Apple Latest to Leave US Chamber of Commerce Over Climate Change

In what could only be called a growing trend, Apple Computer on Monday became the latest Fortune 500 company to resign from the United States Chamber of Commerce over the chamber’s anti-climate legislation stance.

In a letter to the chamber, Catherine A. Novelli, the vice president of worldwide government affairs at Apple, wrote “we strongly object to the chamber’s recent comments opposing the EPA’s effort to limit green house gases.”

Apple, which recently expanded environmental disclosures on its products, joins three major utilities, Pacific Gas & Electric, PNM Resources, and Exelon, the nation’s largest supplier of electricity, all of which left the chamber in the last two weeks.

Last Wednesday, Nike, the sports apparel giant, announced it would resign from the chamber’s board of directors for similar reasons, while keeping its general membership in the chamber.

Growing Schism

The move highlights a growing schism in the business community over what role government should play in confronting climate change. Legislation introduced in the Senate late last month would create a cap-and-trade emissions credit market to trade carbon credits, among other proposals. The EPA meanwhile has sought to use its authority to impose regulations on greenhouse gases directly.

Many companies, as well as the Chamber of Commerce, oppose virtually all regulations because of the costs they believe it will impose on business. Others support it however, arguing that given the pressing nature of climate change, and the inevitability of some sort of emissions controls, the sooner clear rules are in the effect the better for businesses planning for the future.

The Usual Suspects?

There is some speculation that the reason the utilities left the chamber has at least as much to do with green backs as going green. Many utilities have made serious investments in renewable or carbon-free energy, and the value of those investments would naturally go up with the price of carbon emissions, should cap-and-trade be instated.

But Nike and Apple do not have such investments on the line. Of course, if one had to pick two non-utilities most likely to leave the Chamber of Commerce over a political issue like climate change, progressive and iconoclastic Nike and Apple would certainly be at the top of the list.

But exiting the country’s oldest, and most powerful business lobby is still a dramatic stance, and one apparently taken on principle (regardless of the PR benefits). No doubt both companies are hoping their move will inspire other corporations standing on the sidelines to take the plunge — or force the chamber to pull its head out of the sand.

The utilities, for their own part, cited reports that the chamber wanted Congress to begin a “Scopes monkey trial” of the validity of global warming science, as impetus to jump ship.

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.