Biden Administration to Prepare Unifying, Voluntary Definition for “Zero Emissions Buildings”

Green foreground with buildings in background

This week, the White House’s climate policy chief announced the imminent release of voluntary, uniform federal-level criteria for “Zero Emissions Buildings.” The “ZEB” definition could bring much-needed consistency to help CRE owners and investors establish long-term goals for buildings that align with varying climate programs adopted across numerous jurisdictions and international frameworks. (Washington Post, Sept. 28)

Proposed ZEB Definition in October

  • A CRE coalition of real estate organizations including The Roundtable sent a Sept. 14 letter to US-EPA supporting development of standard methods and metrics for buildings and tenants to quantify their emissions.
  • Federal standards, definitions, and tools “are the North Star though which local governments can inform their law-making, and this helps bring some sense and order to the otherwise conflicting patchwork of climate laws and frameworks developed by states, cities, and NGOs,” said Roundtable Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) Chair Tony Malkin (Chairman, President, and CEO, Empire State Realty Trust). (Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 15)   

A Climate Priority for CRE

White House -- National Climate Resilience Framework publication
  • Roundtable Senior VP and Counsel Duane Desiderio was quoted yesterday in the Washington Post and Popular Science about how CRE executives welcome the idea of a single federal standard. “A workable, usable federal definition of zero-emission buildings can bring some desperately needed uniformity and consistency to a chaotic regulatory landscape,” Desiderio said. (Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 15)
  • Yesterday, The White House also released a National Climate Resilience Framework in anticipation of an eventual White House Climate Resilience Summit. The Framework identifies climate resilience principles and specific actions to expand and accelerate progress towards six objectives that includes, “Expand adoption of the latest consensus-based building and energy codes and high-performance standards.” (White House Fact Sheet, Sept. 28)

The Roundtable will continue to work with our partner organizations and develop comments on the ZEB definition upon its anticipated release next month.

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  • A CRE coalition of real estate organizations including The Roundtable sent a Sept. 14 letter to US-EPA supporting development of standard methods and metrics for buildings and tenants to quantify their emissions.
  • Federal standards, definitions, and tools “are the North Star though which local governments can inform their law-making, and this helps bring some sense and order to the otherwise conflicting patchwork of climate laws and frameworks developed by states, cities, and NGOs,” said Roundtable Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) Chair Tony Malkin (Chairman, President, and CEO, Empire State Realty Trust). (Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 15)   

A Climate Priority for CRE

White House -- National Climate Resilience Framework publication
  • Roundtable Senior VP and Counsel Duane Desiderio was quoted yesterday in the Washington Post and Popular Science about how CRE executives welcome the idea of a single federal standard. “A workable, usable federal definition of zero-emission buildings can bring some desperately needed uniformity and consistency to a chaotic regulatory landscape,” Desiderio said. (Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 15)
  • Yesterday, The White House also released a National Climate Resilience Framework in anticipation of an eventual White House Climate Resilience Summit. The Framework identifies climate resilience principles and specific actions to expand and accelerate progress towards six objectives that includes, “Expand adoption of the latest consensus-based building and energy codes and high-performance standards.” (White House Fact Sheet, Sept. 28)

The Roundtable will continue to work with our partner organizations and develop comments on the ZEB definition upon its anticipated release next month.

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  • A CRE coalition of real estate organizations including The Roundtable sent a Sept. 14 letter to US-EPA supporting development of standard methods and metrics for buildings and tenants to quantify their emissions.
  • Federal standards, definitions, and tools “are the North Star though which local governments can inform their law-making, and this helps bring some sense and order to the otherwise conflicting patchwork of climate laws and frameworks developed by states, cities, and NGOs,” said Roundtable Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) Chair Tony Malkin (Chairman, President, and CEO, Empire State Realty Trust). (Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 15)   

A Climate Priority for CRE

White House -- National Climate Resilience Framework publication
  • Roundtable Senior VP and Counsel Duane Desiderio was quoted yesterday in the Washington Post and Popular Science about how CRE executives welcome the idea of a single federal standard. “A workable, usable federal definition of zero-emission buildings can bring some desperately needed uniformity and consistency to a chaotic regulatory landscape,” Desiderio said. (Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 15)
  • Yesterday, The White House also released a National Climate Resilience Framework in anticipation of an eventual White House Climate Resilience Summit. The Framework identifies climate resilience principles and specific actions to expand and accelerate progress towards six objectives that includes, “Expand adoption of the latest consensus-based building and energy codes and high-performance standards.” (White House Fact Sheet, Sept. 28)

The Roundtable will continue to work with our partner organizations and develop comments on the ZEB definition upon its anticipated release next month.

