Sustainability: Aussies Tell Greenhouse Gas Offenders to Fess Up

Carbon dioxide belchers down under, beware. A new law passed by the Australian government will require the nation's largest businesses to report on greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption starting in July of next year. Officials say the public has a right to know who the country's biggest polluters are.

The law applies only to the companies and facilities that emit the highest amounts of greenhouse gases, with the intent of protecting small business from further regulatory burdens. However, stricter limits will be imposed over the course of three years to increase the number of companies reporting.

My first thought on learning about this law was that it would never work in the U.S., or it will at least take years before anything like it comes about. While some effort has been made on the state level, the national government has showed little interest in recent years in interfering with big business's role in contributing to global warming.

However, further research revealed the U.S. government has had a voluntary program for reporting on greenhouse gas emissions since 1992. Who knew? It falls under the Energy Information Administration, a division of the Department of Energy. I'm a little surprised the reports aren't more widely publicized, considering the business world's scramble these days to show environmental accountability. On the other hand, it's probably difficult to put a positive spin on being one of the nation's biggest contributors to air pollution.

In 2005, the latest year for which data are available, 111 U.S. businesses submitted estimates of their carbon emissions on a company-wide level. To put that in perspective, the Australians estimate 450 companies will report on greenhouse gas levels in the first year, with 700 reporting by 2011. I don't know the exact figures, but I imagine the U.S. has a lot more companies than Australia. Once again, the U.S. trails the rest of the world in creating policies for environmental responsibility.

Should governments mandate reports on greenhouse gas emissions? Do such reports have any effect on business practices?

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