New groups form to counter climate change

WASHINGTON: Amid increased Congressional interest in the environment, two new US coalitions with plans to help curb global warming were launched recently: one including major corporations and environmental groups and the other consisting of religious and scientific leaders.

WASHINGTON: Amid increased Congressional interest in the environment, two new US coalitions with plans to help curb global warming were launched recently: one including major corporations and environmental groups and the other consisting of religious and scientific leaders.

Powell Tate|Weber Shandwick handled media relations for the unveiling on January 22 of the US Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), whose members, including Duke Energy, DuPont, and the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, are calling for laws that set limits on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions but permit businesses to buy and sell GHG "credits" as part of a "cap and trade" system.

Keith Gaby, senior communications strategist at USCAP member Environmental Defense, said USCAP members will work collectively and individually to lobby members of Congress as well as sign on new members to the group.

“As far as I know there’s never been a major business coalition pushing for a new environmental law, so in that sense it’s unprecedented,” Gaby said. “The arguments traditionally against dealing with climate change are that it would hurt the economy, and it’s pretty hard to keep making that argument in the face of these businesses.”

Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter and Associates, meanwhile, helped manage the launch on January 17 of a coalition led by Harvard Medical School's Center for Health and Global Environment and the National Association of Evangelicals that will also lobby Congress and develop grassroots campaigns to curb climate change, including developing environmental curricula, a “Creation Care” Bible study guide, and other materials that pastors can use to communicate with their congregations about global warming.

 Unveiling of the groups coincides with sparring by Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives over whether to create a new committee devoted solely to global warming or leave it within the purview of the existing House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Rep. John D. Dingell (D-MI), who plans to hold hearing on global warming, However, some critics say is too influenced by the auto industry to be willing to, among other things, support sufficiently tough standards on fuel consumption.

In addition, on the day after the launch of USCAP, President Bush, in his State of the Union speech announced a few energy initiatives, including a plan to cut the currently projected rate of gas consumption in 10 years by 20%. New UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon during the first White House visit, on January 16, had reportedly lobbied Bush to work harder to address the problem of climate change, though White House spokespeople afterward declined to state whether the administration would support the “cap and trade” or other measures supported by Ban.

While various coalitions focused on US energy consumption questioned the likely environmental impact of the new Bush administration proposals, Rozanne Weissman, director of communications and marketing for the Alliance to Save Energy, argued that the recent spate of energy-related initiatives reflects broader agreement by the US public that global warning is real.

“Market research done in ’97 on climate change found that people didn’t believe it was that serious,” said Weissman, whose group this week ran ads in Roll Call and other Washington publication to promote an ongoing initiative called the Six Degree Challenge. “But now we’ve reached a tipping point; it’s a total sea change.”

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