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  • National Climate Advisor, Ali Zaidi, stated in yesterday’s keynote address at the Greenbuild 2023 conference in Washington, D.C. that the proposed federal ZEB definition will be released next month. 
  • Zaidi noted The Real Estate Roundtable in his comments as an important group for addressing the need to transform buildings at scale.
  • When the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announces the proposed ZEB definition it will kick-off an anticipated 30-day public comment period. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ENERGY STAR program is coordinating closely with DOE. A final ZEB definition could be published by the end of this year.

Federal Consistency is Essential

White House with roses in foreground
  • DOE’s ZEB definition would not be mandatory on the private sector. It will be a voluntary, aspirational guideline at the federal level.
  • However, a definition from the U.S. government can finally build a uniform understanding of what it takes for a building to achieve “zero emissions” over time, along a realistic and achievable pathway. 
  • A CRE coalition of real estate organizations including The Roundtable sent a Sept. 14 letter to US-EPA supporting development of standard methods and metrics for buildings and tenants to quantify their emissions.
  • Federal standards, definitions, and tools “are the North Star though which local governments can inform their law-making, and this helps bring some sense and order to the otherwise conflicting patchwork of climate laws and frameworks developed by states, cities, and NGOs,” said Roundtable Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) Chair Tony Malkin (Chairman, President, and CEO, Empire State Realty Trust). (Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 15)   

A Climate Priority for CRE

White House -- National Climate Resilience Framework publication
  • Roundtable Senior VP and Counsel Duane Desiderio was quoted yesterday in the Washington Post and Popular Science about how CRE executives welcome the idea of a single federal standard. “A workable, usable federal definition of zero-emission buildings can bring some desperately needed uniformity and consistency to a chaotic regulatory landscape,” Desiderio said. (Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 15)
  • Yesterday, The White House also released a National Climate Resilience Framework in anticipation of an eventual White House Climate Resilience Summit. The Framework identifies climate resilience principles and specific actions to expand and accelerate progress towards six objectives that includes, “Expand adoption of the latest consensus-based building and energy codes and high-performance standards.” (White House Fact Sheet, Sept. 28)

The Roundtable will continue to work with our partner organizations and develop comments on the ZEB definition upon its anticipated release next month.

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California Passes Corporate Climate Disclosure Package; Biden Administration Releases Net-Zero Emissions Principles for Financial Institutions

Recent government actions amplify the increasing focus by policymakers on climate laws and guidelines—and their heightened impact on CRE. The California legislature recently passed first-of-its-kind state laws that require companies to disclose their emissions, beating to the punch anticipated federal climate reporting rules from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). (Politico, Sept. 17)

Meanwhile, the Biden administration issued voluntary principles this week for asset managers, banks, insurers, and venture capital companies with goals for “net zero” emissions investments, including real estate. (Treasury news release, Sept. 19)

California’s Climate Risk Disclosure Package

  • California’s legislature passed two bills (SB 253 and SB 261) last week requiring climate-related disclosures from certain companies doing business in the state. Most notably, the Climate Corporate Data Accountability Act (SB 253) would require entities with total annual global revenues greater than $1 billion to quantify and publicly report Scopes 1, 2, and 3 emissions.
  • SB 253 is estimated to regulate around 5,400 companies. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) pledged to sign both bills, although he may request changes when the legislature reconvenes in January. The laws could be challenged in court before they take effect over the next several years. (Wall Street Journal, Sept. 20 and New York Times, Sept 17)
  • The California legislature “leapfrog[ged]” the U.S. SEC (Bloomberg, Sept. 12), which has yet to release highly anticipated federal rules that are expected to require registered companies to report to investors on material climate-related financial risks in 10-Ks and other filings. (See RER’s 2022 comments on SEC proposal | Roundtable Weekly, March 10 and June 10, 2022)

U.S. Treasury’s Net-Zero Emissions Investment PrinciplesU.S. Treasury’s Net-Zero Emissions Investment Principles -- publication imageThe Treasury Department’s Principles for Net-Zero Financing & Investment is focused on “financial institutions’ scope 3 financed and facilitated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.” It urges private sector financial institutions to align their GHG reduction efforts and net-zero goals with their “portfolio companies,” “portfolio of assets,” and “client base.”

