A large, old, rich, and impressive group of businesses leaders has called for more action to slow global warming.
The Business Roundtable is an association of CEOs of 160 U.S. companies with $4.5 trillion in annual revenues, more than 10 million employees, and makes up nearly one-third of the total value of the U.S. stock market. They lobby lawmakers on issues like jobs, healthcare, and trade. And last week they released a statement on one of the hottest of issues: global warming.
The Business Rountable’s Climate Change Statement acknowledges that although its members – such as ExxonMobil, General Electric, DuPont, and State Farm Insurance – have varying views on how exactly to address global warming, they do agree on some essential elements:
- More companies should make cutting emissions a priority and report publicly on their progress.
- Energy efficiency should be increased 25 percent.
- Any legislative or regulatory framework must stimulate private sector innovation and investment, as well as consumer awareness of new technologies.
- Increase research and development in new low-emissions technologies.
- Investment in climate science must continue at a high level “so that we can better understand and predict the magnitude and timing of future warming of the planet."
- Policies should be flexible enough to realign timelines with the development of new technologies, price spikes, or economic competitive imbalance.
- Consider different policy tools, including cap-and-trade, carbon taxes, or energy standards.
- Any policy solution should be economy-wide and not impact a particular industry sector, technology, or geographic region.
- Maximize access to limited feedstock and energy supplies (for example, figure out carbon capture and sequestration so coal could be burned with less emissions).
- Adopt a global framework where all major emitting countries (specifically including China, Brazil, and India) are committed to reduction goals.
I'm a bit wary of parts of this list. It reminds me of the discussion I and other bloggers had with Exxon’s Vice President of External Affairs back in January, where it seemed like a perfect global warming solution was the enemy of a good global warming solution. I wonder, if a solution doesn't include a commitment by China, India, and Brazil, is the U.S. still supposed to stand still and do nothing? It sounds like it...
The fact that so many businesses – to varying degrees of seriousness – are talking about global warming solutions is encouraging. The Sierra Club dismissed the Rountable's statement as an attempt to appear sensitive while seeking to ensure that new regulations accommodate its members. Well, of course they want new regulations to accommodate them. That shouldn't surprise anyone. But where can we find common ground? All of us should be open to ideas and reasonable compromise, but also make sure we’re not fiddling while the clock is ticking.