosed emissions data must be made publicly available, thus enabling investors, regulators, and consumers to make informed decisions based on a company’s environmental impact. Moreover, the act encourages companies to take proactive measures towards reducing their carbon emissions, as failure to comply with reporting requirements can lead to substantial penalties. By implementing these stringent reporting standards, California aims to not only reduce its own state-wide emissions but also set a precedent that could inspire similar regulations across the United States and internationally.

The anticipated benefits of SB 253 extend beyond environmental considerations. Companies committed to sustainability may experience improved corporate image, increased investment from environmentally conscious investors, and a competitive advantage in markets where consumers are increasingly prioritizing sustainability. According to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), consistent and accurate GHG reporting will help the state achieve its ambitious goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2045. This legislation plays a critical role in California’s comprehensive climate strategy, reflecting the state’s leadership in addressing climate change through innovative policy measures. Successful implementation of SB 253 is projected to considerably aid in reducing anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, thereby contributing to the global fight against climate change.

SB 261: Financial Risk Act explained

The Climate-Related Financial Risk Act, also known as SB 261, is another crucial component of California’s legislative framework aimed at addressing climate change. This act obligates large corporations to evaluate and publicly disclose their financial risks related to climate change. With growing awareness about the economic impacts of climate change, SB 261 aims to provide stakeholders, including investors, regulators, and policymakers, with essential information to assess a company’s vulnerability to climate-related financial risks. This disclosure fosters a better understanding of how climate change can affect financial performance and operational viability, driving corporations to integrate climate risk assessments into their business models.

SB 261 mandates that all companies with gross revenues exceeding $500 million annually must submit biennial reports detailing their climate-related financial risks. These reports should align with the guidelines set by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). The TCFD provides a standardized framework for organizations to disclose climate-related risks and opportunities in four key areas:

  1. Governance: The organization’s governance around climate-related risks and opportunities.
  2. Strategy: The actual and potential impacts of climate-related risks and opportunities on the organization’s businesses, strategy, and financial planning.
  3. Risk Management: The processes used by the organization to identify, assess, and manage climate-related risks.
  4. Metrics and Targets: The metrics and targets used to assess and manage relevant climate-related risks and opportunities.

The emphasis on transparency and standardization aims to enhance the comparability and reliability of climate-related financial information, enabling more precise risk assessments. Additionally, SB 261 encourages companies to adopt more resilient business practices by spotlighting the financial implications of climate risks, such as severe weather events, regulatory changes, and shifting market demands due to climate awareness. According to a report by the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation, climate-related risks potentially threaten over $4 trillion of assets managed by firms operating within the state.

SB 261 goes beyond mere reporting by incentivizing companies to proactively manage and mitigate their climate risks. Companies demonstrating robust climate risk management can gain preferential access to capital and insurance markets, which are increasingly factoring in environmental sustainability. Furthermore, these disclosures act as a tool for investors to pressure companies into adopting cleaner, more sustainable operations, thereby driving systemic change across industries.

The act is a testament to California’s commitment to not just reducing emissions but also preparing its economy for the imminent threats posed by climate change. By requiring detailed climate risk reporting, SB 261 aims to foster a more resilient, transparent, and sustainable business environment, capable of withstanding and adapting to the evolving challenges of climate change.

Governor Newsom’s perspective on new climate laws

Governor Gavin Newsom has been a vocal advocate for aggressive climate policies, and his perspective on the new climate laws, including SB 253 and SB 261, underscores California’s ambitious agenda to mitigate climate change. Newsom has consistently emphasized the need for comprehensive and forward-thinking strategies to address the environmental crisis. He believes that the state’s robust climate legislation not only showcases California’s leadership in environmental policy but also serves as a blueprint for other states and nations to follow. One of his central arguments is that these laws will drive innovation and create economic opportunities while significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In his public addresses, Governor Newsom has highlighted several key benefits of the new climate laws:

