US Chamber of Commerce

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Washington DC, United States

Climate Lobbying Overview: The US Chamber of Commerce (the Chamber) appears actively opposed to climate policy in the US. While the Chamber updated its climate position statement to a nominally more positive stance in 2021, it advocated in opposition to early policy measures advanced by the Biden administration shortly thereafter. The Chamber’s positive communications since 2021 follow years of strategic opposition to most strands of climate policy and, from 2016-2020, active support for the Trump administration’s deregulatory agenda. While the Chamber has increased positive communications in 2022, the majority of its engagement remains negative

Top-line Messaging on Climate Policy: In an August 2022 blog post, the Chamber acknowledged some of the science of climate change, specifically the threat of increasing rates of natural disasters. In a blog post from the same month, the Chamber appeared to oppose the US reconciliation bill due to its pay-for provisions, although it did not explicitly comment on the climate provisions within the bill. The Chamber’s 2021 position statement endorses a market-based approach to emissions reductions but stops short of supporting global emissions reductions in line with IPCC advice. Rather, a statement on its website expresses concern with certain proposed timelines that are “not viewed as feasible.” In September 2021, as reported by NBC News, the Chamber stated that the climate provisions in the budget reconciliation bill don’t represent “a serious attempt to establish durable climate policy.”

In April 2021, the Chamber signed on to a joint letter supporting the Paris Agreement and advocating for a US target of cutting GHG emissions by at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030. The Chamber's reversal on the Paris Agreement followed years of detailed opposition. In 2017, the Chamber sponsored and publicized research criticizing the US’s GHG emission reduction pledge under the Agreement, which was subsequently used by the Trump Administration in 2017 to justify pulling the US out of the deal. In March 2019, the Chamber’s Global Energy Institute submitted detailed criticism of the US’s obligation under the Paris Agreement to the US House of Representatives, arguing that the GHG emissions target was “completely unrealistic.” A month later, just before the Trump administration’s efforts to finalize this move, the Chamber altered its position, stating instead that it supported US participation in the deal.

Engagement with Climate-Related Policy: The Chamber has consistently opposed legislative and regulatory intervention on climate. In August 2022, the Chamber signed a coalition letter to Congress firmly opposing the Inflation Reduction Act due to the tax increases within the bill. In April 2022, Marty Durbin, Senior VP for Policy at the Chamber said, in a [ statement to the Washington Post, that the Biden Administration’s decision to restore climate provisions under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) – including consideration of “cumulative” impacts from GHG emissions – would result in “unnecessarily extensive and duplicative bureaucratic red tape.”

In 2021, the Chamber updated its website to offer conditional support for methane standards under the Clean Air Act.

While the Chamber’s engagement with carbon tax and emissions trading proposals in the US appears less frequent in recent years, it opposed the European carbon border tax in 2019 as well as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme in 2018, cautioning against similar cap and trade proposals in the US. In February 2021, the Chamber wrote a memo to President Biden with other trade groups requesting participation in the administration’s process to determine the social cost of carbon, a figure used to justify climate regulations. The Chamber’s current stance is unclear, though previously, in 2017, it advocated for the repeal of the use of a ‘social-cost of carbon’ in policymaking altogether, calling it "bad regulatory policy.” The Chamber also fought for the repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), leading legal action against it from 2015 to 2019. In 2018, the Chamber supported the CPP’s replacement with the far weaker Affordable Clean Energy rule.

Positioning on Energy Transition: The Chamber shows some support for measures to advance low-emissions technologies, but appears largely opposed to an urgent transition of the energy mix. It issued a policy statement in March 2021 in advance of President Biden's NDC announcement strongly advocating for a continued role for fossil fuels, including coal, in the energy mix. The Chamber has, in particular, opposed regulation that would limit unabated coal in the energy mix. The organization has opposed fossil fuel phase-out, including publishing a report on the economic cost of the ‘Keep it in the Ground’ movement in December 2018, claiming that it cost the US “$91.9 billion in domestic economic activity and eliminated nearly 730,000 job opportunities.” In 2019, the Chamber wrote a letter to US Senators opposing the Green New Deal resolution.

Rather than restrictions on GHG emitting fuels and practices, the Chamber’s 2019 policy proposals focus on raising government funding to develop technologies that may reduce GHG emissions in the future. The Chamber supported the USE-IT Act in 2020 aimed at developing carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, yet in February 2019, supported the repeal of a rule under the EPA’s New Source Performance Standards that would have tied the construction of new coal plants to the use of CCS. At the same time, it has continued to push for policy measures that will increase US fossil fuel production, including measures to aid increased offshore, Arctic, and non-conventional oil and gas production. For example, in February 2019, the organization took legal action to support the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. In January 2021, it strongly opposed Biden’s executive orders to revoke the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and pause oil and gas leases on federal lands. In May 2021, it submitted an amicus brief along with other industry associations defending Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline in Michigan.

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