Photo of Kevin Poloncarz

Kevin Poloncarz

Kevin Poloncarz represents a broad range of clients on policy, regulatory, litigation, commercial, and enforcement matters involving air quality, climate change, and clean energy. He co-chairs the firm’s Environmental Practice Group and Energy Industry Group.

Mr. Poloncarz is ranked by Chambers USA among the nation’s leading climate change attorneys and California’s leading environmental lawyers, with sources describing him as “a phenomenal” and “tremendous lawyer.” He was named an “Energy & Environmental Trailblazer” by the National Law Journal in 2017 and was inducted as a Fellow of the American College of Environmental Lawyers in 2018.

He has extensive experience with California’s Cap-and-Trade Program, Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS), and is recognized as a leading advisor on carbon markets. He also assists energy-sector clients in obtaining and defending state and federal approvals for major projects throughout California.

Mr. Poloncarz also assists clients with the development and execution of legislative and policy strategies supporting decarbonization, including carbon capture and sequestration, low-carbon fuels, advanced transportation and energy storage, and is a registered lobbyist in California and Oregon.

On May 28, the Biden-Harris Administration issued the Voluntary Carbon Markets Joint Policy Statement and Principles (Policy Statement).  You can find Covington’s analysis of the Policy Statement here.  Jointly announced by the U.S. Secretaries of Treasury, Agriculture, and Energy, and senior White House climate officials, the Policy Statement describes a three-pronged approach to responsible carbon market development and participation: (1) credit or supply integrity, including protections regarding climate and environmental justice; (2) demand integrity, to ensure the credible use of credits; and (3) market-level integrity, including facilitating efficient market participation and lowering transaction costs.  The Policy Statement builds on other recent federal actions, including the Commodities Futures Trading Commission’s 2023 proposed guidance for voluntary carbon credit derivatives and the Securities and Exchange Commission’s final climate risk disclosure rule, which requires certain disclosures related to carbon offset purchases, in the Administration’s attention to and elevation of the voluntary carbon market as an important element in the nation’s climate policy. 

In this post, we dive deeper into the voluntary carbon market landscape, implications for business, and additional recent developments. Continue Reading Engaging in Voluntary Carbon Markets: Overview of Key Developments, Risks, and Opportunities

First observed on April 22, 1970, Earth Day has long been recognized as a watershed moment for the modern environmental movement.  On that day, over 20 million demonstrators nationwide marched to raise awareness of the need to protect and preserve the environment.  The energy generated from that day galvanized the country to action, leading to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in December 1970 and the passage of several statutes later that decade—including the Clean Air Act (CAA) the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)—that serve as the foundation of U.S. environmental legislation.  Today, Earth Day is recognized by countries around the world, and has expanded from its initial focus on pollution control to include elevating environmental justice in low-income, disadvantaged, and indigenous communities and promoting domestic and international climate action.

Beginning with a proclamation on April 19 declaring climate change to be “the existential crisis of our time,” the Biden-Harris Administration marked Earth Day and the week after by announcing a suite of final rules and grant programs aimed at fossil fuel abatement and pollution control, accelerating electric transmission grid modernization and solar energy development, and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the transportation sector.  These actions underscore not only the continued “whole-of-government” approach that the Administration has taken to combat climate change but also the urgency with which federal agencies have moved to promulgate final rules and protect them from potential congressional revocation ahead of the Congressional Review Act deadline later this spring. 

To assist industries and markets as they evaluate the impact of these final rules and programs, we’ve spotlighted several of these Earth Week regulatory and grant-funding actions.Continue Reading A Week of Climate Action: Spotlight on the Biden-Harris Administration’s Earth Week Regulatory and Grant-Funding Actions

What You Need to Know.

  • After two days of intense negotiations, world leaders adopted a draft decision that sets out international climate priorities in response to the findings of the first Global Stocktake under the Paris Agreement.  The decision covers several thematic areas, including mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation and resilience in the face of climate change, financing and means of implementation and support for climate projects, and loss and damage funding for climate-vulnerable nations.  The text of the draft decision can be found on the UNFCCC’s website here.

Continue Reading COP28 Final Negotiations Recap: A Global Agreement to Transition Away from Fossil Fuels

What You Need to Know.

  • With a focus on multilevel action, urbanization, and the built environment and transport, the events of Day 7 of COP28 highlighted efforts to transition to low-carbon and resilient infrastructure, particularly in urban areas.  This thematic focus is significant; according to the UN Environmental Programme, cities are responsible for an estimated 75 percent of global CO2 emissions, primarily from transportation and buildings.

