Does Climate Change Transparency Affect Capital Flows? Evidence from Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Emissions Disclosure

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In this study, I exploit a quasi-natural experiment—the introduction of the mandatory Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reporting Program (GHGRP) in the United States—to examine the impact of climate change regulations on corporate investments, in particular, the effect of non-financial carbon disclosures on firms’ capital investment location decisions. Using unique project-level data on inter-state and foreign direct investments (FDI) for a sample of U.S. corporations, I document two sets of findings. Within the U.S., firms reacted by increasing investments in more environmentally-oriented jurisdictions, while decreasing investments in less environmentally-oriented jurisdictions, making the domestic profile of investment greener. Outside of the U.S., in contrast, I find that, against a backdrop of declining global FDI, the reduction of U.S. FDI was significantly smaller in less environmentally-oriented jurisdictions, making the international profile of investment less green. These results are driven by firms with lower environmental reputation. I show that a channel for the Program’s effect on investment location decisions is the presence of capital market pressure, which is in alignment with the goals of the Program to raise awareness among stakeholders. Consistent with investment and disclosure theory, the results suggest that firms with lower environmental reputation respond to investor pressures by geographically shifting investments into more eco-friendly locations at home but not abroad. Overall, the study demonstrates that carbon disclosure policies, such as the GHGRP, can have a significant effect on firms’ real decisions as well as potential international spillovers.