  • The document notes that clients and portfolio companies should provide to their financial institutions their own net-zero plans, including “metrics and targets” for Scopes 1, 2 and 3 emissions. Buildings and real estate assets have long been considered part of a financial institution’s Scope 3 emissions “value chain.” 
  • The set of nine principles encourage greater adoption of emerging best practices for private sector financial institutions that have made net-zero commitments, while promoting consistent and credible implementation approaches.

A Sept. 12 podcast featuring Roundtable Senior Vice President & Counsel Duane Desiderio, and Nareit’s Senior Vice President of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Jessica Long, discusses the imminent SEC rule and other real estate policy priorities in the energy and climate arena. (Listen to Nareit’s “Real Estate Roundtable says CRE Playing Key Role in Success of Federal Climate Programs”)

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Fed’s Climate Risk Assessment Exercise Will Include Impact on Banks’ CRE Portfolios

Federal ReserveThe Fed released new details this week about its “pilot climate scenario analysis”—an exploratory exercise that will require six major banks to report by July 31 on how extreme weather event scenarios would impact their operations, investments and real estate portfolios. (Reuters, Jan. 17 and Politico PowerSwitch, Jan. 19)

Risk Scenarios & CRE

  • The pilot exercise aims to learn about climate risk-management practices and challenges of the six largest U.S. banks—and enhance their ability to identify, measure, monitor, and manage climate-related financial risks.
  • The banks will analyze the impact of two risk scenarios on corporate and CRE lending exposures in their portfolios, according to the Fed’s 52-page set of instructions for Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs Group, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo. (Fed news release, Jan. 17)
  • One scenario will include how storms, floods and other “physical risks” could affect residential and commercial real estate portfolios in northeast over a one-year horizon.
  • The second scenario will focus on “transition risks,” which refers to financial stresses caused by regulations and market forces that compel shifts to a lower carbon economy. The banks will analyze impacts over a 10-year horizon, using a scenario based on current policies—and one based on reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. (Yahoo News and Fed Participant Instructions, Jan. 17)

What’s Next

Federal Reserve's 2023 pilot climate scenario analysis

  • The Fed plans to publish a summary of its climate scenario analyses by the end of 2023.

  • Banks will calculate and report to the Fed on credit risk parameters such as probability of default, internal risk rating grade, and loss given default.
  • The Fed’s climate exercises are different from bank stress tests, since these climate risk scenarios are exploratory in nature and have no capital consequences. (Fed Participant Instructions, Jan. 17)
  • The central bank’s exercises come as various federal agencies are taking action on risks that climate change may pose to the economy.
  • The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is expected to issue climate disclosure regulations from by April. The proposed rules would require all registered companies to disclose material financial risks related to climate change, and may include new disclosure requirements for “Scope 3” GHG emissions. The Roundtable submitted extensive comments last year on the SEC’s about the proposal. (Roundtable Weekly, June 10)
  • The Federal Insurance Office within the Treasury Department has also requested information on climate-related financial risks from the insurance sector to identify geographic areas that might lack coverage. (ClimateWire, Jan. 18 and Federal Register, August 31, 2021)

Climate-related regulatory proposals affecting CRE will be among the topics discussed during The Roundtable’s Jan. 24-25 State of the Industry Meeting in Washington, DC.