Continue Reading COP28 Day 7 Recap: “A Bullet Train to Speed Up Climate Action”

What You Need to Know. 

  • “We very much believe and respect the science,” said COP28 President Al Jaber on Monday after it had been reported that he had earlier commented that there was “no science” behind requiring the phase-out of fossil fuels to limit global warming to 1.5C. President Al Jaber went on to say that “the phase down and the phase out of fossil fuel is inevitable.”  This statement comes after heavy criticism from climate activists and scientists of President Al Jaber’s earlier comments, further emphasizing the centrality of the “phase down” vs. “phase out” debate as a wedge issue at this COP.

Continue Reading COP28 Day 5 Recap: Climate Finance Continues to Grow and Carbon Offsets Face More Regulation

What You Need to Know.

  • The fourth Day of COP28 saw the first-ever Health Day at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference.  In collaboration with the World Health Organization, Health Day included programing that showcased the links between the impacts of climate change on human health and methods for identifying and scaling adaptation measures to address these impacts.

Continue Reading COP28 Day 4 Recap: The First COP Health Day

What You Need to Know. 

  • After the opening day, action at COP28 shifted to the World Climate Action Summit (WCAS), where world leaders convened to deliver national statements and carry out initial negotiations on the Global Stocktake and expanding climate financing.  Concurrently, business leaders and philanthropists gathered at the Business and Philanthropy Climate Forum to discuss how the private sector and philanthropy can contribute to climate action.

Continue Reading COP28 Day 2­–­3 Recap: The World Climate Action Summit and Expanding Commitments to Climate Financing

Laws and regulations that require companies, both private and public, to disclose their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions continue to expand in the European Union and in the United States.  Under the EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), beginning in 2025, EU-based public companies and large EU-based private companies will be required to report all material Scope 1, 2, and 3 GHG emissions as set forth in the European Sustainability Reporting Standards.  In the United States, California recently passed landmark climate-related disclosure legislation that will require U.S. companies that do business in California and have greater than $1 billion in annual revenues to file annual reports publicly disclosing their Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions beginning in 2026 and Scope 3 GHG emissions in 2027.  This legislation is expected to be joined by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) proposed climate-related disclosure rule.  Initially proposed in March 2022, if finalized, the SEC rule would require public companies to disclose their Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions and material Scope 3 emissions.  And later this year, world policymakers, activists, and business leaders will convene at COP28 to discuss global progress towards achieving the net-zero GHG emissions targets set by the Paris Agreement.

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol) sits at the center of all these efforts.  Established by the World Resources Institute and the World Business Counsel for Sustainable Development in 2001, the GHG Protocol establishes comprehensive standards for private and public entities to calculate and report their GHG emissions and track progress towards their emissions targets.

Continue Reading Calculating and Reporting Greenhouse Gas Emissions: A Primer on the GHG Protocol

On September 13, 2023, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 1305 (AB 1305), which imposes wide-ranging disclosure requirements on (1) entities that market or sell voluntary carbon offsets and (2) entities that purchase and rely on these offsets to advertise their climate goals.  The bill has been enrolled and is currently on Governor Newsom’s desk.

AB 1305 comes on the heels of escalating criticism of voluntary carbon offsets, including arguments that corporations use low-quality offsets to engage in greenwashing.  AB 1305 is likely to prompt companies to engage in careful due diligence before making climate-related claims and to ensure that they rely on high-quality offsets that correspond to real emission reductions or removals.Continue Reading Law Enacted by California Legislature Would Require Companies to Disclose Key Details About Voluntary Carbon Offsets and Claims Made in Reliance Upon Them

Last week, the California Legislature passed two bills comprising the core of a landmark “Climate Accountability Package.”  Together, the two bills will impose extensive new climate-related disclosure obligations on thousands of U.S. public and private companies with operations in California.  Senate Bill 253 (SB 253) would require companies with greater than $1 billion in annual revenues to file annual reports publicly disclosing their Scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  Senate Bill 261 (SB 261) would require companies with greater than $500 million in annual revenues to prepare biennial reports disclosing climate-related financial risk and describing measures adopted to mitigate and adapt to that risk.

Yesterday afternoon during an appearance at Climate Week NYC, Governor Newsom told the audience emphatically, “of course I will sign those bills.”  When he does, many more companies will be required to improve the accuracy, completeness and rigor of their GHG reporting and climate risk disclosures. Because of the complexity of GHG reporting, we have focused the remainder of this post on SB 253.  Please see our separate post on SB 261 here.Continue Reading California Legislature Passes Landmark Climate Disclosure Laws: Spotlight on SB 253