Senior Vice President, Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
President, Global Energy Institute, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
July 22, 2021
There is broad consensus across the business community that more must be done to combat the growing threats of climate change, and the Chamber is proud to be taking a leadership role on this important issue. It has, however, proven difficult to forge agreement on the best approaches that will continue environmental progress while maintaining economic growth. To help break through these roadblocks, in 2019 the Chamber announced a new effort to bring together our diverse membership for a focused dialogue on effective climate solutions.
We have focused our work on advancing effective climate solutions, often leveraging our engagement across groups holding divergent interests and with policymakers willing to work together to achieve meaningful progress. While not all these victories garner headlines, they maintain a focus and build momentum for the technology, policy, and market signals needed to facilitate emissions reductions and decarbonization both domestically and abroad. Our goal is to reduce emissions at the pace of innovation through policies that are realistic, durable, and reinforce U.S. economic competitiveness, and there is reason to be optimistic that this goal is achievable.
The Current State of Play
First, the good news. Over the last 15 years, the United States has reduced carbon emissions more than any country in the world and done so while our population and economy continued to grow. Equally remarkable, over that same time period the U.S. became the world’s largest producer of oil and gas thanks to the shale revolution. That means that we are producing more energy while improving our emissions profile, and in fact making air quality improvements across the board. While that’s a record to be proud of, more must be done, particularly given the global nature of the climate challenge, and the fact that emissions continue to steadily increase elsewhere in the world. This reality is central to our fundamental position that, at its core, the key to successful climate action lies with the development of cost-effective technological solutions that can be deployed not just here in the U.S., but around the world. The data tell us that a significant amount of the reductions needed must come from technologies that haven’t yet been commercialized. Technology development is, therefore, the most important priority to combat climate change, yet it often fails to receive the appropriate level of attention.
The Chamber’s Work on Climate
The Chamber and its members engaged in meaningful dialogue to establish our position on climate change, reflecting the business community’s increasing efforts in support of sensible climate solutions. Market-based mechanisms and technology innovation to accelerate emissions reductions are a cornerstone of this approach. Recognizing that effective global solutions to climate change require commercialization of still unproven technologies, we have called for significant expansions of federal investment in research, development, and demonstration to advance promising technologies like carbon capture and sequestration, advanced nuclear, and energy storage. We have also emphasized the importance of bipartisan climate solutions enacted by Congress to ensure they are durable and less vulnerable to the changing priorities of Presidential administrations.
When we established our Task Force on Climate Actions in 2019, representing companies and associations from across our broad membership, we said it would be fair to judge us on our actions. We still feel that way, so let’s look at our record.
In the Past Two Years, the Chamber Has:
Led business community advocacy for the most significant energy and climate legislation in over a decade, the Energy Act. Signed into law last December, this legislation authorizes billions in spending to develop a wide array of emissions reduction technologies, enjoyed strong bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House, and represents the most important climate and energy legislation enacted by Congress in more than a decade.
Despite significant disagreements, helped broker agreement, in collaboration with other trade associations, on legislation to phase down the use of HFCs, which are understood to be a potent contributor to global warming.
- Organized a coalition of more than 300 business, environmental, and labor organizations in support of environmentally and economically responsible bipartisan infrastructure legislation that would advance efforts to decarbonize the economy.
Endorsed and promoted the Growing Climate Solutions Act, which sets up voluntary carbon markets and will reward farmers, ranchers, and foresters for climate-smart practices and offer offsets for manufacturers who have made ambitious climate commitments. This important bill passed the Senate last month, and we’re now working to secure its approval in the House.
- Called for direct regulations on methane emissions from oil and gas operations, which would build on successful private sector efforts to reduce the emissions intensity of U.S. energy production.
Worked with Congress to help improve pre-disaster mitigation and resilience policies such as contained within the STORM Act.
Supported the Storing CO2 and Lowering Emissions Act to mobilize private capital to promote carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration technologies.
- Continued outreach to Republican and conservative members of Congress interested in becoming more active in the climate debate, including support of the new Conservative Climate Caucus.
Inaction is not an option on climate change, and more must be done. As we have communicated to Congress, a top priority is ensuring that the research, development, and demonstration programs authorized in the Energy Act of 2020 are fully funded by Congress. We are also working to ensure that provisions promoting advanced nuclear technology are included in the infrastructure proposals being negotiated by Congress, since technologies like advanced reactors are smaller and more easily deployed to developing nations that will account for the majority of the world’s increases in greenhouse gas emissions.
The Chamber has also engaged in the Congressional discussions related to a Clean Energy Standard. In fact, yesterday we sent principles to Congressional leaders to help guide the development of such a program. At the moment, legislative proposals for market-based mechanisms to address climate change lack broad political support, but we continue to promote them as the most-effective approach to addressing climate change.
Finally, as official observers to the United Nations Conference of the Parties climate negotiations (COP-26), we are preparing to lead a delegation to Glasgow this November to ensure the voice of the business community is heard on the important issues being considered. After all, it is businesses that will be tasked with implementing the policies and technologies need to tackle climate challenges.
We will remain engaged on these and other efforts to help protect our climate for future generations. With billions already invested, the business community is a critical part of the solution. You can see for yourself the various actions that businesses are taking to lead the charge on climate change, and we’re proud to support their efforts.
About the authors
Martin (Marty) Durbin is president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute (GEI). Durbin leads GEI’s efforts to build support for meaningful energy action through policy development, education, and advocacy, making it a go-to voice for commonsense energy solutions.