March 18, 2010
Companies Voice Their Support for Effective Climate Change Legislation
by Robert Kropp
Asserting that the US has already fallen behind other countries in the development of renewable
energy technologies, the We Can Lead lobbying campaign brings businesses to Washington DC to call
for legislation that includes a price on carbon. First of a two-part series.
While the US Senate displays no discernable sense of urgency in passing meaningful climate change
legislation, the investments in renewable energy technologies by other nations are making it
possible that the US will continue to rely on foreign sources for its energy needs, even in the
inevitable low-carbon economy.
As Anne Kelly, Director of Governance
Programs at Ceres, told SocialFunds.com,
"Anyone who has been involved in clean tech is just stunned at how the US is letting this
opportunity slip away. As Germany charges ahead, and China charges ahead, with smart investment
policies, we could continue to be dependent on other countries for our renewable energy sources if
we don't get our act together."
Kelly was speaking with SocialFunds.com about We Can Lead, a coalition of business leaders
who support comprehensive and innovative energy and climate policies in the US. Sponsored by Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy
(BICEP), a project of Ceres, and the Clean Economy Network, We Can Lead includes such companies
as Applied Materials, PG&E, and Starbucks among its members.
Kelly said, "We formed the
partnership last May, in response to a sense that numbers matter, and scale matters, and the
cross-sectional nature of our collaboration made sense. Initially, the campaign spent a lot of time
lobbying the House. We wanted to send a strong economic message to the Hill, and to the
Administration in fact, that businesses want change."
The House of Representatives passed
the Waxman-Markey clean energy bill in June of last year.
"We wanted to counter-balance
messages coming out of groups like the US Chamber, which represents a much narrower sector of the
economy," Kelly continued. "We wanted to make sure that policymakers understood that businesses get
it. The framing has been around job creation, US competitiveness, and seizing the opportunity that
the energy revolution is going to bring."
In January, the members of We Can Lead sent a
letter to President Obama and members of Congress, stating,"The United States is falling behind in
the global race to lead the new energy economy. We need strong policies and clear market signals
that support the transition to a low-carbon economy and reward companies that innovate."
"For American business to unleash a new industrial revolution in energy, we need cooperative
and coordinated action in the public policy and the business arenas," the letter continued.
Recently, We Can Lead conducted a nationwide campaign to bring awareness to policymakers that
American business is indeed supportive of legislation that would put a price on carbon emissions
and encourage innovation in renewable energy technologies. The Race for American Jobs & Clean
Energy Leadership campaign was launched at the Portland, Oregon headquarters of Nike, a BICEP
member, and then passed through Denver, Columbus, Ohio, and Manchester, New Hampshire,and arrived
in Washington DC on March 10.
Along the way, the campaign collected more than 100
signatures of business leaders, which were presented to members of Congress and the Obama
Administration upon its arrival in the Capitol. Among the presenters of the signatures was Gary
Hirshberg, CEO of Stonyfield Farm, who said, "Climate action offers economic opportunity rather
than economic penalty. We either get into this now, with the right policies, or we’ll find
ourselves sitting on the sidelines losing our economic competitiveness."
The sense of
urgency, not only in getting clean energy legislation passed but in counteracting the well-funded
opposition of organizations like the US Chamber, was brought home to Kelly in a conversation she
had with a venture capitalist in Washington.
"The business owners and investors are
appalled," Kelly said. "One venture capitalist whom I spoke with said, I want to invest, but I need
a price on carbon. I need certainty."
"There's amazement that the US is so entrenched,"
Kelly continued. "Policymakers need to be educated, and not just believe the rhetoric of the Glenn
Becks, or the US Chamber, and the narrow but extremely well-financed opposition. If you're invested
in the status quo, you're not going to want to see change."
The business leaders
associated with the campaign pointed to a recent report from the
University of California at Berkeley, which concluded that passage of a bill similar to
Waxman-Markey would lead to the creation of up to almost 2 million jobs, and actually increase
household income, as well.
The report stated, 'By aggressively promoting efficiency on the
demand side of energy markets, alternative fuel and renewable technology development on the supply
side can be combined with carbon pollution reduction to yield economic growth and net job
"The stronger the federal climate policy, the greater the economic reward," the
Although the Race for American Jobs & Clean Energy Leadership campaign
has ended, Kelly indicated that We Can Lead will continue to engage with policymakers in its effort
to encourage the passage of effective climate change legislation.
"Investors need a
framework, not extreme volatility," she said. "The Race ended with the lobbying effort in DC, but
our work is going to continue. We're going to continue to bring businesses to the Hill, and we're
going to be meeting with Senators in their home districts."
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