On 16 November 2023, the FCA published the findings from its review of how asset managers have been embedding current regulatory expectations regarding the design, delivery, and disclosure of funds marketed as having ESG or sustainable characteristics.
With the FCA yet to finalise its Sustainability Disclosure Requirements (SDR) and investment labelling regime, it reviewed authorised fund managers’ (AFMs’) compliance with existing regulatory requirements, including the Guiding Principles set out in the Dear Chair letter issued in July 2021 (see this Latham blog post). The recently implemented Consumer Duty has added an extra dimension for AFMs to consider since the Guiding Principles were issued. The FCA highlights that the consumer understanding outcome is particularly relevant for AFMs providing ESG or sustainable funds; under this outcome, firms need to provide investors with the information they need at the right time and present it in a suitable way.
On October 30, 2023, the three US federal bank regulatory agencies — the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (FRB), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) (collectively, the Agencies) — jointly finalized Principles for Climate-Related Financial Risk Management for Large Financial Institutions (the Principles).
The Principles are intended to provide large financial institutions (i.e., those with $100 billion or more in total assets) with a high-level framework for understanding and managing exposures to climate-related financial risks, including physical and transition risks. Such “financial institutions” include national banks and federal thrifts, state member banks, FDIC-insured state nonmember banks and savings associations, bank holding companies, savings and loan holding companies, intermediate holding companies, branches, agencies and the combined US operations of non-US banking organizations, and any systemically important non-banks that may become supervised by the FRB.
On 26 October 2023, the UK Energy Act 2023 (the Act) received Royal Assent. The Act is a landmark piece of energy legislation detailing the UK’s approach to achieving energy independence and its net zero obligations.
The provisions of the Act lay the foundation for potentially £100 billion worth of private investment in clean energy infrastructure. The government has indicated that the Act is intended to support up to 72,000 jobs in carbon capture and storage (CCS) and hydrogen by 2030.
This blog post summarises how the Act is likely to impact key industries.
Renewable energy production has grown at an exponential clip over the past decade, with continued strong expansion expected because of declining costs, numerous governmental incentives, and long-term decarbonization policies. This trend has driven a tremendous demand for new transmission infrastructure in the US and globally, yet new transmission lines often take years to develop due to regulatory hurdles and litigation challenges.
An unprecedented investment in transmission will be needed over upcoming decades to keep pace with demand and meet decarbonization goals. Companies and investors will need to factor into their strategies these key regulatory trends when pursuing US and global transmission and generator interconnection opportunities.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission has adopted amendments to Rule 35d-1 under the Investment Company Act governing naming conventions for registered funds (the Names Rule). The Names Rule prohibits registered funds from using “materially deceptive or misleading” names. Specifically, the Names Rule requires a registered investment company or business development company with a name that suggests it focuses on a particular type of investment or investments in a particular industry, country, or geographic region, or that it suggests certain tax treatment, to invest at least 80% of its assets consistent with its name. The expanded requirements include registered fund names that indicate the registered fund’s investment decisions incorporate one or more ESG factors.
This Client Alert discusses the amendments adopted in the final rule and key differences from the original proposal. It also explores implications for the use of ESG-related terminology in US fund names, and compares the final rule with EU and UK approaches.
On October 5, 2023, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued two rules, one final and one proposed, to phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under the bipartisan American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 (AIM Act). The agency’s recent actions represent major steps in the Biden administration’s goal to significantly reduce HFCs over the next decade.
HFCs are a group of chemical refrigerants and potent greenhouse gasses (GHGs), commonly used in foam products, cooling systems, aerosols, and fire suppressants. International focus on managing these compounds sharpened in the 1980s, when countries agreed in the Montreal Protocol to shift global markets away from the ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) — the then dominant strain of refrigerant and aerosol chemicals — toward HFCs. Although HFCs are less damaging to the ozone layer than CFCs, they have global warming potential (GWP) values (a figure that allows comparison of relative climate impact of a GHG) hundreds or thousands times higher than carbon dioxide (CO2), which has a GWP equal to 1. In 2016, nearly 200 countries adopted the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol agreeing to a global phasedown of production and use of HFCs. The US ratified that amendment on October 31, 2022.
The UK Transition Plan Taskforce (TPT) launched its transition plan disclosure framework (the Framework) at the London Stock Exchange on 9 October 2023. The Framework encourages businesses to create transition plans for a low greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions economy. It also seeks to help companies and financial institutions create consistent and comparable disclosures on their climate transition plans.
While initially voluntary, the Framework is expected to become mandatory for certain entities in the UK through incorporation into regulatory frameworks.
The enforcement action alleges 1,400 warehouses are noncompliant.
Noncompliance can result in fines of up to $11,710 per day.
Litigation challenging this program remains pending, with no quick end in sight.
On September 20, 2023, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD or the District) announced an enforcement initiative for Rule 2305, also known as the Warehouse Indirect Source Rule (ISR), which is part of the Warehouse Actions and Investments to Reduce Emissions (WAIRE) Program. As described in this June 2021 blog post, the WAIRE Program applies to warehouses in the South Coast Air Basin over 100,000 square feet, with a phased implementation based on warehouse size. The ISR imposes a compliance obligation based on the number of truck visits to that warehouse per year, which warehouse operators can meet through emissions-reducing actions, either from the “WAIRE Menu” or through a custom plan approved by the District.
On 14 September 2023, the European Commission initiated a consultation on its sustainable financial disclosure practices, seeking feedback on Regulation (EU) 2019/2088 — the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR). The consultation surveys stakeholders’ experiences during the implementation of the SFDR and, in particular, solicits feedback on its interactions with the broader EU sustainable finance framework.