Private Sector Project:  Governance & Innovation

EELP conducts legal analysis of private sector initiatives to respond to climate change and other environmental challenges and propose solutions. We use research, scholarship and engagement to analyze the legal environment in which firms approach these challenges. We work on the legal and practical challenges of corporate governance related to climate risk and develop scholarship to help integrate emerging technologies with existing legal frameworks so that innovative solutions can be put to use.

EELP’s Private Sector Project is led by Staff Attorney Hana Vizcarra.

Corporations & Climate: Governance for a Changing World

Our first activity within the Private Sector Project addresses issues of liability and ESG ratings and investor concerns regarding what information firms reveal about the climate-related risks they face. We are assessing the legal and practical challenges of incorporating climate-risk into corporate disclosures. Financial entities have expressed interest in additional understanding of the impacts on companies from both long term energy transition and physical climate impacts. We brought together oil and gas sector companies, investors, and ratings and standards organizations at our first Corporations & Climate convening in November, 2018 to discuss the challenges of expanding climate-related disclosure in the oil and gas industry. We are developing scholarship on the legal questions around increasing investor demands for such disclosures in the oil and gas industry. Looking forward, we will continue to tackle the legal questions inherent in corporate governance that must balance shareholder needs, fiduciary duties, and long-term viability in the face of climate change.

Integrating Emerging Technologies

As the private sector tackles mitigation and adaptation challenges through the development of innovative technologies, societal and legal integration issues inevitably arise. Whether it is the integration of autonomous vehicles, adoption of carbon capture or negative emissions technologies, or any other technological development, climate solutions driven by private sector innovation must navigate existing and developing legal frameworks in order to reach their intended markets. We work to identify barriers to successful integration of new technologies and develop scholarship that will allow firms to navigate through those barriers.

Keep up to date with our Private Sector Project work below.

  • Influencing Energy Company Climate Disclosure Practices: Cautionary Words for State Attorneys General, a white paper by Hana Vizcarra, July 15, 2019, State attorneys general have long played a significant role in shaping the law and influencing policy around issues of national concern. AGs have recently shown an increased interest in corporate treatment of climate risks in financial disclosures, particularly by oil and gas companies. However, AGs efforts to address potential securities fraud and consumer protection concerns in such disclosures run parallel to investor-led efforts to expand and improve climate-related disclosures. AGs must walk a thin line to insure companies do not mislead investors and consumers while also not jeopardizing existing investor efforts to encourage more detailed climate-related disclosures from energy companies. This white paper explores how AGs can encourage better disclosure practices.
  • Climate-Related Disclosure and Litigation Risk in the Oil & Gas Industry: Will State Attorneys General Investigations Impede the Drive for More Expansive Disclosures?, Hana Vizcarra, June 2019, Vermont Law Review, Vol. 43, Book 4. Investors increasingly recognize climate-related risks and opportunities as relevant to the financial health of a company and to their own investment decisions. Investors are demanding more information from energy companies on expected climate-induced physical impacts and their plans for a future with a different energy mix. Yet, uncertainties about regulatory efforts, legal, and technical concerns have hindered widespread adoption of consistent climate-related disclosure practices. Meanwhile, state investigations of corporate climate disclosures illuminate a new challenge for companies. Relying on different legal principles, the parallel efforts of investors and the state attorneys general could work at cross-purposes, potentially impeding improved disclosure of climate risks. This article explores these parallel legal regimes and whether delicately balanced efforts to increase meaningful climate-risk disclosure are at risk.
  • Infrastructure EO Section 5 (ESG Section), More Bluster than Substance?, Hana Vizcarra, April 30, 2019. Part of our Energy EOs In Depth Series that analyzed some of the key elements of Pres. Trump’s April 10, 2019 Executive Orders and their implications. EO 13868 included a section on the use of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors in energy sector investment. Its language hints at a more expansive agenda but is limited in impact. It’s an effort to swim against the tide in the investment and energy industries. This piece provides context on the state of energy industry disclosures and investor interest in ESG issues and explains Section 5 of the new EO and its effort to buck the trends of ESG integration.
  • Opinion: Regulating methane emissions now means suing the EPA, Hana Vizcarra and Joe Goffman, April 4, 2019. An opinion piece in the Houston Chronicle responding to energy company statements of support for federal regulation of methane releases from oil and gas operations with a suggested specific action they can take — join the suit attempting to compel EPA to fulfill its legal duty under the Clean Air Act to regulate methane emissions from existing oil and gas sources.
  • Shifting Perspectives: E&P Companies Talking Climate and the Energy Transition A look at trends in energy company disclosure and climate strategy by Hana Vizcarra, March 26, 2019.
  • CleanLaw Podcast with Prof. Sarah Light on “The Law of Corporation as Environmental Law”, March 20, 2019.