2 may 2013

General Motors calls on Congress to rev up climate action

James Murray, BusinessGreen, 02 May 2013

General Motors (GM) has become the latest high-profile firm to call on Congress and President Obama to work together to deliver ambitious action to tackle climate change.

The auto giant was yesterday among the latest seven firms to sign up to the Climate Declaration, orchestrated by the Ceres green business NGO, which demands a "coordinated effort to combat climate change" and argues that the low carbon transition represents "one of America's greatest economic opportunities of the 21st Century".

The signing of the declaration by GM, as well as Autodesk, Burton Snowboards, Eastern Bank, Lush, Method Products and Novelis, takes the number of large firms supporting the statement to 40 companies, which combined support 550,000 US jobs and generate over $610bn in revenue.

The move also completes a remarkable transition for GM, which prior to the development of its high profile Chevy Volt plug in hybrid had focused primarily on gas-guzzling vehicles and had lobbied heavily against environmental regulations.

Michael J. Robinson, GM vice president of sustainability and global regulatory affairs, said that the company was committed to exploiting the opportunities presented by climate change and the shift to a low carbon economy.

"Everywhere you look there are opportunities to seize the high ground on climate and energy," he said in a statement. "Indeed, our leaders have been presented with an historic opportunity to create a national energy policy from a position of strength and abundance, while also emphasizing the importance of energy efficiency and renewables."

He added that the company was now accelerating efforts to develop cleaner and more sustainable vehicles, but he argued that while GM's efforts were making a difference, "clear policies will help drive carbon emissions even lower".

Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, said that since the launch of the declaration last month the response from businesses had been "overwhelmingly positive".

"Companies see climate change as a material issue, and they know that without policy action, even their most ambitious internal carbon-cutting achievements will not be enough," she said in a statement. "We need smart policy to get solutions to scale and ensure that the technologies and strategies that help us to tackle climate change are developed here in the United States."

The Climate Declaration makes no specific policy recommendations, but is part of a growing campaign to encourage President Obama to move forward with new climate policies and push Congress to approve new environmental legislation.

The latest developments also came as a new poll from Yale University showed a majority of Americans accept global warming is impacting US weather, with 58 per cent claiming that climate change is having an impact and between 42 per cent and 50 per cent arguing that it has made recent extreme weather events such as superstorm Sandy and the ongoing Midwest drought more severe.

However, despite growing corporate and public pressure the chances of Congress passing meaningful climate change legislation remains slim with Republicans fiercely opposed to increases in environmental regulations.

In related news, former US vice president Al Gore hit out at the US press earlier this week after journalists failed to raise the topic of climate change during a press conference with President Obama intended to address his second term priorities.

Obama has said that he wants to make bolder action on climate change a key part of his second term, but the White House press corp again failed to quiz him on the issue, prompting Gore to use Twitter to criticise the media. "Journalists asked the President about important 2nd term agenda items this AM, but continued to ignore the climate crisis. Why?," he wrote.

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