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Thursday, April 22, 2021

Earth Day 2021: The Chamber of Commerce Flips on Climate Change

Corbin Hiar at E&E News:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's move from promoting climate science misinformation to now helping the Biden administration shape climate policy was a change years in the making.

The trade association's transformation followed an internal campaign from an unlikely coalition of health leaders, top bankers and logistics executives who were tired of taking heat for their membership in the Chamber, according to sources and experts. It's part of a broader effort by the lobbying juggernaut to remain relevant in a deeply polarized Washington.

"They didn't want to fall too far behind or excluded from the climate conversation altogether," said Shaun Goho, the acting director of Harvard's Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, who's written about the Chamber's history of climate obstruction.

With serious efforts to slash emissions now high on the political agenda, the implications of the Chamber's climate reversal are still unclear.

Will the Chamber — which spent nearly $82 million on federal lobbying last year and millions more on congressional races — back aggressive emissions cuts scientists say are necessary to avert the worst impacts of climate change? Or will the association seek to delay and water down the legislative and regulatory proposals under discussion?

The Chamber's newfound support for market-based climate policies is "exactly as genuine and lasting as its membership forces it to be," Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse told E&E News. "It's going to have to be pushed like a great big rock every inch, and it's going to want to fall back as soon as the members stop pushing or look elsewhere."

The Rhode Island Democrat, one of the trade association's most vocal critics, played a key role in catalyzing the Sisyphean effort to change the Chamber's climate policy, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions.