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Is the fight in N.Y. really about climate change?

"Is the fight in N.Y. really about climate change?", October 28 2019

Activists have rallied around a high-profile trial over Exxon Mobil Corp.'s disclosures of carbon costs as a landmark legal battle on climate accountability. Attorneys for the company, meanwhile, insist that the case has nothing to do with climate...

Legal experts have anticipated that the outcome of this case, built on the bones of an accounting lawsuit, could reverberate more for the climate movement than for the investor community. Court watchers also note that the case could serve as a key piece in the broader puzzle of how to push Big Oil to internalize the costs associated with a changing climate.

...State Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, contends that Exxon violated the Martin Act, a complicated state securities law, by making misleading statements to investors about how the company accounts for climate change risk through planning tools known as "proxy costs." The company denies the claims.

...The real challenge to disclosures, Powell said, stems from the Trump administration's efforts to downplay the narrative of climate change in public company financial statements.

When the Securities and Exchange Commission changed its disclosure rules to require disclosure of only "material" risks, energy companies gained more leeway under the less-stringent obligations.

"What I'm getting back to is the energy industry's ability to make really meaningful, significant changes through their lobbying efforts that no one ever hears or talks about," Powell said. "But the reality is the energy industry is winning in every backroom, creating much more change than even a possible victory in this case would."

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