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Roundtable Comments to EPA on Building Performance Standards, Electrification

EPA sign

The Real Estate Roundtable submitted comments this week encouraging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use its grant authority to foster consistent, practicable, and cost-efficient local building mandates and electrification programs. (Roundtable letter, Jan. 18)

Consistency Urged in Building Performance Standards

EPA letter image capture

  • In addition to clean energy tax incentives for the private sector, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) devotes billions in grant money for EPA to dole-out to states and cities for greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction programs. [White House Guidebook, Dec. 15]
  • IRA grants could support localities as they develop and enforce building performance standards (BPS) that mandate owners to reduce energy use and emissions. Dozens of BPS laws have emerged in jurisdictions across the United States. (EPA Policy Brief, Jan. 19) (Roundtable Weekly, July 1, 2022)
  • The Roundtable’s Jan. 18 letter urges EPA to use its grant authority to encourage consistency in BPS mandates. A “hodge-podge” of state and local laws complicates compliance by building owners with nationwide real estate portfolios and hinders responsible investment strategies, according to The Roundtable’s letter.
  • The Roundtable’s position is that EPA should not award IRA grants unless state or local recipients ensure their BPS laws offer uniform federal tools, data, and protocols for enforcement and compliance.
  • These federal standards include EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, its GHG Emissions Calculator, eGRID factors that convert electricity use to GHGs, and metrics already recommended by EPA to support BPS efforts.

Tenant Energy Data and “Practicable Electrification”

EPA letter electrification capture

  • The Roundtable letter also advocates that utilities should be eligible for EPA grants to develop technologies that provide owners of multi-tenant buildings with “whole building” energy data. Owners need data on tenants’ energy use to meet BPS mandates and to attain the IRA’s new tax deduction for building retrofits. (Fact Sheet, updated Jan. 5.)
  • In addition, The Roundtable letter advocates that grants to help standardize corporate climate reporting should prioritize consistency in accounting for emission benefits from the purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), and for embedded carbon in construction materials and building products purchased by real estate owners and developers.

IRA tax incentives and grant programs affecting CRE will be among the topics discussed during The Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) Meeting on Jan. 25 in Washington, D.C., held in conjunction with Jan. 24 State of the Industry meeting.

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Senators Challenge SEC Chair on Proposed Climate Rule

SEC Chair Gary Gensler

Senate Banking Committee members challenged Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Gary Gensler, above, during an oversight hearing yesterday about the agency’s proposed climate disclosure rule. (CQ, Sept. 15 and Yahoo Finance, Sept. 16)

SEC Authority Questioned

  • Committee Ranking Member Pat Toomey (R-PA) opened the hearing by stating, “The SEC is wading into controversial public policy debates that are far outside its mission and its expertise.”
  • Toomey pressed Gensler about June Supreme Court ruling that executive branch agencies “cannot use novel interpretations of existing law to pretend they have legal authority to support sweeping policy changes, including on climate change, that Congress never intended.” (Toomey Opening Statement)
  • Toomey asked, “In light of the EPA v. West Virginia case, have you given any consideration to rescinding that rulemaking?” Gensler replied that the Commission is “seriously” considering the high Court ruling and 14,000-plus public comments to assess its legal authorities to ensure that registered companies provide material, decision-useful information about climate risks to investors. (SEC docket with list of organizations and individual comments)
  • Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) explained that the SEC’s proposal would require farms and other small businesses to estimate and disclose carbon emissions because they sell products and services to public companies. Senators Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Steve Daines (R-MT) shared Tester’s concerns (CQ, Sept. 15)

A CRE Priority

SEC logo - image

  • The SEC’s climate proposal, if finalized, would require all SEC registrants to quantify direct GHG emissions (“Scope 1”) and emissions attributable to electricity purchases (“Scope 2”) through annual 10-Ks and additional filings. (SEC News Release | Proposed Rule | Fact Sheet, March 22)
  • The SEC also proposed that a company would need to report on “Scope 3” indirect emissions if they are “material” to investors. In June 10 comments, The Roundtable objected to the Commission’s proposed Scope 3 approach because real estate companies neither control nor have access to data regarding emissions from third parties in their “value chains.” (Roundtable WeeklyJune 10 and June 24)
  • joint letter filed on June 13 from 11 national real estate industry trade groups echoed the issues raised by The Roundtable in its earlier comments.

The SEC is expected to issue a final climate reporting disclosure rule sometime this fall. If the Commission votes to regulate Scope 3 emissions, the recent SCOTUS decision in West Virginia v. EPA is likely to spark litigation, raising questions as to whether the SEC has authority from Congress to regulate climate disclosures and emissions.

