Paul Hodgson: BHP, another US Chamber of Commerce deserter?

Mining giant is the latest to speak out on the Chamber’s stance on climate

BHP Billiton may become the next in line to end its membership of the US Chamber of Commerce over disagreements as to how to tackle climate change, according to its recent review of trade association membership. If it does, it will follow a number of high profile exits. For example, Exelon, CVS, PG&E and Apple all left in 2009, though in 2017 Exelon contributed $250,000 to the Chamber, according to advocacy group Public Citizen, which may mean it has reversed its decision.

“The Chamber believes that the climate is changing, and that man is contributing to these changes” – US Chamber of Commerce

The Chamber would not comment on which companies had terminated their membership in recent years. But, according to an analysis by Public Citizen, the following companies have left: Costco, eBay, Hewlett-Packard, General Mills, Kellogg, Kraft Heinz, Mars, Mattel, Mondelēz, Nestlé, Starbucks, Unilever, over what the Guardian described as “political disagreements and worries about its stance on the environment”. None of the companies would confirm to the Guardian that they had in fact quit the Chamber. More recently, nearly 200,000 signatures have been gathered urging Disney, Gap and PepsiCo to leave because the Chamber’s stance on the environment does not align with theirs.
A Chamber spokeswoman did provide a statement in response to BHP’s review: “We look forward to further discussing these important issues with BHP.“As their report indicates, the US Chamber of Commerce represents a broad and diverse membership and we take pride in maintaining open lines of communication on complex issues such as climate change. The Chamber believes that the climate is changing, and that man is contributing to these changes. We also believe that technology and innovation, rather than unachievable federal mandates, offer the best approach for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the impacts of climate change.”
BHP identified a number of material differences between its policies and those of the Chamber, these included: emissions reduction targets, the Paris Agreement, carbon pricing and restricting global warming to 2°C. On this last, BHP’s review determined that the Chamber did not believe it possible. On emissions reduction, the review says that the Chamber has claimed that the US Nationally Determined Contribution is unachievable and too costly. On the Paris Agreement, the review noted the Chamber’s position that it was ineffectual and would have a negative effect on the US economy. Carbon pricing would also be too costly and would “be unlikely to garner popular support from the American people,” said the review of the Chamber’s positions. BHP is in support of all these initiatives.
While a decision has not yet been made to leave, because membership brings with it other benefits, BHP will communicate the material differences and invite a response from the Chamber. It will then make its decision on or before 31 March next year. The World Coal Association did not fare so well, as BHP has informed it that it will leave, unless it changes its tune.