In 2016, the Chamber testified before Congress in opposition to the Paris Agreement, despite the fact that nearly half of the Chamber’s board members have taken public positions supporting efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Now, with a Republican President seemingly low on policy ideas, the Chamber has been able to gain tremendous influence over the administration’s energy policy.
Let’s start with President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, a decision he justified by citing a “study,” which claimed that implementing the Paris Agreement would result in large job losses. The Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy was one of just two sponsors of this sham study, which, much like many of the other alternative facts used to support decisions made by the Trump administration, has since been the subject of some well-deserved bad press.
As NRDC (and now several others) have pointed out, the report’s methodology is severely flawed, featuring unrealistically inflated job loss numbers. What’s more, the study also ignores the vast potential of energy efficiency, which could make reducing emissions cheaper and easier, all while keeping manufacturing jobs in the U.S., and improving the competitiveness of American industry.
In addition to providing Trump with a rationale to pull out of the Paris Agreement, the Chamber is also one of the lead plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan. It has opposed action on climate change and clean energy solutions at nearly every turn. The Chamber has sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) more than any other government agency, suing the agency 15 times during a recent three year period, and filing amicus briefs against the EPA in an additional 11 cases. The Chamber also called for a “Scopes Monkey Trial of the 21st Century” to put climate science on trial.
Given the Chamber’s self-proclaimed role as the voice of small business and champion of economic growth, the Chamber’s staunch opposition to limiting (GHG) emissions is completely nonsensical. Green businesses and renewable energy companies (many of them small) have a track record of innovation and job creation, and are drivers of economic growth. Then again, the Chamber’s claims to represent small business are about as credible as Trump’s claim that he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” (Reminder: the Pittsburgh mayor disagrees .)
Of course, given the biggest companies that fund the Chamber, it’s unsurprising that it would ignore clean energy solutions and the dangers of fossil fuels to the detriment of the other smaller business members of the trade association. The Chamber is collectively receiving millions of dollars from ExxonMobil, Chevron, Conoco Philips, Occidental Petroleum, Philips 66, Hess, Apache, Tesoro Petroleum, Marathon Oil, Marathon Petroleum, Noble Energy, and Peabody Energy. And those are just the companies we know about! In addition, executives from ConocoPhillips and Sempra Energy sit on the Chamber’s board of directors. From repeatedly suing the EPA to undermining the Paris Agreement, the Chamber plays a key role in doing the dirty work for some of the world’s deadliest and most environmentally destructive companies.
While the Chamber has remained largely silent in the wake of Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, we’ve heard an outpouring of opposition from U.S. business leaders. All those that made statements disavowed the decision, and several, including Disney’s Bob Iger, have stepped down from the Trump’s Business Council. What was distinctly missing from these business leaders’ statements, however, was any acknowledgement of the connection between the money these companies give to the Chamber, and Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.
Membership dues and donations from companies like Disney, Gap, and Facebook (the very ones that publicly disagreed with the decision) are what makes it possible for the Chamber to fund things like the study Trump used to justify his decision to withdraw, as well as all the other anti-climate lobbying and litigation in which the Chamber engages. While it’s nice to see business leaders voice support for action on climate change, it’s difficult to take their statements seriously until they they stop funding the anti-climate Chamber.
Want to make your voice heard on this issue? Wondering what you can do to help? Join our #DropTheChamber campaign and sign our petition to the CEOs of Disney, Gap, and Pepsi and ask them to stop funding the anti-climate U.S. Chamber of Commerce!