As a sign of growing corporate support to climate change legislation, a string of companies have left the chamber in recent weeks. Exelon, one of the largest utilities in the US and the third to leave the Chamber, made the announcement Monday.
The Chicago-based company sells electricity and gas in four states and is the largest national operator of nuclear power plants. Exelon plans to spend $290 million each year for five years on energy efficiency and demand response programs. John W. Rowe, Exelon Chairman and CEO urges climate change legislation that puts a price on carbon.
“The carbon-based free lunch is over. But while we can’t fix our climate problems for free, the price signal sent through a cap-and-trade system will drive low-carbon investments in the most inexpensive and efficient way possible,” says Rowe. “Putting a price on carbon is essential, because it will force us to do the cheapest things, like energy efficiency, first.”
Rowe finds it advantageous for Congress to act, instead of the EPA. “Inaction on climate is not an option,” saysRowe. “If Congress does not act, the EPA will, and the result will be more arbitrary, more expensive, and more uncertain for investors and the industry than a reasonable, market-based legislative solution.”
Are the recent departures from the Chamber a sign of growing division among corporations regarding climate change legislation? Some wonder if leaving the Chamber is an eco-fad.
A recent EIRIS study found that 33% of the world’s largest corporations have unmitigated climate risk. These companies are likely to oppose legislation as they likely have greater work ahead and a larger climate liability compared to companies that have been taking action for years. Certainly more proactive companies, such as Exelon have less to lose.
Corporate support for climate change legislation will likely depend on how proactive a company has been, and in many cases could offer a strategic competitive advantage. Low carbon products for example may have a better market response.
Eric Woods, Vice President, Fleet and Logistics at Waste Management says, “I look at cap and trade and ask, ‘How might it become a lever? How can Waste Management be one of the companies that benefits? We run one of the largest natural gas fleets for example and we are ahead of diesel emissions requirements.”