WASHINGTON A group of institutional investors,
state officials and environmental groups called on the U.S.
Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday to force
publicly-traded companies to disclose climate-related risks
along with other factors that affect their business.
The group, which includes America's largest pension fund
Calpers, Environmental Defense and New York Attorney General
Andrew Cuomo, wants the SEC to issue an "interpretive" release
clarifying that material climate-related information must be
included in corporate disclosures under existing law.
"Companies' financial condition increasingly depends upon
their ability to avoid climate risk," said the petition signed
by 22 officials and groups. The coalition said it has the
support of funds and investors representing $1.5 trillion in
Climate change risk can include effects on a company's
performance and operations ranging from physical damage to new
facilities and additional regulatory costs, the coalition said.
Under SEC regulations, companies are required to disclose
material information -- information that an investor should
possess to decide whether to buy or sell a stock -- in their
quarterly and annual filings with the agency.
The coalition said Exxon Mobil, the largest oil company in
the world, made just one reference to climate change in its
2006 annual report. Insurer Allstate Corp did not reference
climate change in its 2006 annual report, the group said.
Many experts believe global warming from burning fossil
fuels has the potential to thaw glaciers, raise sea levels,
distort weather patterns and trigger changes in agriculture.
"This is about an investor's right to know. Existing SEC
rules, we believe, clearly require companies to disclose the
risks and benefits to their operations presented by climate
change," said a spokesman for Bill Lockyer, California's state
treasurer who sits on the board of Calpers, the California
Public Employees' Retirement Fund.
"What companies need from the SEC is guidelines, so that
the investors have consistent information when analyzing the
financial disclosures," said Alex Sink, the chief financial
officer for Florida, and one of the trustees of the state's
$140 billion pension fund.
Investors say the information is not being provided
consistently across the board and say they are seeking all
types of information, from regulatory scenarios to a company's
Similar petitions have been brought to the SEC in the past,
but have not advanced.
If the SEC decides not to issue interpretive guidance, the
coalition wants the agency to examine the adequacy of climate
risk disclosures when reviewing companies' filings.
(Reporting by Rachelle Younglai)