The European Commission has published a proposal for a Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (2021/0104) (“CSRD”), which forms just one part of a comprehensive package of sustainable finance measures (see our blog here).  The Commission has put forward these measures in response to demand for stronger and wider sustainability reporting standards, over and above what the EU Non-Financial Reporting Directive currently provides.  The CSRD seeks to mandate sustainability reporting and assurance through the amendment of existing EU laws, including the Transparency Directive, the Accounting Directive, and the Audit Directive.  More fundamentally, according to the Commission, it will move the EU one step closer to realizing its aim of having sustainability reporting be “on a par” with financial reporting, in terms of attached weight and importance.  This is reflected in the change of terminology used in the CSRD proposal, from a focus on “non-financial” information reporting, to “sustainability”.

We cover below the background and detail, but in summary, these are the key elements of the CSRD proposal that corporates should be aware of:

  • Scope: The CSRD reporting requirements will apply to all large EU companies and all listed companies, including listed small and medium-sized enterprises (“SMEs”). This is estimated to cover around 49,000 companies.
  • Reporting: The so-called “double materiality” principle remains, but in-scope companies will now have to report according to mandatory sustainability standards. Simpler and “proportionate” standards will apply to listed SMEs.
  • Audit: The CSRD will require, for the first time, a general EU-wide audit (assurance) requirement for sustainability information.
  • Digitization: The sustainability information must be published in companies’ management reports — and not separately reported — and the information will need to be digitized or “tagged” so it can be incorporated into a planned European Single Access Point.
  • Timing: If the proposal is adopted and standards can be agreed in line with current ambitious estimates, large in-scope companies must comply from financial years starting on or after 1 January 2023, publishing reports from 2024; whilst SMEs have to comply from 1 January 2026.


Continue Reading The EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive Proposal: What Companies Need to Know

The European Commission has presented a package of key enabling legislation on sustainable finance (the “Sustainable Finance Package”).  This includes the much-awaited first technical screening criteria under the Taxonomy Regulation — outlined in the Taxonomy Climate Delegated Act (“TCDA”) — and a proposal for a Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (“CSRD”), which significantly revises and expands on the existing Non-Financial Reporting Directive’s remit and disclosure rules for corporates. While the former is directly aimed at financial institutions and investors, and the latter at large and listed entities, the package has broader implications for all corporates.

Sustainable Finance Package: Context and Comment

The Commission’s intention with its Sustainable Finance Package is twofold: (1) in the short term, to set a clear regulatory framework to encourage investments that will contribute to a sustainable and inclusive economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic; and (2) in the long term, to ensure the transition to a carbon neutral EU economy by 2050, in accordance with the 2020 European Climate Law.  Following the adoption of the EU Taxonomy Regulation (explained further below), the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation, and the Benchmark Regulation, which enhances the transparency of benchmark methodologies, the Commission has in this legislative package laid out the next building blocks for its envisioned sustainable finance ecosystem.


Continue Reading The EU’s Green Capitalism Takes Shape: Taxonomy Screening Criteria and Corporate Sustainability Reporting

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has for the first time ruled on whether the greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted during the construction and operation of a proposed natural gas pipeline has a significant impact on climate change in determining whether to authorize a project as consistent with public convenience and necessity under Section 7 of the Natural Gas Act.  In earlier orders, FERC concluded that it was unable to assess the significance of a project’s GHG emissions or those emissions’ contribution to climate change.  In a recent order approving Northern Natural Gas Company’s proposal to replace a pipeline segment, FERC stated that is no longer the case and then assesses the significance of the project’s GHG emissions and their contribution to climate change.
Continue Reading FERC Assesses Impact of Pipeline Project’s GHG Emissions On Climate Change

On March 4, 2020, the European Commission delivered the first major climate piece of its European Green Deal: it proposed a “European Climate Law,” which takes the form of a Regulation and establishes a framework for the irreversible and gradual reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the enhancement of removals in the European Union.  The proposal and the fact that it takes the form of a binding Regulation may have a significant impact on a wide variety of legislative and policy initiatives that the EU and its Member States may take within the next years.
Continue Reading Call Me By My Name: The Importance of the European Commission’s Proposed Climate Change Law

On November 13, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched its Cleaner Trucks Initiative (CTI), which will decrease nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by updating the existing NOx standard for heavy-duty trucks. EPA’s announcement comes just as the California Air Resources Board (CARB) updated its Heavy-Duty On-board Diagnostic (HD OBD) requirements and prepares to implement its own Phase 2 GHG regulation for heavy-duty vehicles and trailers.
Continue Reading EPA and CARB Begin Reexamining Heavy-Duty Vehicle Regulations

On September 23, the Dutch Government appealed a decision* of the District Court in The Hague that obliges the Dutch State to reduce its greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions by at least 25%, instead of the currently envisaged 17%, compared to 1990 levels.  The decision is unique in its kind in Europe: it forces a government to change its policies in pursuit of more ambitious climate change targets on the basis of the State’s “duty of care.”  The ruling comes at a time where NGOs in Europe are becoming increasingly active in pressuring governments to tighten environmental regulations.
Continue Reading Can Courts Oblige States to Increase Greenhouse Gas Emission Cuts? Urgenda vs. Dutch State

Two of the Supreme Court’s major, end-of-term decisions turn on the deference the Court gives to agency determinations of the meaning of ambiguous clauses in complex regulatory statutes, applying the familiar Chevron framework.  The Court’s less deferential applications of Chevron raise important questions about the deference courts might be expected to give to the scope

Europe is stepping up enforcement of its climate change rules against foreign airlines.  Recently, a Belgian authority competent for the enforcement of the EU Emissions Trading System (“ETS”) on airlines flying to and from Brussels, collected a fine of €1.4 million.  The fine was imposed on Saudi Arabian Airlines for failing to surrender emission allowances.