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CEO DATELINE – U.S. Chamber softens stance on climate change

April 18, 2019
By Walt Williams

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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has adopted new language on its website acknowledging humanity’s role in causing climate change and stressing that “inaction is not an option”—a change from the business group’s past skepticism on the topic.

The news site Axios first reported on the change Thursday. However, it noted that the Chamber is still opposed to regulations seeking to cut greenhouse gas emissions, instead proposing a free market approach that embraces technological innovation.

The Chamber has long downplayed the human role in climate change. In 2009 the group suggested holding a “trial” on the science of global warming, comparing the proposal to the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial that pitted evolution against creationism. A few years later Karen Harbert, then head of the Chamber's Institute for 21st Century Energy, refused to answer a question during a Senate hearing about whether climate change was caused by humans. (Harbert is now CEO of the American Gas Association.)

Still, the Chamber has softened its stance on the issue in recent years as the business community has stepped up calls for action on climate change. News of the revised website language came roughly two weeks after Royal Dutch Shell announced it was leaving American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers because of the latter’s opposition to policies reducing greenhouse gas emissions, although the company retained its Chamber membership.

“The climate is changing and humans are contributing to these changes,” the Chamber website now reads. “We believe that there is much common ground on which all sides of this discussion could come together to address climate change with policies that are practical, flexible, predictable and durable. We believe in a policy approach that acknowledges the costs of action and inaction and the competitiveness of the U.S. economy.”

The Chamber said that “advanced technologies and innovation offer the best solution for managing climate risks and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.” The group also said the Paris Agreement that set guidelines for reducing GHG emissions “established a comprehensive framework for international action,” although the group pledged to work with overseas partners “to pursue a formal channel to push for greater business input” into the agreement.