The US Chamber Doesn’t Speak for these Businesses

Probably no organization has spent as much money opposing efforts to stop climate change as the US Chamber of Commerce, a national lobbying group that represents many of the biggest and worst polluters in the United States. It might seem strange that the US Chamber would oppose steps to curb carbon emissions and stimulate investment in clean energy. After all, the goal of the Chamber is supposed to be to advocate for jobs and businesses, and the green energy revolution promises to usher in a wave of economic opportunity in this country.

However the Chamber’s position makes more sense once you understand that the bulk of its funding comes from a very small but extremely powerful group of polluting industries. Recognizing the role the Chamber has played in blocking climate progress, the grassroots organization 350.org has launched a national effort to highlight the gap between US Chamber thinking and the small businesses it is supposed to be representing. In fact the US Chamber of Commerce does not represent the needs of small businesses owners, a majority of whom support taking action on climate change. Thus the name of 305.org’s new campaign: “The US Chamber Does Not Speak for Me.”

350.org volunteers and staff are asking local business owners to distance themselves from the national Chamber of Commerce. In doing so they hope to show policymakers the US Chamber does not speak for small business and that delaying action on climate change is out of sync with what businesses want. So far 350.org has signed up almost 1,400 businesses and thirty-two local chambers of commerce (local chambers are not necessarily affiliated with the national US Chamber). Meanwhile businesses are already moving to start alternative organizations to the US Chamber. Organizations like the Green Chamber of Commerce and the US Green Chamber of Commerce are beginning to advocate national climate solutions based on renewable energy and creating thousands of green jobs.

The US Chamber of Commerce is deeply entrenched in its old, polluting habits, and isn’t likely to change its ways soon. Over the last couple years the Chamber helped prevent Congress passing any kind of national climate legislation. Now it is actively engaged in trying to weaken the Clean Air Act and stop existing laws from being used to protect public health from carbon emissions. The US Chamber of Commerce will probably go on derailing progress on climate change in any way it can, all the while sticking up for big coal and oil companies and other polluters.

However as companies leave the US Chamber to protest their anti-climate lobbying, and small business owners and local chambers of commerce proclaim loudly and clearly that the US Chamber doesn’t speak for them, the Chamber will have a harder time explaining why it continues advocating for the old, polluting economy. The important question to ask isn’t whether the US Chamber of Commerce can be reformed. Rather, it’s how long the US Chamber can stay relevant while refusing to stand up for the interests of thousands of small businesses?

Photo credit: Nick Engelfried