Big Business Fund Campaign to Kill Climate Bill
Four years ago, when President Donald Trump announced he would withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, the world’s largest companies took action.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has personally pleaded with Trump to stay in the pact. Bob Iger, chief executive of Disney, has resigned from a White House advisory board in protest. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein sent out his very first tweet just to denounce the exit. Within days, hundreds of American companies had signed their own pledge to the Paris Agreement, promising to reduce their climate pollution by more than 26% by 2025, from 2005 levels.
Today, many of those same companies, including Apple, Amazon, Walmart, Nike, Target, and dozens of others, are funding efforts to eliminate the Democratic Reconciliation Bill, which contains important climate provisions. that would enable the United States to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement. .
This countryside is calmer. Companies fund it through their membership fees to business-friendly trade groups, such as the Business Roundtable, a coalition of CEOs who advocate for pro-business policy.
This campaign appears to violate the climate commitments of these same companies. The bill would remove nearly a billion tonnes of carbon over the next decade, according to an analysis by Rhodium Group, an energy research firm. Its climate provisions “would be the biggest part of a comprehensive plan for the United States to fulfill its nationally determined contribution” under the Paris Agreement, Rhodium partner Trevor Houser told me.
Due to the long lead times involved in building zero-carbon infrastructure – it can take several years to license, build, and connect a solar or wind power plant to the power grid – the bill almost certainly represents the country’s last chance. Achieve those 2025 goals, ‘Jesse Jenkins, professor of mechanical engineering at Princeton, told me. “We are already talking about spending for 2022, which leaves only three years until 2025. If this bill is not adopted now, the window to move the needle has closed,” he said. he declares.
“It’s either that [bill] or no federal policy, and that means we would miss the Paris 2025 targets, and probably the 2030 targets as well, ”he said.
The Business Roundtable is one of the leaders in the fight against the bill. He sent senior executives to meet with lawmakers and orchestrated a massive opposition campaign that included TV and radio ads, in-person lobbying, and more than $ 150,000 in Facebook ads displayed to users in the Purple States. In one of those ads, the group warned that the reconciliation bill would be “bad for Montana workers and the economy.”
If a worried Montanan went to see who was running this ad, a list of well-accredited Business Roundtable members was just a few clicks away. It includes Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple; Sundar Pichai, CEO of parent company Google; Doug McMillon, President and CEO of Walmart; and executives from Target, Nike, 3M and more.
The Business Roundtable says it opposes the bill because it would increase taxes on businesses and some high income expenses. “Congress has unnecessarily linked climate action to $ 1 trillion in tax increases on job creators, which we strongly oppose, and billions in non-climate related spending,” Mr. ‘said Joshua Bolten, its President and CEO. “There is no political reason to tie strong action to tackle climate change with unrelated and nefarious tax policy and substantial spending, which would not only worsen Americans’ already dangerous debt burden, but also undermine the competitiveness of the American economy, businesses and workers. “
It is true that Democrats are pursuing their entire national agenda in one bill, as a procedural step to avoid some of the Senate filibuster restrictions, which Senate moderators such as Joe Manchin of Virginia -Western said they would not change. Because this movement can only be used at most several times during a session, the party platform has been crammed into one law.
But if the core of the Business Roundtable’s concern seems to linger on the new tax measures in the reconciliation bill, the group does not distinguish between its climate programs and its tax measures in its advertisements. His intention is to kill the partisan reconciliation bill while preserving the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which does not contain the same robust climate policies.
The tax provisions of the reconciliation bill – which would fund part of climate spending – are also being challenged by ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute, a fossil fuel trading group. These oil giants have run hundreds of thousands of Facebook ads opposing the tax hikes in the reconciliation bill, according to Axes.
The Business Roundtable’s opposition is surprising because in 2019 the group released an influential statement rejecting the idea that companies are only accountable to their shareholders. Companies must also “protect the environment” and respect their workers, suppliers and communities, the statement said.
Some members of the Business Roundtable distinguished the bill’s climate programs from its fiscal policy. Lisa Jackson, vice president of Apple and former director of the EPA, said Apple supports a clean electricity standard, a mechanism in the bill that would require utilities to generate more of their electricity from zero-carbon sources each year. After receiving a request related to this story, Amazon announcement that it supported “investments in infrastructure and [reconciliation] bills to reduce emissions in key sectors such as energy and transport. (Earlier this year, he also approved the increase in the corporate tax rate.)
Netflix, LinkedIn and 3M, three other members of the Business Roundtable, have also explicitly endorsed a clean electricity standard.
But none of these companies left the Business Roundtable, meaning their dues still fund an effort to lower the bill. “We can engage with organizations, even when we have different perspectives on certain issues, to raise awareness and understand the issues of importance and take collective action,” Sean Lynch, spokesperson for 3M told me. .
Apple declined to comment on the record for this story. Target and Nike did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Other members of the Business Roundtable said the group does not speak on their behalf. “Walmart continues to support the Paris Agreement and advocate for a strong and consistent US climate policy, but has not taken a position on any specific bill,” a spokesperson told me in an e -mail.
Jenkins, the Princeton professor, said those comments did not go far enough when these companies remained in the Business Roundtable, which “is actively working to sink everything.”
“It is one thing to say, ‘We have legitimate and serious concerns about the increase in corporate taxes, but we support the climate provisions’, but that is not how [the Business Roundtable] did not address the reconciliation bill at all, ”he said.
“A bunch of companies have publicly supported this bill or a federal climate policy. They go out and try to lead. But I don’t think you can do that while supporting the business groups who are actively trying to defeat the policy. “
Jenkins compared the Business Roundtable to the Edison Electric Institute, the trade group that represents investor-owned utilities. Like the Business Roundtable, its members are divided over the bill: some, like Exelon, the country’s largest utility, enthusiastically endorsed it; others, like Ohio-based American Electric Power, are more skeptical or openly opposed. As such, the institute has remained “lukewarm neutral” on the bill, Jenkins said.
It’s not 2001 or even 2009. With rare exceptions, America’s biggest corporations are no longer funding explicit climate denial as they once did, directly or indirectly. Dozens of powerful companies have pledged to reduce their climate pollution over the next decade and reach net zero by 2050 or before. Many leaders have also pledged to support some sort of ideal, though oddly unspecified, federal climate policy.
But this hypothetical support is not enough to reduce emissions, and with climate change so advanced, delays and procrastination amount, in practice, to some kind of denial. As much as leaders might want to wait for a perfect climate bill, containing only inexpensive provisions and stripped of all the downsides, 40 years of federal inaction on climate change should make it clear that such a bill is not. not to come. Climate change is a difficult problem and it will take powerful people – those who care, at least – to compromise. If this reconciliation bill fails, then the history of climate action in the United States suggests that lawmakers will not try again until 2032. By then, the global average temperature will likely have already exceeded 1.5 degrees. Celsius.
Leaders may dislike some aspects of the reconciliation bill, and they should say it: that’s life in a democracy. But if this bill fails in its entirety– which is the outcome the Business Roundtable hopes to achieve – then that would be a damning condemnation of American-style liberal capitalism. It will be clear to people at home and abroad that American society around 2021 can not get organized enough to actually fight climate change, and CEO platitudes over the Paris Agreement will be exposed like this. The hotter, angrier and poorer world that will result will not take them seriously, and neither will we.