Close Menu Icon
Net Zero Hub
Circular Economy Hub

How to navigate the SEC’s New Emissions Rule: A Guide for Investors and Companies

March 12, 2024

In a significant development for corporate transparency and climate risk assessment, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently passed a new rule mandating emissions disclosure for publicly traded companies. This rule, while aiming to provide investors with critical information regarding greenhouse gas emissions and climate-related risks, has sparked debates and controversies within the financial and regulatory spheres.



CSE was proudly a supporter of SEC’s consultation process that took place in 2021 and continues to include updates on the upcoming legislation and important sustainability (ESG) developments in its Sustainability ESG Practitioner Programs where almost 90% of ESG Managers of Fortune 500 firms has been already certified.

Let’s delve into the intricacies of this rule, its key provisions, and the ensuing implications and controversies.

The Rule’s Mandates: The SEC’s new rule requires publicly traded companies to disclose their direct greenhouse gas emissions if deemed “material” to investors. Additionally, companies are obligated to disclose how climate change could adversely impact their financial condition, citing examples such as floods, storms, or droughts. Originally, the SEC proposed the disclosure of Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions, but the final rule omitted the requirement for Scope 3 emissions, citing complexity and compliance costs.

Controversies Surrounding Scope 3: The exclusion of Scope 3 emissions from the final rule has drawn criticism and raised concerns about transparency and greenwashing. Scope 3 emissions, which encompass indirect emissions along a company’s value chain, are often deemed the most challenging to calculate and verify. Critics argue that without this requirement, companies may selectively disclose information, potentially misrepresenting their true climate impact. Former SEC commissioner Allison Herren Lee highlighted the risk of greenwashing, cautioning against vague and unsubstantiated disclosures that could mislead investors.

Key Provisions and Compliance Requirements: Despite the omission of Scope 3 emissions, the SEC’s rule introduces several significant provisions:

  1. Accelerated filers, defined as companies with publicly traded shares worth $75 million or more, are mandated to disclose Scope 1 and 2 emissions.
  2. Companies must disclose costs incurred from severe weather events and natural disasters on their financial statements.
  3. Disclosure of actual and potential material impacts of climate-related risks on a company’s strategy, business model, and outlook is required.

Implications for Companies and Investors: For companies, compliance with the new rule necessitates a thorough understanding of disclosure requirements and potential implications for financial reporting. Beyond regulatory compliance, companies face increasing pressure to address climate-related risks and demonstrate environmental stewardship to investors and stakeholders.

For investors, the rule offers greater transparency into companies’ environmental performance and resilience to climate risks. However, the omission of Scope 3 emissions raises concerns about the comprehensiveness and accuracy of disclosed information, potentially undermining investors’ ability to assess a company’s true climate impact.

Controversies and Legal Challenges: The SEC’s new rule has already faced legal challenges, with ten Republican-led states suing to halt its implementation. Critics argue that the rule imposes burdensome data-gathering requirements that go beyond traditional financial reporting, potentially overwhelming companies. The omission of Scope 3 emissions may bolster the rule’s legal defenses, but concerns persist regarding its effectiveness in addressing climate risks and preventing greenwashing.

The SEC’s new emissions disclosure rule represents a significant step towards integrating climate considerations into financial markets. For those required to disclose Scope 1 and/or Scope 2 emissions, an assurance report at the limited assurance level, which, for an LAF, following an additional transition period, will be at the reasonable assurance level. However, controversies surrounding Scope 3 emissions and legal challenges underscore the complexities and challenges of implementing effective climate disclosure regulations. Moving forward, regulatory agencies, companies, and investors must collaborate to enhance transparency, mitigate climate risks, and promote sustainable investment practices for a resilient and low-carbon future.

CSE’s Certified Sustainability (ESG) Practitioner Program on May 9-10 & 13, 2024 will focus on the most important issues of ESG and disclosures in USA. Take this opportunity to upscale your knowledge along with other Business leaders and C-suite executives in corporate responsibility, sustainability, ESG, marketing and investors’ relations.

Reach us at [email protected] for super early bird and group discounts!

Organizations that trust us