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U.S. Chamber Addresses Climate Critics

carbon smokestack2Attempting to stem losses in membership, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has released a statement it hopes clarifies its position on climate change.

“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce continues to support strong federal legislation and a binding international agreement to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change,” said Thomas Donahue, President and CEO of the chamber, in a statement.

But Donahue said that any such response must also include emissions from other major economies. Critics were quick to call the chamber’s position “double speak,” pointing out that U.S. legislation would not apply to other nations.

Steve Cochran, Director of the Enviromental Defense Fund’s National Climate Campaign, said that Donahue is attempting to “tap dance out of a public relations disaster.”

Recently, three major U.S. utilities – PG&E, PMN and Exelon – have announced their intention not to renew their chamber memberships, in response to the chamber’s call to put the science behind climate change on trial.

Donahue said the chamber wants the U.S. and other nations to negotiate an international agreement that sets binding CO2 reduction commitments for each nation, “while allowing each to devise its own best path to meeting its target.”

Donahue said it would be preferable for the U.S. to have climate legislation, as opposed to the Environmental Protection Agency regulating CO2 emissions as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.

Facing opposition from the business community over climate legislation, the Obama Administration has used the threat of EPA regulation to spur Congressional action.

Donahue said the chamber opposes the House climate bill “because it is neither comprehensive nor international, and it falls short on moving renewable and alternative technologies into the marketplace and enabling our transition to a lower carbon future. It would also impose carbon tariffs on goods imported into the United States, a move that would almost certainly spur retaliation from global trading partners.”

Donahue calls out environmental advocates, saying that just because the chamber opposes a specific bill or approach does not mean it is against all efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, or that it denies the existence of a problem.

Yet, as the EDF’s Cochran points out, “just a month ago, his senior vice president, William Kovacs, publicly demanded that the Environmental Protection Agency hold a hearing to put the ‘science of climate change on trial.’ Kovacs also told the media the hearing would be ‘the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century … It would be evolution versus creationism.’ There could not be a clearer repudiation of Donahue’s claims than that.”

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