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Senate and House Pass The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) heads to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature, following passage by the House today and the Senate on Sunday. After weeks of negotiations, the comprehensive economic package primarily brokered by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) reflects Democratic priorities to combat climate change, reduce prescription drug costs, and lower the deficit by roughly $300 billion over the next decade. (Washington Post, Aug. 7; Roundtable Weekly, July 29)

Why It Matters

  • After Congress passed the IRA today, President Biden stated, “With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in the House, families will see lower prescription drug prices, lower health care costs, and lower energy costs. I look forward to signing it into law next week” (Twitter, Aug. 12 | Wall Street Journal, Aug. 12)
  • The $790 billion reconciliation proposal includes nearly $370 billion in climate spending that affects “clean energy” measures important to commercial real estate, the largest federal clean energy investment in U.S. history. (NPR, Aug. 7) (see story below)

CRE Impact

Jeffrey DeBoer, Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO

Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer commented today, “The revised Inflation Reduction Act is a welcome step toward boosting economic growth by spurring extensive investments in clean energy and climate measures that benefit both our industry and our country. We applaud Congress for recognizing and protecting the critical role of carried interest provisions in incentivizing the risk-taking necessary for robust economic development. We look forward to working with our partners in industry and government to implement this legislation.”

  • Proposed changes to the taxation of carried interest were cut from the IRA last week at the request of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). The Roundtable and 14 other national real estate organizations wrote to all members of Congress on Aug. 3 in strong opposition to the measure. (Coalition letter, Aug. 3 | Roundtable Weekly, Aug. 5 )
  • The IRA’s largest tax increase is a 15% corporate minimum tax on businesses with profits over $1 billion whose reported book income exceeds reported taxable income. The measure is estimated to raise $313 billion.
  • The final bill includes a 1 percent tax on what public companies spend on stock buybacks. However, it did not include any changes to the state and local tax (SALT) deduction.  (CQ, Aug. 7)
  • The package also includes protections that would preserve the value of the low-income housing tax credit for investors (typically large banks) that use the credit to reduce their effective tax rate.
In the coming weeks, The Roundtable will continue updating summaries of the tax and energy provisions in the IRA while also analyzing the direct and indirect impact on commercial real estate. (See below for Clean Energy Tax Incentives Fact Sheet)

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Roundtable “Fact Sheet” Summarizes Inflation Reduction Act’s “Clean Energy” Tax Incentives Important to Real Estate

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that passed Congress today (see story above) – “includes the largest expenditures ever made by the federal government to slow global warming.” (New York Times, Aug. 7) The bill “would spend nearly $370 billion on a raft of tax credits to help stimulate adoption of clean energy technologies.” (POLITICO, July 28)

Key CRE Credits and Deductions (RER Fact Sheet

A number of the IRA’s revisions to the federal tax code can help the U.S. real estate sector reduce GHG emissions. The Real Estate Roundtable has prepared a fact sheet summarizing key IRA incentives, including:

  • A revised tax deduction at Section 179D, to encourage existing commercial building “retrofit” projects that cut energy consumption by at least 25%;
  • A revised tax credit at Section 45L, to encourage new energy efficient multifamily construction;
  • An expanded tax credit at Section 48,  to support investments in solar, combined heat and power, microturbines, energy storage, dynamic glass, grid interconnection, fuel cells, geothermal heat pumps, and other clean energy technologies;
  • A new code section to allow businesses that cannot typically benefit from tax incentives because of income limitations (such as REITs) to transfer certain credits to unrelated third parties.

The Senate Finance Committee has provided a summary of all incentives in the IRA’s “Energy Security” Subtitle D. 

Roundtable Advocacy

Capitol building sun and green

  • The Roundtable has long advocated for code changes that can make clean energy incentives more usable for building owners, managers, designers, and financiers. (See Roundtable Weekly, Nov. 19 and May 28, 2021).
  • The IRA includes a number of The Roundtable’s recommended changes. As our analysis of Subtitle D continues, RER’s fact sheet will be updated and revised.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is expected to issue multiple regulations and guidance documents in the coming months that implement the new law. The Roundtable will provide comments as new rules are proposed to help accelerate the CRE industry’s investments in tackling the climate crisis.

