As global warming legislation heats up this summer, one of the more frightening developments for free-market and limited government advocates is the United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) – a coalition of corporations and environmental activists. After years of adversarial and contentious relationships, some of the largest corporations are now collaborating with their former foes in pursuit of global warming regulations.
The combination of financial, lobbying and grassroots advocacy represents a potentially overwhelming political force. Corporate support for global warming regulations may very well tip the lobbying balance in favor of laws that essentially gives the federal government the power to set energy prices at a great cost to our standard of living and liberty.
In reality, the industry and activist alliance is a manifestation of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) movement where companies are encouraged to go beyond their legal obligations to address environmental and social issues and actively work with stakeholders – even those opposed to their business practices.
Through CSR, a symbiotic relationship was born where companies learned it was easier to appease critics and avoid public controversy while the activists recognized they could get corporate financial support and legitimacy by working with companies.
USCAP is comprised of more than twenty companies including corporate titans General Electric, DuPont, PG&E and Caterpillar and is joined by six environmental advocacy groups including Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense and The Nature Conservancy.
USCAP’s goal is “to call on the federal government to quickly enact strong national legislation to require significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.” USCAP is guided by six operating principles but its policy goal is to establish a Kyoto type treaty cap-and-trade regulatory scheme that sets limits for carbon dioxide emissions – a greenhouse gas.
Under cap-and-trade, the government gives or sells to companies a specific amount of carbon dioxide they are allowed to emit (the cap) and if they don’t use their entire allocation (carbon credits), they can sell the unused portion to another business (the trade).
The benefit for activist participation in USCAP is clear – giving the government the power to set limits on carbon dioxide emissions furthers their interest in reducing the use of fossil fuels such as coal and gasoline.