These Trying Times


The rising tension is palpable. We’ve gone from saying we need to take dramatic action by 2030 to the imperative to act by 2025. (An honest response is that we need to take action yesterday). One party that is not saying that we need dramatic action is the U.S. Supreme Court, which has found that the U.S. EPA does not have authority to regulate GHG emissions based on the portion of the Clean Air Act that EPA had been using as their basis for regulation.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine illustrates even more fault lines around fossil fuel dependency among EU states. That invasion is also a contributor to $6+/gallon in the U.S., exposing many to their own individual fuel dependencies. High prices drive conservation, but they also drive calls to drop the price and make more gasoline available in order to burn it more economically. And despite a plethora of good intentions, global GHG emissions have continued to go up, after some emissions relief in the first year of the pandemic.

So what is a person within a company committed to climate action to do? The SCOTUS decision makes private sector action even more paramount for at least the near-term.  Law firm Wilson Sonsini notes that decision does not help the economy, but affirms that climate innovation still has a bright outlook. Throughout 2022, failings have been pointed out in corporate net zero commitments and green claims by investors (include German prosecutors raiding Deutsche Bank for greenwashing!).

Whether or not you consider specific failings to be intentional or honest oversights, it all calls into question the level of climate progress we can expect to make. Weaving around all of this are some clear messages: maintain integrity, be honest and transparent about the challenges in pursuing bold and ambitious goals, invest in actual GHG reduction.

3,300 companies have now committed to science-based targets. Those companies need to report and demonstrate progress. Should the SEC’s proposed climate disclosure rules not fall afoul of the Supreme Court or other forces, large companies who are not yet reporting on carbon will have to follow. That disclosure does not have the force of regulation and is not guaranteed to deliver results, but it sets in motion processes that tend to lead to GHG reduction efforts.

Let’s all work to make sure reductions happen in an acceptable time frame.