The largest industry trade group in the world is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a coalition of some 3 million leading corporations. This behemoth includes some of the most environmentally awful players like Peabody Coal, ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Massey Energy, along with a number of companies working to lighten their climate footprint like FedEx, General Electric and Johnson & Johnson.
Recently divisions have cropped up in the U.S. Chamber. Three prominent utilities dumped the chamber in the last month, publicly slamming the Chamber’s position on climate change. Nike just left its position on the board of directors. Brad Figel, Nike’s director of government relations, told Greenwire that “We just weren’t clear in how decisions on climate and energy were being made.” And yesterday, computer giant Apple announced it was leaving the Chamber over climate policy.
What gives? What could the trade group be doing that has so offended its major members?
For starters, back in August, the Chamber filed a petition opposing the regulation of CO2 emissions by the EPA. This despite the fact that the EPA is acting under orders of the Supreme Court, which found in 2007 that CO2 is indeed a pollutant within the EPA’s mandate to regulate.
If that wasn’t sufficiently offensive to Chamber members, then the content and messaging surrounding the petition certainly should have been. The Chamber was setting about to equate climate science with evolution and link their denial of climate science with a belief in creationism. This, from the world’s largest business lobby.
Chamber VP Bill Kovacs publicly called to subject climate change to “the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century.” Kovacs goes further, believing that federal action on climate change will “virtually destroy the United States.”
Of course now that companies are calling them out, Chamber CEO Thomas Donohue has changed the tune, saying that “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce continues to support strong federal legislation and a binding international agreement to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change.” Just not on these terms. Even though current climate legislation gives away all the rights to pollute to the industries currently polluting, that’s still not enough for the Chamber.
The Chamber’s actions as well as its rhetoric are out of step with modern public values. It’s time for more companies to distance themselves from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.