United States—One of the most important hurdles in blaming companies for the climate crisis is that there is still no way to measure how much pollution they are causing. The battle of the Titans in terms of global politics is continuing, and the corporate world is striving to keep it that way.

Lack of Mandatory Emission Reporting

Yes, several corporations around the world try voluntarily to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions—the most prominent ones include Exxon and Waltmart. However, today, under the umbrella of federal law, there exists no provision for such a mandate stipulating that businesses must genuinely record and report their total footprint on Earth. Not all companies disclose this, nor is there a protocol saying they have to report the impact of the climate crisis on them or their bottom lines, as reported by Heated.

SEC Backtracks on Climate Disclosure Mandate

Things would change for the good when that agency, which is the country’s most powerful financial regular body, decided that the climate crisis was too big a “significant risk” to be ignored. In 2022, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) came up with a climate disclosure rule which would have compelled public companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions—from their direct emissions (which are also referred to as scope one emissions) to emissions from their energy use (scope 2) and to emissions from their supply chain (scope 3). It would have as well demanded reporting from companies on how climate change is affecting their bottom line.

But that is not what actually happened. Instead, on Wednesday, the five-member SEC approved a rule on climate disclosure, in which the content was almost completely removed. There is no longer an obligation for companies to report their emissions; instead, it encourages companies to reveal their greenhouse gas emissions if they consider them “material,” which is supposed to be significant to their investors. It says nothing about Scope 3 emissions, which are the largest portion of a company’s pollution. (That’s why 80% of Exxon emissions are Scope 3).

Those notches occurred due to a two-year assault by energy corporations, conservative anti-climate foundations, anti-ESG legislators, and the agriculture lobby. These money-rich organizations met with the SEC, wrote letters, and submitted hundreds of thousands of comments on the climate rule—the most comments the SEC has ever received.

If you’re not familiar with the SEC, here’s how powerful it is: the SEC really made Martha Stewart do time for insider trading, they prosecuted Enron and prosecuted them for fraud, and they got stung by Sam Bankman-Fried from the cryptocurrency FTX on a fraud charge. SEC will not back down from big corporations. The main question is, why did it succumb to lobbyists there instead?

Legal Challenges Mount as SEC Faces Lawsuits

The solution is the conservative judges all across the country, the majority of them being Trump-appointed, who are undoing federal measures of climate change. As reported by Clara Vondrich, the senior policy counselor at consumer advocacy nonprofit Public Citizen, the dirtiest industries and the GOP lawmakers threatened to sue the world if the SEC pushes for full emissions disclosures by all of them. Those were not hollow warnings — in the hours following the adoption of the final rule, the SEC was sued by ten Republican-dominated states for invasion of privacy.

According to Vondrich, “a radical judiciary’s chilling effect is not the way democracy is supposed to work,” he told me in a Tuesday interview. In addition to discussing her “astonishing” encounter with the SEC chairman last week, we also discussed the various factors preventing corporate climate accountability, as reported by Heated.

“You know how a human has a beating heart?” Vondrich replied when asked what she thought of the SEC’s measures. The person passes away without a beating heart. That’s basically what the SEC has done, albeit with a pretty vivid metaphor.