Legislation & Compliance
Over the last several years, climate change and carbon management has become an intense area of debate among members of the U.S. Congress. Even though the pace has slowed during the economic crisis, over 125 bills, resolutions, and amendments were introduced specifically addressing climate change and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

According to the Baker Institute for Public Policy, the increase in the number of bills reflect a growing concern in the United States about the potential environmental consequences of global warming and growing public sentiment that a credible approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions needs to be developed; one that allows for a gradual transition to new, lower carbon technologies while simultaneously protecting the U.S. economy.

Many states have adopted their own GHG policies in the absence of federal legislation, such as California and New York. Additionally, a number of states have formed multi-state coalitions that have pledged to take joint action to reduce emissions. Three state coalitions including the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord, established goals including developing a market-based emissions trading system, producing 30 percent of electricity from renewables by 2030, and requiring carbon-capture standards on coal-fired plants by 2020.

Regulations currently in effect include the Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Rule (74 FR 5620, or informally 40 CFR Part 98) which requires reporting of greenhouse gas (GHG) data and other relevant information from large sources and suppliers in the United States. Facilities that emit 25,000 metric tons or more per year of GHGs are required to submit annual reports to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The rule covers over 70% of U.S. climate pollution. (For comparison, average U.S. households emit approximately 10 metric tons of GHG per year.)

According to a detailed plan released by the WCI, plans to mandate carbon accounting for its cap-and-trade pact, is planned to begin in early 2012. Meanwhile in California, the 15th largest emitter of GHG worldwide representing nearly 2% of all emissions, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has established pending regulations for a state-only carbon trading market to meet the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32) of emissions caps at 1990 levels by 2020. The state’s largest polluters began reporting emissions in 2009 because of the law.

California has taken other significant steps to legislate reductions in GHG emissions. Governor Schwarzenegger signed Executive Order S-14-08, later codified by Governor Brown, requiring that “retail sellers of electricity shall serve 33 percent of their load with renewable energy by 2020." Brown noted that "This bill will bring many important benefits to California, including stimulating investment in green technologies in the state, creating tens of thousands of new jobs, improving local air quality, promoting energy independence, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

California also adopted the first statewide mandatory green building code in the country that will have a significant impact on the state’s construction professionals. The California Green Building Standards Code, or CALGreen, went into effect in 2011, and established minimum green building standards for most projects.

As mandatory reporting standards loom, a boom in voluntary reporting has taken place. As of last year, more than one-half of all U.S. Fortune 500 firms revealed their emissions through the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), a London-based global climate change reporting system. Across North America, more than 400 firms report to The Climate Registry (TCR), a nonprofit collaboration based in California that runs a central repository for reporting GHG emissions.

In addition to current regulations, other actions are driving more business reporting, including:

  • The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) says it plans to require U.S. corporations to assess and reveal the effects of climate change on their financial health.
  • Government contractors may soon be required to track GHG output or lose contracts under a General Services Administration plan
  • Google added carbon disclosure ratings from the CDP to the Key Stats and Metrics section of its Finance search results

Visit the sites below to learn more about voluntary and mandatory reporting requirements and programs, and find out more about how GreenTraks Solutions can satisfy reporting requirements for your organization.

Mandatory Reporting

Voluntary Report
Emissions Programs

“As emissions reporting evolves and companies are able to increase sophistication for reporting, they are realizing that spreadsheet calculation … is not sufficient and can lead to errors,”
- Eric Israel, Head of KPMG’s U.S. Climate Change and Sustainability Services