US Chamber of Commerce has helped minimize climate threat, new report concludes


For 20 years, the United States Chamber of Commerce has played a central role in national and global campaigns to thwart ambitious legislative efforts to curb the rise in global carbon emissions and minimize the threat of change. climate change, according to a new report that analyzed dozens of documents. issued by the largest business association in the country.

the report, published Tuesday by Brown University’s Climate and Development Lab, adds to a growing body of work that has revealed how the fossil fuel industry and other organizations linked to its business interests have spent decades building up sophisticated messaging campaigns aimed at allaying public concerns. on climate change and protect the bottom line of some of the world’s largest companies.

The Chamber of Commerce, during what the report called the “formative period” of US climate policy from 1989 to 2009, consistently characterized climate science as needing more time to develop and said that various solutions proposed to reduce carbon emissions “would be detrimental to the US economy and put us at a disadvantage compared to other countries.” And the organization’s board more often included energy officials than Main Street store owners, according to the report.

The chamber “has long been a powerful force hindering climate action and a funder, leader and active participant of many counter-movement groups,” the report said. “Boards of directors and chamber committees have long been made up of executives from fossil fuel companies like Shell, ConocoPhillips and Southern Company, whose leadership has helped shape its climate change strategies. “

Matt Letourneau, the chamber’s director general of communications, declined to comment on the report, but pointed to the trade association’s recent commitments to tackle global warming.

In January, the chamber updated its climatic position, following other major US lobby groups like the American Bankers’ Association, advocating the need for market-based solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as the implementation of carbon pricing or funding for research into technologies such as carbon capture and storage.

“We are proud of the work we are doing among House members to provide meaningful and achievable solutions to the global climate challenge,” Letourneau said in an email. “The business community is at the forefront of innovation and investment in the technology needed to reduce emissions, and will be an important voice in international and national policy dialogue. “

Cole Triedman, a Brown University graduate researcher who wrote the report, analyzed 41 official chamber documents on climate change between 1989 and 2009, finding that the trade group was linked with several major campaigns to derail national and international policies to combat climate change.

The House “has channeled its influence through the participation, funding and leadership of several coalitions, front groups and ad hoc groups opposed to climate action,” Triedman wrote. “These groups have often done the ‘dirty work’ of researching and messaging about climate denial, advertising campaigns on climate change policies, and promoting climate denial scientists.”

Most notable among these chamber-related groups was the Global Climate Coalition, according to the study. For more than a decade, the group has waged an aggressive lobbying and public relations campaign against the idea that heat-trapping gas emissions could lead to global warming, the The New York Times reported in 2009.

The group also played an important role in persuading the Bush administration in 2001 to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol, the first international treaty to tackle climate change by limiting countries’ carbon emissions, according to the report. Brown University.

Another large group that the chamber helped lead was the Better Energy Futures Partnership, which “was completely dedicated to tackling Obama’s Clean Power Plan,” and of which former chamber executive Karen Harbert served. served as co-chair, Triedman said.

The Brown University report, one of the first to do a full analysis of the chamber’s climatic positions, found that the group has changed its message over the years from denying or ignoring the ‘existence of climate change to highlighting the ambiguity on scientific consensus and the severity of climate change, to accept climate change and to promote voluntary solutions to deal with it.

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This model joins another recent study that examined the messaging campaigns of oil giant ExxonMobil. This research analyzed language in Exxon’s public and internal documents and found that the oil major was using “the subtle micro-politics of language to downplay its role in the climate crisis.”

A growing number of young activists, who have re-energized the climate movement and pushed companies to take more progressive positions in the fight against climate change, have criticized the chamber, including its new commitments on global warming, for “Greenwashing” – making an official position seem more environmentally friendly than it actually is.

A new youth-led campaign, Change the Chamber, aims to replace the professional group’s “fossil-free” board members with members who will take stronger action on climate change.

The youth-led coalition, as well as Climate Change Lobby, an international and local lobby group, released a report in 2020 suggesting that even though the chamber began publicly advocating for climate action in 2019, the trade group continued to push against legislation that would likely have advanced efforts to reduce carbon emissions and helped mitigate negative consequences of industrial pollution.

In 2019, the chamber successfully pressured the US Senate to vote against a joint resolution to overturn the EPA’s repeal of the “Clean Power Plan,” which had introduced emission guidelines to be followed. by states to limit carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants, according to the report. . And in 2020, the chamber also successfully lobbied the Environmental Protection Agency to deny tighter environmental rules regarding PM 2.5 pollution, or fine particles, which are linked to fuel combustion. fossils and are one of the leading causes of premature death in and around the United States. the world.

Earlier this month, Change the Chamber urged member companies in a letter to leave the association or risk being qualified as an anti-climate action.

“The US House continues to use its political influence to advance public policies on climate issues which, if passed, will contribute to catastrophic levels of climate change,” the youth-led campaign wrote in a statement. “The companies and brands that fund obstructive lobby groups during this ‘decade of action’ are likely to become the object of public anger for the trauma to come from climate change.”

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