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Apple quits Chamber of Commerce over climate denial

Suzanne Goldenberg

6th October, 2009

Technology firm becomes latest in line of high-profile departures after federation opposes efforts to reduce emissions

Apple has become the latest in a growing list of companies to quit the US Chamber of Commerce over its policies on climate change.

In a letter to the chamber president, Thomas Donohue, Apple's Catherine Novelli said she was frustrated by the hard-line stance the organisation had taken against the Environmental Protection Agency and draft climate legislation now before the Senate.

Novelli did not sugarcoat the exit. 'We strongly object to the chamber's recent comments opposing the EPA's effort to limit greenhouse gases,' she wrote in the letter, released yesterday, adding: 'Apple supports regulating greenhouse gas emissions, and it is frustrating to find the chamber at odds with us in this effort.' The company's departure is effective immediately.

The chamber is against the idea that the EPA should use its authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. This is almost universally seen as a fallback position in case the Democrats fail to push a climate change bill through Congress. The chamber also opposes the climate bill passed by the house last June, claiming it will drive up business costs.

Some chamber officials have stirred things up further by calling for a commission to put the science of climate change 'on trial' – even though the most authoritative report to date on the impact of climate change on different regions in the US was released just weeks ago.

Those comments may turn out to be the ones that started the (as yet) mini-exodus. Within the last two weeks, the chamber has lost California's biggest utility corporations, Pacific Gas and Electric and Exelon, along with PNM resources, a New Mexico firm. Nike resigned from the commerce executive but remains a member. Two other firms - General Electric and Johnson & Johnson - have issued statements saying that they disagree with the chamber's climate policy.

The defection of these household names has inevitably attracted attention. So, too, has the spread of business exiting the chamber, from conventional utility companies to ultra-innovative firms such as Apple.

Some see the moves as the beginnings of a new climate change consensus in the business world, but it will take many more defections before a critical mass is reached. The chamber estimates its membership at 3m 'businesses and organizations of every size' and, on its official website at least, shows no sign of feeling even the faintest pinch of loss. Instead, it claims to be protecting its members by using funds to attack the climate change bill and its supporters.

Environmental organisations say the defections are the beginning of the end for the chamber. 'It just underscores how out of touch the chamber position on this issue is with mainstream America,' said Josh Dorner, a spokesman for Clean Energy Works. 'The chamber has effectively written itself out of mainstream debate.'

Suzanne Goldenberg is the Guardian's US environment correspondent. This article is reproduced courtesy of the Guardian Environment Network

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