Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Climate change causes rift in US lobbying body

November 2009

A utilities company has left the US Chamber of Commerce, accusing it of ignoring the truth on climate change.
PG&E, a California-based natural gas and electricity utility with a turnover of $14.6billion (£8.8bn), cited ‘fundamental differences’ about climate change science between itself and the chamber.

In a resignation letter the company said: ‘We find it dismaying that the chamber neglects the indisputable fact that a decisive majority of experts have said the data on global warming are compelling and point to a threat that cannot be ignored.

‘In our opinion, an intellectually honest argument over the best policy response to the challenges of climate change is one thing. Disingenuous attempts to diminish or distort the reality of these challenges are quite another.’

This year the chamber has been petitioning the US Environmental Protection Agency to hold public hearings on the validity of climate science, while its senior vice-president has drawn parallels between climate change science and anti-evolutionary biology.

PG&E contrasted the chamber’s position with that of the US Climate Action Partnership, which calls itself ‘a group of businesses and leading environmental organizations that have come together to call on the federal government to quickly enact strong national legislation to require significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions’. PG&E has retained its membership of this group.

Its decision follows last month’s resignation of two energy companies, Duke Energy and Alstom Power, from the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity because of the group’s lobbying against congressional action on climate change (EP11, issue 5, p1).

PG&E, which has more than 21,000 employees and posted operating profits of $2.2bn last year, was recently listed as the most sustainable US utility company in the Newsweek Green Ranking. It uses renewable sources for 32 per cent of its electricity. The US Chamber of Commerce is the biggest-spending US lobbying group, representing three million firms.

Nike recently resigned its seat on the chamber’s board over concerns about its climate change stance, while Apple left the chamber altogether in October. Last month 43 US investors and investor organizations with more than $16bn in assets under management wrote to 14 companies  that are members of the chamber and/or the National Association of Manufacturers – which also takes a sceptical view of climate change – urging them to to reject both organizations’ lobbying on the topic.

The signatories to the letter, which included Walden Asset Management and Green Century Capital Management, expressed concern over the ‘glaring contradictions’ between each of the 14 companies’ positions on climate change and that of the associations. Among recipients of the letter were  American Electric Power, Boeing, Cummins, Entergy, General Motors, Lockheed Martin, and Xerox.

The companies were advised to withdraw membership, publicly declare that they do not share the positions of the associations on climate change, or seek partial refunds on membership fees.

PG&E | North America | Lobbying


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