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Roundtable Submits Comments to SEC on Climate Risk Disclosure Proposal

SEC logo and text

The Real Estate Roundtable submitted comments today to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on a proposed rule that would require all registered companies to disclose material financial risks related to climate change. The comments were developed with The Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC), chaired by Tony Malkin (Chairman, President and CEO of Empire State Realty Trust). (GlobeSt, March 22) 

Extensive Climate Risk Disclosures

  • The SEC’s proposal, “Enhancement and Standardization of Climate-Related Disclosures for Investors,” is a key component of the Biden Administration’s efforts to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. (CBS-AP | Bloomberg Axios, March 21)

  • If the rule is finalized, compliance would phase-in over the next several years. All SEC registrants would be required to quantify their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, assess the economic impact of rising sea levels related to their assets, and report in SEC filings (for the benefit of investors) on these and other climate-related risks through annual 10-Ks and additional filings. (SEC News Release | Proposed Rule | Fact Sheet, March 22)

  • The SEC’s extensive draft rule has raised significant concerns throughout the U.S. business community. (ClimateWire, June 2). The proposal includes new disclosure requirements for “Scope 3” GHG emissions, which are generated outside a business’ direct control by partners, suppliers, and consumers that make up the “value chain” of that business. (EPA Scope 3 Inventory Guidance and Fourkites).

Roundtable Response

CRE building with tree and sunshine
  • The Roundtable’s comment letter is summarized as follows:

    • Registered Companies Should Not be Required to Report on Emissions From Sources They Do Not Own or Control.
      When applied to the CRE context, this means that a building owner should not be under a mandate to report on emissions attributable to the operations of tenants in leased spaces. For example, emissions from metered electricity in a tenant-leased space should not be the CRE owner’s responsibility to report to the SEC.  

    • Create a “Safe Harbor” for Emissions Calculated with U.S. Government Data and Tools.
      Reporting companies should be protected by a “safe harbor” that insulates emissions disclosures from liability—in both SEC enforcement as well as private litigation—when calculations are based on the best, available, and most recent data and tools released by the federal government.

    • There Should be No Scope 3 Reporting “Mandate.”
      Scope 3 disclosures typically depend on GHG data possessed by suppliers and other businesses in a reporting company’s value chain. Registrants should not be under any Scope 3 disclosure mandate because they frequently cannot get the basic data to quantify those “indirect” estimates.

    • Wait Until a Registrant has a Full Year of “Actual” Data Before Requiring Emissions Disclosures.
      The proposal as written effectively requires two separate emissions disclosures each fiscal year. The SEC should only require emissions filings once a year—after a company has all of the “actual” data it needs to support and verify its calculations.

    • Financial Risks from Severe Weather Events Should be Subject to “Principles-Based” Reporting—As Opposed to One-Size-Fits-All “Prescriptive” Rules.
      Risks from floods, droughts, and similar events should be subject to narrative, “principles-based” reporting. The SEC should drop its proposed “prescriptive” rule that registrants should precisely quantify impacts from climate-related events if they have a one-percent or greater impact on any line item in a financial statement.  

Policymaker Concerns

  • The Biden administration is expected to push forward with a final rule that could be issued later this year.

  • Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, sent a letter to the SEC on April 4 outlining his concerns with the proposal.

  • Senate Republicans also expressed their opposition to the SEC proposal in an April 5 letter.

  • House Republicans have called for a hearing on the SEC’s proposal—signaling heightened oversight should they win the majority in this November’s mid-term elections. (E&E News, May 10)

The Roundtable’s comments to the SEC will be a focus of the SPAC meeting on June 17, held in conjunction with The Roundtable’s Annual Meeting.

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Real Estate Roundtable Requests Member Feedback on SEC Climate Risk Disclosure Proposal

SEC building

Monday, April 11 is the deadline for responses to a voluntary Real Estate Roundtable membership survey on a proposed rule issued by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), above, that would require corporate disclosures of climate-related financial risks. (Roundtable Fact Sheet, March 25)  

  • The responses will influence The Roundtable’s comments to the SEC about the March 21 proposed rule. (Roundtable Weekly, March 25)
  • Roundtable members are encouraged to review The Roundtable’s fact sheet summarizing the SEC’s proposed rule before submitting responses.
  • The survey, originally sent on April 1, aims to obtain a high-level understanding of the existing practices and standards used by Roundtable members in assessing and quantifying:
    • greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across portfolios,
    • buildings’ electricity use,
    • the impact of floods and rising sea levels to real estate assets,
    • tenant interactions about these issues, and
    • other questions that may require registered companies to report on their climate-related financial risks.
  • The proposed SEC rule has no immediate effect. If it is finalized, the action could have a significant impact on the real estate industry, requiring all SEC registered companies to report on climate-related risks through annual 10-Ks and additional filings. (SEC News Release | Proposed Rule | Fact Sheet, March 22) 
  • If any Roundtable member has questions about the survey, please contact Roundtable Senior Vice President and Counsel, Duane Desiderio.

Policymakers & SEC Regulation

Capitol view from side - bright

  • Several Senate Democrats support a more stringent SEC climate disclosure rule, including Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey of Massachusetts. (Politico, April 5 and Markey news release, March 21)
  • Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, sent a letter to Commission Chairman Gary Gensler on April 4 outlining his concerns with the 506-page proposed SEC rule.
  • A group of 19 Senate Republicans from the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) and Banking committees expressed their opposition to the SEC proposal in an April 5 letter to Gensler.
  • While some opposition to the SEC’s proposed rule is mounting in Congress, particularly from the GOP, the Biden Administration is nonetheless expected to push forward with a final rule that could be issued later this year.  

The Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) will convene a working group that will review the SEC’s proposed climate rule and our comment letter response to the Commission.

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Roundtable Survey Seeks Members’ Input on SEC Climate Risk Disclosure Proposal

SEC building exterior

Real Estate Roundtable members received a survey earlier today that will help formulate comments in response to a proposed rule issued on March 21 by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regarding corporate disclosures of climate-related financial risks. (Roundtable Weekly, March 25) 

Roundtable Member Participation 

  • The Roundtable requests that members respond to the SEC climate issues survey by COB April 11.

  • Before submitting responses to the survey, members are encouraged to review The Roundtable’s fact sheet summarizing the SEC’s proposed rule.
  • The survey sent today aims to obtain a high-level understanding of the existing practices and standards used by Roundtable members in assessing and quantifying the following:
    • greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across their portfolios,
    • their buildings’ electricity use,
    • impacts to their real estate assets from floods and rising sea levels,
    • how they interact with their tenants on these matters, and
    • similar questions that will likely require registered companies to report on their climate-related financial risks.
  • If any Roundtable member has questions about the survey, please contact Roundtable Senior Vice President and Counsel, Duane Desiderio.

SEC Climate Risk Proposal

Flooding of mixed used building

  • The proposed rule has no immediate effect. If the proposal is finalized, all companies registered with the SEC would be required to report, measure, and quantify “material” risks related to climate change in their annual Form 10-Ks and certain other filings. (SEC News Release | Proposed Rule | Fact Sheet, March 22)
  • Compliance would phase-in over the next several years. For example, registrants with a global market value of $700 million or more would need to comply first for filings in FY 2024 (covering FY 2023 emissions).
  • “Limited assurance” from independent third party verifiers, regarding so-called Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, would be required for the first two compliance years. Thereafter, “limited assurance” would ramp-up to “reasonable assurance” at a level provided in a financial statement audit filed with a 10-K.
  • Indirect “supply chain” emissions – known as “Scope 3” – are considered the most difficult emissions to measure and quantify. Under the SEC’s proposal, reasonable efforts to report on Scope 3 emissions would receive a “safe harbor” from certain liability under federal securities laws. Also, third-party verification of Scope 3 reporting would be optional. 

The SEC proposal, formally titled “Enhancement and Standardization of Climate-Related Disclosures for Investors,” is considered a key component of the Biden Administration’s efforts to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 52% (below 2005 levels) by 2030. (CBS-AP | Bloomberg Axios, March 21)  

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