Climate change legislation and cap-and-trade proposals have created significant concerns with respect to potential risks that companies are facing. We can call these “Carbon Liabilities.” What many leading-edge companies are beginning to discover is the potential for opportunities in a cap-and-trade environment. We can call these “Carbon Assets.” For companies with greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions, identifying and evaluating Carbon Liabilities and Carbon Assets is a critical step in preparing for future climate change legislation.
Federal law as soon as next year will require companies to measure and report their greenhouse gas emissions to EPA. The House has passed a climate change bill, and the Senate will be considering and voting on a climate change bill as early as this fall. If it passes, emitters of greenhouse gases depending on the industry they are in may be required to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Almost half the state have adopted or are working on adopting climate change legislation in their own states.
In a cap-and-trade program, companies may purchase GHG or “carbon” permits, sometimes called allowances or offsets to meet their regulatory requirements in lieu of reducing their emissions. In addition, under a cap-and-trade system, at the end of each year, either carbon allowances or offsets must be turned in for every ton of GHGs emitted during the prior year.
The challenge for companies looking forward is to understand how these regulatory requirements may effect them. The following 7-Steps provide a guide to how to address these issues:
Step One: Measure your GHG emissions or “Carbon Footprint” in accordance with existing state and proposed federal GHG reporting requirements.
Step Two: Evaluate existing and proposed state and federal climate change laws and regulations that may affect your business operations.
Step Three: Determine if your company will be required to incur costs to reduce GHG emissions or purchase carbon allowances or offsets. What are the Carbon Liabilities?
Step Four: Determine what GHG emissions will not be regulated. For those emissions, evaluate whether reductions be monetized and sold as carbon credits or retained to use for the companies own compliance requirements with a reasonable rate of return on investment. What are the companies Carbon Assets?
Step Five: Companies with GHG emissions need to evaluate the legal and technical issues involved in evaluating both Carbon Assets and Carbon Liabilities as state, federal, and international programs go into effect for the first time or continue to develop that regulate GHG emissions.
Step Six: Engage management on climate change regulatory issues and present the companies GHG emissions, Carbon Assets, and Carbon Liabilities.
Step Seven: Develop a Climate Change Strategy to reduce Carbon Liabilities and to develop and produce revenue or reduce costs using Carbon Assets.
This 7-Step Process is the general approach companies should be considering to address the potential risks and opportunities that may arise as a result of current and developing state and federal climate change legislation.