Climate Change Reports Make Good Business Sense

By Published On: June 11, 2005

Energy businesses would be wise to heed the warnings about the impacts of global climate change given the growing clamor of investors and the likelihood that regulations will be imposed to curb carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. During a June 9 telebriefing by Law Seminars International, two speakers strongly advised companies to assess and disclose their operations? levels of greenhouse gas pollutants. ?It is no longer prudent to be absolutely silent on this,? said Jeffrey Shiles of Cravath, Swaine and Moore LLP. He warned that U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission rules require that filings include disclosure about ?known trends? that will affect a business?s bottom line. Climate change impacts and impending regulations fall into that category. Although the federal government is tone-deaf to climate change concerns, creating ?a huge amount of uncertainty,? there will be ?costs associated with emissions,? warned Dan Bakal, director of electricity power programs for Ceres, a large coalition of investors and environmental and public-interest groups. He noted that in addition to the cost of reducing emissions?as yet unknown because a price has yet to be put on carbon?adapting to climate change realities also presents business opportunities. Conducting a report to analyze how a business can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and heeding investors? concerns can open the door to ?ways to gain a competitive advantage,? Bakal said. Last week, Ceres released a report that aims to help investors analyze business risks associated with climate change. ?Financial analysts and stock-portfolio managers who are not factoring carbon costs or potential carbon costs into their assessments of companies and entire sectors are not adequately serving their clients,? stated Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres. The report is available at <i>www.incr.com</i>. In a related speech this week, California Public Utilities Commission president Mike Peevey said that concern about greenhouse gas means the state has to separate economic growth from increased energy consumption. He said that while consumer advocates may vigorously oppose it, the commission should make sure that energy efficiency reaches ?all segments of society? and that one way for that to occur is through mass installation of smart meters. He added that although nuclear power is a pariah?particularly in California?its role in providing power without greenhouse emissions should be reconsidered. Finally, his June 9 speech dismissed more coal plants?at least coal power ?as we know it??because of their impact on global warming. Some California power companies, including Pacific Gas & Electric and Calpine Energy, are ahead of the curve on greenhouse gas impacts because of their involvement in the California Climate Change Action Registry (<i>Circuit</i>, Nov. 19, 2004).

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