Wall Street's 11th-hour push to dilute SEC climate rules is embarrassing
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As European regulators this week unveiled plans to require independent auditing of corporate climate disclosures, Wall Street is in an 11th-hour press on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to water down its own emissions disclosure proposal. Frankly, it’s embarrassing.
Some of the biggest names in finance — including BlackRock and the Nasdaq Stock Exchange — weighed in as the SEC deadline for comment passed last Friday, arguing that the new rules will add costs and more confusion to the hodgepodge of current voluntary rules, and instead pushing a practice dubbed “comply or explain.” In essence, if you don’t want to report your emissions, just explain why not.
The warnings, which were in contrast to many comments supporting the rules and urging the focus on better tools and more rigid definitions (more on these next week), particularly singled out the SEC requirement for so-called Scope 3 emissions, which is the pollution caused by a company’s supply chains or vendors. The finance giants argued they should be shelved or at least reduced to comply or explain.
Investors have had months to send in their comments and/or lobby the SEC on its new rules, which were put forward this past spring. That some big investors, who otherwise identify themselves as supportive of environmental, social and governance objectives, would wait until the last minute to propose these major changes, is akin to the time-honored practices of diplomatic intrigue used by big countries such as China and India to sabotage global climate agreements at the last minute.
With President Joe Biden’s climate agenda under attack on Capitol Hill and from the U.S. Supreme Court, the SEC rules are one of the only remaining ways the country can make any sort of progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the next two years. Let’s hope SEC Chairman Gary Gensler and his team are prepared to stick to their guns on this one.
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“The climate crisis is the No. 1 emergency. Renewables not only fight the climate crisis, they support energy security. Renewables are the peace plan of the 21st century.” — António Guterres, Secretary-General of the UN.