The Business Roundtable, a major trade association that includes the heads of some of the largest and most influential companies in the U.S. as members, is endorsing a “market-based mechanism” as part of a plan to sharply curb greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change,
The move, which was first reported by POLITICO on Tuesday, throws the lobbying voice of those executives from companies with $7 trillion in annual revenues behind efforts to combat climate change, reflecting a stark division between the business community and the Trump administration.
In a statement on its website, the Business Roundtable warned of the threats that climate change posed to the United States, and said although significant progress had been made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the uncertainty caused by the patchwork of state and federal efforts was hurting companies.
“It is time for a new approach,” the statement said.
The group also backed the goals of the 2015 Paris agreement of limiting average global temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius — a sharp break from President Donald Trump, who is planning to make the U.S. the only country in the world to pull out of the pact.
“The United States and the international community must aggressively reduce GHG emissions and create incentives for developing new technologies to achieve this goal. Business Roundtable supports a goal of reducing net U.S. GHG emissions by at least 80 percent from 2005 levels by 2050,” it said.
Among the Roundtable’s dozens of members are the heads of companies that are major carbon dioxide emitters, including Nick Akins of utility giant American Electric Power, Lynn Good of Duke Energy, Chevron CEO and Chairman Mike Wirth, ConocoPhillips chief Ryan Lance, and Exxon Mobil boss Darren Woods. The head of Wall Street giants Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are also members.
A “market-based mechanism” is a broad term, and the Business Roundtable did not recommend any one particular design. It called for putting a price on carbon as a means to reduce emissions since “a clear price signal is the most important consideration for encouraging innovation, driving efficiency, and ensuring sustained environmental and economic effectiveness.”
Examples include direct taxation of carbon dioxide emissions as well as cap-and-trade schemes, such as legislation that passed the House in 2009 but fizzled in the Senate.
Any revenues that come from any market-based system should be used to support economic growth, reduce societal impact, and aid people and companies that are the most negatively affected, the goups said. And it should be linked with “at least a doubling of federal funding for research, development and demonstration of (greenhouse gas) reduction technologies.”
Business Roundtable spokesperson Rayna Farrell said in an email Tuesday evening that the group had been considering multiple versions of a climate policy, which it had been working on for the past year.
The idea of a price on carbon has floated around Congress for several years but hasn’t picked up momentum. Elected Republicans have shunned it. Many progressive Democrats also have turned away from the policy, viewing the price needed to sufficiently reduce emissions to avoid baking in the worst effects of climate change as politically untenable.
But many Democrats active on climate issues, such as Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Brian Schatz of Hawaii, have touted a carbon price as a necessary tool for reducing emissions that could eventually attract Republican support. And a coterie of conservative climate advocates have pushed the concept.
A number of high-profile U.S. companies, such as Microsoft and Uber, have committed to achieving carbon neutrality in recent months amid pressure from investors and a growing sense that more aggressive policies to reduce planet-warming gases are inevitable.
U.S. financial institutions, too, have moved to account for their role in driving climate change. Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and Citi have all agreed to tally the greenhouse gas emissions from their lending portfolios.
Corporate climate endeavors are a significant focus of Climate Week NYC, an effort to build enthusiasm for climate action that begins Sept. 21.