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Sensing a shifting tide with Biden tackling climate change, this major business lobby gets on board

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The nation’s arguably leading pro-business lobby sees the incoming Biden administration’s pledge for climate-change action — including rejoining the Paris Accord that President Trump abandoned — as a can’t-miss chance to influence “market-based” policy on greenhouse gas emissions and more.

Congress should set meaningful climate-change legislation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said Tuesday, amping up the trade group’s established climate and energy policy with a call for lawmakers to act and limit the uncertainties for its members. Biden and the Democrats have a narrow advantage in the new Congress, which means Republican and industry support is still needed for meaningful legislative action; past attempts including a “Green New Deal” never saw the light of day in a GOP-led Senate.

In addition to pulling the U.S. from Paris, Trump embarked on a series of climate-change rollbacks and backed fossil-fuel subsidies
XOP,
+1.78%

IEO,
+2.19%

PXE,
+1.17%,
including as part of COVID-19 relief.

Also read: COVID-19 helped the U.S. near Paris emissions goals but the retreat will fade without renewables

The Chamber of Commerce, which generally promotes low taxes and light regulation for business, has pushed for technology-focused developments in climate and energy legislation in the recent past. But some businesses also cheered the Trump administration’s reversal of several Environmental Protection Agency rules on air quality, land use and gas mileage efficiency, including some regulations in place for decades across presidencies from both political parties.

Climate change-fueled natural disasters were a major story of 2020, costing the U.S. alone a total of $95 billion dollars. Biden has called for $2 trillion in spending to reduce emissions to net-zero by 2050, while shoring up infrastructure and promoting electric vehicles. Biden has said he will rejoin the UN-coordinated pledge on day one of his administration.

Read: Here are analysts’ 10 favorite clean-energy stocks to buy now

The Chamber is adding the following to its position on climate change: [We] support a market-based approach to accelerate GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions reductions across the U.S. economy. We believe that durable climate policy must be made by Congress, and that it should encourage innovation and investment to ensure significant emissions reductions, while avoiding economic harm for businesses, consumers and disadvantaged communities. This policy should include well designed market mechanisms that are transparent and not distorted by overlapping regulations. U.S. climate policy should recognize the urgent need for action, while maintaining the national and international competitiveness of U.S. industry and ensuring consistency with free enterprise and free trade principles. 

The Chamber said it was not yet pushing for a specific market-based policy but said it was open at this point to all ideas advanced by its membership.

Related: Federal Reserve steps up climate-change response and gets immediate backlash from some House Republicans

The statement also distanced the group somewhat from the past administration’s America First priority and quest for U.S. energy independence which, critics said, would come at the expense of renewables and other initiatives. However, the Chamber did say U.S. businesses should not be hurt by climate-change laws.

“There are also lessons to be learned from how other countries have approached this issue, which is one reason we so strongly support the Biden Administration’s decision to rejoin the Paris Agreement and restore international engagement on climate, particularly given the Chamber’s status as an official observer at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change,” said Martin Durbin, president of the Chamber’s Global Energy Institute, in a release.

The Chamber, aware of how Biden and team have made climate-change policy a priority, also is urging “policies that are practical, flexible, predictable, and durable…”

Late last year, a powerful CEO group, the Business Roundtable, said it wants the federal government, including Congress, to enact market-based climate-change policies largely in line with those laid out in the voluntary Paris pact. The Business Roundtable said its stance included attaching a price to carbon, which has historically been a challenging policy to advance.

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