California Climate Act: All About SB 253 & SB 261

  • 3 min. read
  • Saurabh Srivastava

Climate activists have been asking for a systemic change, and the California Climate Accountability Package is certainly a BIG step towards a green future for the planet!

The California Climate Accountability Package comprises two bills – Senate Bill 253 (SB 253) and Senate Bill 261 (SB 261), signed into law by the Governor of California in October 2023. The first of the two bills, SB 253, will require most of the world’s largest companies (with an annual revenue of $1bn or more) to report all of the Greenhouse Gases that they emit. Previous federal rules required these companies to only report part of their emissions – the ones from the companies’ direct operations, also known as Scope 1 Emissions.

Source: California Environmental Voters

With SB 253, companies will also be required to report Scope 2 and 3 Emissions i.e. indirect emissions from their electricity consumption and from their upstream & downstream activities, respectively. Scope 2 and 3 combined constitute about 90% of any company’s total emissions – which mostly went unreported earlier! This law will help bring more transparency and environmental consciousness to businesses.

Source: California Environmental Voters

SB 261, on the other hand, asks companies (with annual revenue of $500mn or more) to report possible financial risks they may face due to climate change. This will help businesses identify, evaluate, and address climate-related problems. It also better informs investors, employees, and other associates about the climate-resilience of the company.

Check out the table below for a quick overview of both the bills:

 SB 253SB 261
Official NameClimate Corporate Data Accountability ActClimate Related Risk Disclosure Act
Corporations ImpactedPublic and private companies doing business in California with annual revenue in excess of $1 billion – 5,300 US and International companies.Companies (excluding insurance companies) with an annual turnover in excess of $500 million – More than 10,000 corporations.
Emissions ScopeScope 1, 2 and 3.Not applicable directly but any financial impact will likely span all three.
Filing FrequencyAnnual.Bi-Annual.
Filing To Publish the reports publicly – on own website or any other.
Filing FeeTBD (Expected to be between $1,000-1,500) – Annual.TBD – Bi-annual.
Effective DateBeginning of 2026 for Scope 1 and 2, Beginning of 2027 for Scope 3.2026.
Independent Verification & Assurance NeededYes. Limited assurance for Scope 1 and 2 from the onset and reasonable assurance by 2030. Limited assurance for Scope 3 starting 2030.Yes.
Administrative PenaltiesNot to exceed $500,000 per reporting year.Not to exceed $50,000 per reporting year.
Implementing AgencyCalifornia Air Review Board (CARB). An “Emissions Reporting Organisation” to be commissioned by January 1 2025, to develop a digital platform for public disclosure.California Air Review Board (CARB). A “Climate Reporting Organisation” will be commissioned to prepare a biennial public report summarising reports published by reporting corporations.

These climate laws are excellent – they will increase consumer transparency and encourage companies to compete in environmental friendliness. Given that California is one of the biggest economies globally, this change could influence companies worldwide.

Businesses in California already have a hard deadline to file reports starting January 2026. And while the laws only apply to big corporations, corporations may ask smaller businesses in their upstream and downstream chains to submit their emission data without which the big corporation would be out of compliance.

Even if businesses are not directly affected by climate accountability laws at present, they will likely become the norm soon. Publicly demonstrating this commitment can make businesses appear more personable. It shows that a business cares not only for its own interests but also for the well-being of people and the planet.

While all these developments are great, it may be another big task on the list of important to-dos for companies big and small.

But with Sprih, your work gets easier!

Our platform provides comprehensive capabilities for carbon emissions analysis (even the elusive Scope 3!), science-based target reduction setting, industry benchmarking, and peer comparison. We incorporate all key global reporting frameworks like TCFD, CDP, and GRI so you are ready to generate reports for filing.

We’re also excited to make you true environment champions by helping you identify actions that reduce and offset your environmental impact by connecting you to climate solution partners.

With Sprih, you can take the sustainability burden off your head and focus on running the business. Let us handle your climate accountability while together we strive to a greener future for our planet!

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