The Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday embraced tougher action to combat climate change through carbon taxes, emissions caps or other “market-based” policies — the latest shift by the nation’s biggest business lobbying group as it pivots to a Washington dominated by Democrats.
In an updated position statement released Tuesday, the Chamber of Commerce says it supports “durable climate policy” that is made by Congress, including “a market-based approach to accelerate greenhouse gas emissions reductions across the U.S. economy.”
The group is also preparing to announce its support for using federal regulations to directly limit oil and gas industry emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
The new climate statement reflects where corporate America is headed on climate and sustainability issues and is the result of more than a year of member surveys and task group debate over the approach, said Marty Durbin, president of the chamber’s Global Energy Institute.
“We’re following where our membership is going,” Durbin said. “This is not a ‘we’re-against’ policy; this is about working with.”
“Coming in to a Congress that’s so evenly divided, and with an administration that clearly wants to move in this direction, here’s an opportunity to find those areas of policy where we do have some areas of bipartisan agreement and drive those forward,” Durbin said.
The statement does not dictate specific approaches — Durbin acknowledged “wide differences of opinion” on those details — but market-based climate policies previously advanced by lawmakers have included proposed taxes on carbon dioxide as well as cap-and-trade programs that would require companies to buy credits to emit the greenhouse gas.
President Joe Biden has outlined broad plans for combating climate change, including some $2 trillion in spending on clean energy, electric vehicles and other initiatives.
The revision comes as the chamber seeks to ensure it keeps playing an influential role in Washington with Democrats in charge of the House, Senate and the presidency. The group last year endorsed 23 vulnerable House Democrats seeking re-election and gave more to Democrats — some $152,000 — than it had over the previous 28 years. And last week, the chamber pushed for a major infrastructure package with a coalition of environmentalists, labor unions and other groups.
The group is set to announce its support for direct regulation of methane emissions from oil wells and related oilfield infrastructure as soon as Wednesday, Durbin said. Under President Donald Trump, and against the wishes of some major oil companies, the Environmental Protection Agency last year did away with existing methane curbs.
The policy statements reflect the chamber’s evolution on climate issues, amid mounting pressure from politicians, the public and its own members. In 2019, the group revised its position statement to stress that “inaction is not an option” and endorsed legislation championing innovation in green technology.
Just a dozen years ago, a former chamber vice president called for a public trial on the validity of climate science, prompting several major companies, including Apple Inc. and Exelon Corp., to resign from the group.