  • Environmental Impact: Newsom underscores that these laws are designed to significantly cut emissions and reduce the state’s carbon footprint. By mandating rigorous reporting and accountability measures, they ensure that corporations actively participate in the state’s climate goals.
  • Economic Growth: Contrary to the belief that environmental regulations stifle economic growth, Newsom argues that they can spur innovation and economic resilience. He points out that California’s green economy is among the fastest-growing sectors, providing numerous jobs in renewable energy, clean technology, and sustainable industries.
  • Public Health: By reducing pollution and encouraging cleaner practices, these laws aim to improve air quality and public health outcomes. Newsom has noted the correlation between reduced emissions and lower rates of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Global Leadership: Governor Newsom frequently highlights California’s role as a global leader in climate policy. He believes that by setting high standards and demonstrating successful implementation, the state can inspire other regions and countries to adopt similar measures.

Governor Newsom has also acknowledged the challenges associated with implementing such comprehensive laws. He recognizes the need for effective enforcement mechanisms and the importance of providing support to businesses transitioning towards more sustainable practices. To this end, he has advocated for incentives and funding to aid companies in meeting the new requirements, including tax breaks and grants for clean technology investments.

Additionally, Newsom has been candid about the importance of bipartisan support in advancing these climate initiatives. He urges collaboration across political lines to ensure that the policies not only pass but are also sustainable in the long term. Newsom’s commitment is reflected in his statements and actions, as he continues to push for policies that align economic growth with environmental stewardship, thereby securing a sustainable future for California.

Case study

Case Study 1:

Company XYZ, a global manufacturing giant, embraced California’s SB 253 with a robust commitment to transparency and sustainability. Under the requirements of SB 253, the company had to disclose its Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions. Following the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, Company XYZ adopted an AI-powered solution for precise carbon accounting. They integrated their ERP, spreadsheets, and databases into a centralized platform, which enabled the automatic verification of data accuracy. Utilizing the GHG protocol compliant system, they managed to break down their emissions across various categories accurately:

Scope Data Category Calculation Method
Scope 1 Stationary Combustion Fuel based Calculation (Fuel Qty * EF)
Scope 2 Electricity Consumption Location-based / Market-based
Scope 3 Purchased Goods and Services Spend-based Calculation

This approach ensured that the company remained compliant while providing accurate emissions data to investors and regulators. The transparency fostered stakeholder trust and reinforced the company’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint. Furthermore, the public availability of their emissions data showcased their dedication to sustainability, attracting environmentally conscious investors and enhancing their corporate image.

Case Study 2:

ABC Financial Services recognized the importance of SB 261 in managing climate-related financial risks. To comply with the requirements, they started submitting biennial reports that aligned with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) framework. ABC Financial Services addressed their climate risks across four key areas:

  1. Governance: Established a dedicated climate risk committee to oversee and manage climate risks and opportunities.
  2. Strategy: Assessed the potential impacts of climate change on their investment portfolio, integrating climate considerations into their financial planning.
  3. Risk Management: Implemented processes to identify and mitigate climate risks, including stress testing scenarios for severe weather events.
  4. Metrics and Targets: Set measurable targets to reduce carbon emissions and monitor progress through regular audits.

By focusing on these areas, ABC Financial Services not only complied with SB 261 but also positioned themselves as a forward-thinking firm committed to sustainability. The disclosures provided critical information to investors, enabling them to make informed decisions based on the company’s climate risk management strategies. According to the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation, addressing climate risks helps protect over $4 trillion in assets managed by firms like ABC Financial Services within the state.


California’s innovative climate laws, SB 253 and SB 261, exemplify a proactive approach to environmental sustainability and financial accountability. Governor Newsom’s advocacy underscores the multifaceted benefits of these regulations, from driving economic growth to enhancing public health. Case studies of companies like XYZ and ABC Financial Services reveal successful compliance strategies, emphasizing rigorous data transparency and climate risk management. These laws not only reduce emissions but also foster resilience and sustainability in the corporate sector. As other regions look to replicate California’s model, these measures set a compelling precedent for global climate action.


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