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Keeping you in-the-know on environmental, social and governance developments

Late yesterday afternoon, President Biden issued an Executive Order on Climate-Related Financial Risk, which has been rumored to be coming for a couple months. It establishes the Administration’s policy to:

– Advance consistent, clear, intelligible, comparable, and accurate disclosure of climate-related financial risk … including both physical and transition risks;

– Act to mitigate that risk and its drivers, while accounting for and addressing disparate impacts on disadvantaged communities and communities of color … and spurring the creation of well-paying jobs; and

– Achieve the target of a net-zero emissions economy by no later than 2050.

Major highlights of the EO include:

  • Developing a formal comprehensive, Government-wide strategy regarding the measurement, assessment, mitigation, and disclosure of climate-related financial risk to Federal Government programs, assets, and liabilities – in order to increase the long-term stability of Federal operations;
  • Requiring The Secretary of the Treasury to assess, in a detailed and comprehensive manner, the climate-related financial risk, including both physical and transition risks, to the financial stability of the Federal Government and the stability of the U.S. financial system. The report issued by Treasury is to include a discussion of:
    • the necessity of any actions to enhance climate-related disclosures by regulated entities to mitigate climate-related financial risk to the financial system or assets – and a recommended implementation plan for taking those actions, and
    • any current approaches to incorporating the consideration of climate-related financial risk into Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) members’ respective regulatory and supervisory activities and any impediments they faced in adopting those approaches.
  • Treasury is also required to direct the Federal Insurance Office to assess climate-related issues or gaps in the supervision and regulation of insurers.
  • The Secretary of Labor must consider publishing, by September 2021, for notice and comment, a proposed rule to suspend, revise, or rescind the prior administration’s rules that would limit ERISA plans’ ability to consider ESG factors in investment & voting decisions (85 Fed. Reg. 72846 and 85 Fed. Reg. 81658) – this type of action would go further than the DOL’s previously-announced non-enforcement policy for these rules and is intended to bolster the resilience of 401(k) and pension investments.
  • OMB and the Director of the National Economic Council, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, are directed to develop options to enhance accounting standards for Federal financial reporting where appropriate and should identify any opportunities to further encourage market adoption of such standards.
  • The Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council is to consider amending the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to:
    • require major Federal suppliers to publicly disclose greenhouse gas emissions and climate-related financial risk and to set science-based reduction targets; and
    • ensure that major Federal agency procurements minimize the risk of climate change, including requiring the social cost of greenhouse gas emissions to be considered in procurement decisions and, where appropriate and feasible, give preference to bids and proposals from suppliers with a lower social cost of greenhouse gas emissions.

The official fact sheet was also made available.

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The Editor

Lawrence Heim has been practicing in the field of ESG management for almost 40 years. He began his career as a legal assistant in the Environmental Practice of Vinson & Elkins working for a partner who is nationally recognized and an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Texas Law School. He moved into technical environmental consulting with ENSR Consulting & Engineering at the height of environmental regulatory development, working across a range of disciplines. He was one… View Profile