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Kai Ryssdal: The Securities and Exchange Commission put global warming firmly in the corporate context today. The commission voted 3-2 to force companies to disclose more information on the bottom line risks that they might face from climate change.
Sarah Gardner reports now from the Marketplace Sustainability Desk that investors have wanted more clarity on that for a long time now.
SARAH GARDNER: Before today’s vote, SEC chair Mary Schapiro made one thing clear. Quote: “We are not opining on whether the world’s climate is changing; at what pace it might be changing; or due to what causes.” Unquote. Still, Shapiro said companies must now disclose the significant risks they face from a warmer climate.
Maryland State Treasurer Nancy Kopp hailed today’s vote as a victory for institutional investors.
NANCY KOPP: We can’t be informed investors if we can’t get access to all the material information about the companies in which we invest and in a form in which we can compare company to company, and that’s the great step the SEC took today.
Now public companies must include any climate change risks in their quarterly SEC filings. That could mean estimating potential profits or losses from climate change legislation. Or disclosing other risks, like an insurer who may face more damage claims from rising sea levels.
But Duke University law professor James Cox says don’t expect much enforcement.
JAMES COX: We’ve had a history, for example, on other environmental disclosures of a lack or a failure of compliance. The SEC has beat its chest in saying, you ought to comply, you ought to comply, but very little in the way of enforcement.
But companies are feeling the pressure. State insurance regulators, for one, are ordering the biggest insurance companies to reveal how they’re estimating climate risk and what they’re doing to fight global warming.
I’m Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.
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