At roughly the same time a new Gallup poll came out showing record percentages of Americans believe global warming is occurring, is caused by human activity and are concerned about it --- the Trump administration turned its back on anything to do with climate. EPA Administrator Pruitt, when asked about carbon dioxide on March 9th, responded he did ‘not agree that it's a primary contributor to the global warming that we see’.
The recent Trump budget proposal severely scales back or entirely does away with a range of critical climate programs across multiple agencies. This includes important efforts that matter in Washington state like: EPA’s efforts to limit emissions, research climate impacts continued health of Puget Sound; cuts to NASA’s earth-monitoring programs; NOAA’s Sea Grant program, helping coastal communities to adapt to a warmer world --- just to name a few. At the end of the day, Trump and Pruitt’s vision wrongly suggests that since climate change is not real, that the federal government need not take steps to stop global warming or even to continue to study it. (Today's executive order continues to underscore this vision).
Time for Progressive Business to Show Up
While this is not acceptable it is also not a done deal. Washington Business for Climate Action (WBCA) believes that now, more than ever, business voices matter on climate ---both at the state and national level. Businesses understand the fundamental risk climate change poses to our economy and environment. Washington state businesses are important leaders in the climate change conversation and in building the clean energy economy. Businesses in our state are uniquely positioned to share stories that offer a reality check and important narrative that supports an economically viable future.
One important resource we think Washington businesses should take advantage of on the national level is the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC). Founded in 2009, it was designed as a forum for companies to engage in the policy process. This network of over 250,000 businesses and business associations believe that sustainable business is good business, and a sustainable economy is a prosperous and resilient one.
Richard Eidlin, ASBC Vice President Policy and Campaigns was on the WBCA “Cost of Carbon: The Pathway Forward” panel, talking about efforts to price carbon and reduce GHG emissions at the recent Go Green conference .
ASBC is ready to help WBCA businesses quickly and easily engage in the national climate conversation via a couple of upcoming ‘Lobby Days’, including congressional in-district meetings (April 11-21) and national business climate lobby day in D.C. on May 2nd (see below for details).
He absolutely agrees that business voices can make a huge difference in this conversation and influence how politicians think about the linkage between the economy and environment. ASBC offers a ready-made platform to help Washington businesses engage.
Eidlin points out that it’s imperative that Washington business stand up and be counted. While it seems obvious that Congressional representatives are influenced by who comes to the table and what they say, Eidlin says, “Policy makers are still not hearing from enough forward-thinking companies. Instead, they are too often influenced by groups like the US Chamber of Commerce that continues to work against climate change.”
He suggests that April and May will be a critical time for Congress as it weighs new policies coming down the pike. During this particularly significant time, if progressive companies don’t show up for the national conversation, the void will be filled by others, like the US Chamber and oil and gas industry. He suggests that in the past policy makers often end up hearing from a narrow spectrum of the business community, rather than getting the broader story from the majority of companies that recognize the importance of a stable climate and why they need and support a clean energy economy.
Eidlin also believes that a positive climate future is closer than we might recognize--- provided that business does step up and continues to be part of the conversation. He says more and more national conservative law makers are beginning to recognize that a carbon tax offers an effective way to change behavior while (if set up correctly) also being supportive to a broad array of businesses.
Some 250 Washington businesses have signed Washington Business Climate Declaration to invest in a low-carbon future – and this is a critical time for business to reinforce how devastating climate change will be to Washington businesses if left unchecked – and to voice their support for continued reduction in carbon pollution and the need for a clean energy economy. Those Washington businesses that have expressed past interest in focusing their energies at the federal level now have a real opportunity to step up and be part of that conversation right now; to do so gives voice to so many others across our state. We all recognize that there are relatively few sectors that won’t benefit from actions that support a clean economy.
ASBC has two upcoming opportunities that WBCA members can participate in:
If you’d like to connect directly with Richard Eidlin/ASBC to learn more or join the lobby days you can reach him at: 303-478-0131 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa McCrummen is a strategic communications consultant and WBCA board member.
Submitted by Sarah Severn on March 13, 2017
I have worked on the issue of climate change and clean energy within corporate America for over two decades. During this time, I’ve participated in countless conversations on the topic in the C suite, the boardroom, in business organizations and government appointed taskforces. I’ve witnessed a growing acceptance of science and a clear acknowledgement about the fundamental risks that climate change poses. I have also seen an appreciation for the unique roles of both government and the market in creating solutions.
Short Term Thinking Guarantees Failure
One constant presence during my corporate work has been the EPA. Established in 1970 by President Nixon, it has been of vital service to the American people and to the business community. That’s why it’s disturbing to see President Trump’s plan to cut EPA’s 2018 budget by 25% and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration budget, one of the federal government premier climate science agencies, by 26%. The latter cut would eliminate critical funding for climate change related science programs, including the satellite data division, which is a key repository of climate and environmental information.
While many polluters grumble about the EPA’s powers, forward-looking businesses appreciate its consistent dedication to science, education and the tools it provides. The Center for Corporate Climate Leadership is one such example. In 2015, 365 companies and investors came together in a show of support for the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.
“Our support is firmly grounded in economic reality,” wrote the businesses, including industry giants such as General Mills, Mars Inc., Nestle, Staples, Unilever and VF Corporation. “Clean energy solutions are cost effective and innovative ways to drive investment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Increasingly, businesses rely on renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions to cut costs and improve corporation performance.”
Businesses are Stepping Up
Responsible companies, who are used to assessing both risk and return, are stepping up in ways they never have before. Over 1000 companies have signed the Climate Declarationand since November 2016 more than 760 companies and investors have signed the Business Backs Low-Carbon USA statement. More than 600 companies with over $8.1 trillion in annual revenue have now made over a thousand ambitious commitments as part of the We Mean Business coalition’s take action campaign. Meanwhile the prospect of stranded assets even has Exxon setting an internal price on carbon, alongside Microsoft, Delta Airlines, Bank of America and others.
States and Cities are Engaging
At the state and city level, there is also significant momentum. 100 Resilient Cities is looking intensely at so-called "sub-national" climate action. In Washington State, despite the failure to pass the first US carbon tax initiative in November, there are now three carbon-pricing bills that have been introduced during the 2017 session. Similar bills are being introduced in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York and the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) is mobilizing companies to support these initiatives. Finally, the newly formed 'Climate Leadership Council', a conservative group including former Secretaries of State Baker and Shultz, has put forward a national plan for a carbon tax with the revenue going back to households in the form of a dividend.
As one of my colleagues says, “ the trend is our friend ”, but we cannot be complacent. The momentum has created a backlash by those with vested interests in maintaining both a fossil fuel based economy, and the associated concentration of wealth and power. We have witnessed this before, but the difference today is that the stakes are higher and the anti-science agenda more overt. The Trump administration is using the false promise of restoring jobs in coal and oil to wage war both on the EPA and on climate science. This has nothing to do with helping the American people and everything to do with dark money.
Dr. Jonathon Foley, executive director of the California Academy of Sciences says in his recent blog, “The greatness of America is strengthened by science—it helps us lift people up, improve the human condition, and build a better world... science can build a future where people and nature thrive together, for generations to come. Ignoring science will doom us to an impoverished, degraded world.”
Time for Action
Scientists are, thankfully, fighting back. The recently formed 314 Action PAC had 2,500 people with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and math sign up for training on how to run for office. The U.S. business community needs to also step up its game. We have to vigorously defend our scientists, the EPA, and demand that we get the climate and energy policies that will lead us to a clean, prosperous and more equitable future.
Sarah Severn is a sustainability consultant, strategic advisor for Washington Business Climate Action and ASBC board member.