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February 01, 2007
Top CEOs Address Climate Change
    by Anne Moore Odell

A collaboration between ten major US companies and four environmental organizations calls on the Federal government to quickly enact strong legislation to reduce greenhouse emissions.

On Monday January 22, 2007, the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) released a report that urges the Federal government to create legislation to cut gas emissions that lead to the warming of the atmosphere. The report was timed to appear right before President Bushís 2007 State of the Union address the following day. USCAPís statements clearly outline the steps they think are necessary for combating climate change.

USCAPís strength lies in its membership, which includes a small, but influential group of US companies and environmental organizations. Its corporate members include Alcoa, BP America, Caterpillar, Duke Energy, DuPont, FPL Group, General Electric, Lehman Brothers, PG&E, and PNM Resources. Four non-governmental organizations joined with these business leaders: Environmental Defense, Natural Resources Defense Council, Pew Center on Global Climate Change, and World Resources Institute.

Bob Malone, chairman and president of BP America told, "It is very important to interact with a wide group of stakeholders when you are trying to understand any complicated matter. The USCAP framework document is a great example of a diverse group working together to help progress an issue as complex as climate policy."

Entitled "A Call for Action" USCAPís solutions-based report outlines a market-driven approach to climate protection. Six principles power the report: 1. Account for the global dimensions of climate change; 2. Recognize the importance of technology; 3. Be environmentally effective; 4. Create economic opportunity and advantage; 5. Be fair to sectors disproportionately impacted; and 6. Recognize and encourage early action.

USCAP member DuPont stressed the importance of Federal legislation. "We think it is time for Congress to act on federal climate change legislation," said Dawn Rittenhouse, Dupontís Director of Sustainable Development. "Efforts by Congress are important, and we believe that a well-constructed federal policy that relies on market-based mechanisms will give business the regulatory certainty that we need to make investment and planning decisions."

USCAPís recommendations are based on a "cap and trade" program of mandatory reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. USCAP asks lawmakers to create laws that tell all sectors to reduce emissions including large stationary sources, transportation, and energy use.

The "cap and trade" program would create a national cap on greenhouse gas emissions and a national market for trading carbon credits, with a later goal of creating an international carbon trading market. A carbon trading market would set a limit for the amount of carbon any company could emit. A company that emitted more carbon than allowed would have to pay a fine or find a company that was willing to trade of its unspent allowed carbon emissions. The implementation of the program would be economy-wide with chances for agriculture and forestry industries to take part, and with an overall focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy.

The response to USCAPís announcement has largely been positive with many on the left and right applauding the organization's goals. Ana Unruh Cohen, Director of Environmental Policy, at the Center for American Progress, a progressive think-tank operating out of Washington DC, quickly endorsed USCAPís report. Speaking with, she said, "As business and environmental leaders they represent a broad constituency ready to act to avert dangerous climate change. Their efforts will be critical for educating the American people and their elected officials at every level of government."

USCAP member companies have much to gain if all or even some of the reportís recommendations are passed into law. Many of these ten companies have already started to manufacture products that address climate change and/or have already implemented measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. GE, for one, has launched "ecomagination" which is GEís commitment to a greener future with products for industry, infrastructure, transportation and the home.

"I think we will see a serious attempt to include much of what they recommend in climate legislation as it moves in the 110th Congress. President Bush's State of the Union address last week made clear he is not yet ready to seriously tackle the serious issue of climate change," Cohen continued in response to the report. "But if [Bush] is to come around to supporting mandatory action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, I think it will come through efforts by the business community like the U.S. Climate Action Partnership."

USCAP recognizes that climate change is a global issue. Besides the "cap and trade" program it puts forth, it also suggests encouraging action in other countries to help cut greenhouse gas. Furthermore the report suggests cleaner technologies need to be supported including existing technologies such as wind, solar and nuclear power that emit little or no greenhouse gases.

USCAPís report lays out a plan to establish a mandatory cap on carbon emissions with the final goal of cutting greenhouse gas emission 70% to 90% of current levels in 15 years.

Eighty-five percent of Americans polled recently by TIME Magazine, ABC News and Stanford University said that they believe global warming is probably happening. Fifty-two percent of those polled favor government mandates and majority (61%) say they would support a government mandate on lowering power plant emissions. The USCAP collaboration mirrors the belief that most Americans share that global warming is probably occurring now. These business and environmental leaders are telling Congress and the President that voluntary industry reduction of greenhouse emissions has not been satisfactory and it is time for Congress to pass laws to address climate change.

Jennifer Layke, Deputy Director, Climate Energy and Pollution Program for the World Resource Institute, summed up the urgency USCAP members feel, "We have no time to lose. Congress must begin serious and studied dialogue now. The response has been tremendous. There is clearly a new determination to find a path forward."


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