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Chamber of Commerce’s About Face: Good News for America

October 19th, 2009 · 6 Comments

This morning, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom J. Donahue will make a statement regarding the Chamber’s stance on pending climate legislation in Congress. Mr. Donahue will be available to answer questions regarding the Chamber’s position on the bill, as well as the recent departure of several prominent members of the Chamber.

So started the press release that came in to my email this morning.

The full statement, as prepared for presentation at the National Press Club, in Washington DC can be found here.

It is discussed after the fold.

A quick background

Pressure has been mounting, from many sides, on the US Chamber of Commerce, which has been actively fighting moving forward with sensible climate legislation. The Chamber’s position is so severe that, in fact, multiple businesses (such as PG&E) have left the chamber, others have stepped down the board with public statements distancing themselves from the Chamber’s activities, and there is increasing criticism of the Chamber from voices across the United States. There have been quite strong articles appearing in the traditional media, such as this great Washington Post piece. And, there are campaigns being mounted calling on companies to leave the Chamber, such as Credo/Drinking Liberally’s calling out of Anheuser-Busch (see That Bud’s Not for Me …), MoveOn’s excellent initiative against Toyota, and other efforts.

Tom Donahue’s comments come in the face of this pressure.

The comments, as prepared for delivery, were entitled

A Survival Strategy for Free Enterprise Over the Long Term

Today’s momentous decision indeed comes after a difficult period – a very long one.

Donahue has been pilloried. The Chamber has seen membership drop by over 90% in the past week. (Okay, actual membership didn’t fall 90%, they just were forced to admit a massive exaggeration in their numbers.) Major Corporations have withdrawn from the Chamber. Others have issued statements critical of Donahue’s leadership. And, the Obama White House has evidently identified the Chamber as a foe.

We must learn from the past, so that we can manage the future.

If one can’t learn from the past, doomed to repeat it?

Climatologists tell us that if we don’t enact dramatic reductions in carbon emissions today, within 5 years we could begin facing the propagating feedback loops of runaway climate change. That would mean a disruption of food and water supplies worldwide, with the result of mass migrations, famines, and death on a scale never witnessed before.

Needless to say, that would be bad for business.

Isn’t it good to see that the Chamber is recognizing that it is not economy vs the environment but that the economy operates within and due to the environment?

And, that the Chamber is backing off from calls for a “Scopes trial” on climate issues to recognition of the scientific understanding and, yes, consensus on climate change?

We at the Chamber have tried to keep climate science from interfering with business. But without a stable climate, there will be no business.

This has been a motivating factor (along with cash) for Walmart’s energy efficiency efforts.

We need business more than we need relentlessly higher returns.

No business means no returns.

A number of prominent and long-standing members have recently left the Chamber over our opposition to climate legislation. Numerous others have expressed their dissension, and a number of local Chambers have done so as well.

Today, we’re finally taking their cue. There is only one sound way to do business: that’s to support a strong climate-change bill quickly, so that this December in Copenhagen, President Obama can lead the entire business world in ensuring our long-term prosperity.


When Donahue choses to change direction, he changes direction.

Positive voices like this matter.

The Chamber believes that if we do not help to prepare a strong climate change bill for the President, we will face a new foreclosure crisis, due once again to the shortsightedness of a few …

But this time it won’t be only the poor who will find themselves foreclosed on. Sure, they’ll be first – in fact, climate change already ravages the developing world.

But that’s only the start. This foreclosure crisis will affect all of us, and there will be no business too big to fail.

Donahue looks to want to take a leadership role in making sure, as per the title, that we develop policies that will enable free enterprise system to thrive.

The Kerry-Boxer Bill is a good start to a strong climate bill, and the Chamber will work with Senators Kerry and Boxer to strengthen it.

And it does need strengthening. Cap-and-trade depends complex market mechanisms and big government oversight, and where it’s been implemented, it’s had very mixed results at best.

Sounds like Donahue wants good practices to reign, to have level fields to enable his membership to thrive.

The Chamber seeks a solid business solution – one that requires much less intervention, and has a proven track record. What we need is a carbon tax. Only thus will we be able to compete against Physics and create an environment where the best company wins and the best solution dominates. A carbon tax will mean new blood for Free Enterprise, and a fertile new foundation for long-term business prosperity.

He is saying, it seems, that a carbon fee would provide clarity for business planners and investors as to the prices and opportunities related to, for example, clean energy and energy efficiency.

The Chamber also calls on President Obama and the U.S. Congress to cease subsidizing old and failed technologies like the so-called “clean coal” hoax, and to incentivize tried and true clean technologies in their stead.

While there have been companies quitting the chamber, expect a few new defectors here as the coal industry (and other fossil fools) have been heavy players in the US Chamber to date, distorting its positions to anti-science and anti-action to mitigate climate change.

The Chamber expects to welcome back companies that have recently defected over our climate stance. But we also expect to reevaluate our relationship with other members – who continue opposing climate legislation, or who stymie progress through greenwashing and other stalling tactics. Corporate Social Responsibility just won’t cut it anymore, folks – Mother Nature means business, and we do too.

We at the Chamber will put the full weight of our organization behind achieving these goals. The very future of business hangs in the balance.

Absolutely true. Can we expect a meaningful and profitable economy and market place to function in the face of disrupted agriculture globally, seeing acquifers lost due to saltwater infiltration with rising seas, massively declining fisheries, storms disrupting commerce, etc …

Donahue has read the science, Donahue has looked at the projections of impacts of inaction, and Donahue is mature and intelligent enough to recognize that his past stances were counter his institution’s real interests. And, Donahue is strong enough to stand up in public to admit his errors and call for a new path forward.

Or, is he …

Sadly, this was an action (a great action) from the Avaaz Action Factory which actually had reporters going for a bit this morning.

Will update the discussion with reporting from the press conference.

Update: there were several errors in the press release, including the date and misspelling Donohue as Donahue (as in the diary above). In addition to Donohue’s absolute ideologue stances (as called out in the Post article linked above), this makes it even more impressive (depressing) that so many reporters fell for this.

UPDATE 2: This was, evidently, a multi organization effort. Let’s give a round of applause to the Yes Men for their involvement.

Update 3: Some coverage of this:

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Tags: business practice · climate change · climate delayers · climate legislation · Energy

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