Companies Calling for Carbon Caps: And Then There Were 26

by Bill Chameides | January 28th, 2009
posted by Erica Rowell (Editor)

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Amid a growing debate between a carbon tax and cap and trade and reports of rifts between so-called brown states and green states in Congress, one unlikely alliance of major corporations and environmental groups – USCAP – has been able to reach consensus on the parameters of a cap-and-trade system to reduce the nation’s emissions of greenhouse gases.

When the United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) announced its alliance in January 2007 calling for a cap-and-trade system to combat global warming, it consisted of 10 major corporations (Alcoa, BP, Caterpillar, Duke Energy, DuPont, FPL Group, General Electric, Lehman Brothers, PG&E of California, PNM Resources) and four environmental groups (see table). The coalition grew and at its zenith included 28 corporations (representing more than $2 trillion in combined annual revenue) and 6 environmental NGOs (with a combined worldwide membership of more than 2 million people). Now that’s some significant lobbying power.

Lobbying power or no, the best the 110th Congress could do on climate legislation was to not vote on the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act, the one and only climate bill that reached the Senate floor.

New Call to Action on Climate by Some Corporate Heavyweights

It’s two years since USCAP’s heady, salad days, and with the Obama administration and a more solidly Democratic 111th Congress in place, the members of USCAP have issued a Blueprint for Legislative Action [pdf], spelling out in much greater detail how a cap-and-trade system on greenhouse gas emissions should be constructed. I have been told by some privy to the negotiations that transforming the initial set of general principles enunciated in its initial Call for Action [pdf] (which has been revised) into a detailed blueprint was difficult and at times contentious. Difficult points of agreement that required significant compromises included:

  • the balance between allocating and auctioning emissions permits,
  • where to cap emissions, and
  • how to contain costs that were difficult.

Despite New Blueprint, There Have Been Some Dropouts Along the Way

The journey from USCAP concept to blueprint has not been without some attrition. Two corporations and one environmental group are absent from USCAP’s current roster. One of the corporate “dropouts,” Lehman Brothers, was a victim of the economic meltdown, though it left well before its own collapse, and the absent environmental group, National  Wildlife Federation, left over disagreements with the blueprint itself (see Washington Post article).

USCAP: A Model for Congress on How to Compromise?

Still, it is pretty impressive that 26 corporations and 5 environmental groups could, in a time of extreme economic stress, agree on how the nation should rein in its greenhouse gas emissions. If a group as diverse as USCAP can reach agreement, perhaps the members of Congress can do likewise.

USCAP Members

Original members – in bold and asterisked
Members that have left the alliance – crossed out

Corporations Environmental Groups
Alcan Inc.  Environmental Defense Fund *
Alcoa *  National Wildlife Federation
American International Group Inc. (AIG)  Natural Resources Defense Council *
Boston Scientific Corporation [pdf]  The Nature Conservancy
BP America Inc. *  Pew Center on Global Climate Change *
Caterpillar Inc. *  World Resources Institute *
Deere & Company
The Dow Chemical Company
Duke Energy *
DuPont *
Exelon Corporation
Ford Motor
FPL Group, Inc. *
General Electric *
General Motors Corp.
Johnson & Johnson [pdf]
Lehman Brothers *
Marsh, Inc. [pdf]
NRG Energy
PG&E Corporation *
PNM Resources *
Rio Tinto
Siemens Corporation
Xerox Corporation
filed under: business, climate change, faculty, global warming
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