Apple (s AAPL) wants no part in the Chamber of Commerce’s opposition to EPA regulations of greenhouse gas emissions. The company has sent a letter to the lobbying behemoth today announcing its decision to resign its membership.
Apple’s departure makes is just the latest company trying to distance itself from chamber’s stance on climate policy — several utilities including California’s PG&E (s PCG) have said they will let their membership lapse at the end of this year and Nike has stepped down from the chamber’s board. But in a move that shows the high stakes of the climate policy debate for corporations, Apple has taken a bolder step and made its resignation from the chamber “effective immediately.”
Apple’s statement today is notable not only because it marks a clean break from the business group, but also because of the motivation behind it. Energy companies and utilities that have made big investments in cleaner energy and energy efficiency, could see direct benefits from a cap and trade system that makes carbon-intensive electricity from coal more expensive. But Apple, while it could arguably benefit from regulatory certainty, also wants to win good will among green-minded consumers and regain tight control over its image when it comes to environmental impact.
Apple’s decision to leave the chamber comes on the heels of its very interesting (and public) move recently to become more transparent in its carbon accounting process (following persistent criticism from Greenpeace and other environmental groups). For the first time last month Apple unveiled its carbon footprint, taking into account emissions associated with consumers’ use of its products, as well as manufacturing. By contrast, Apple competitors such as Dell (s DELL) and Hewlett-Packard (s HPQ) often don’t factor all of these emissions into carbon footprint disclosures.
Leaving the Chamber of Commerce at this point represents a more proactive move for Apple — the computer industry has been moving gradually toward more disclosure in recent years, but Apple is the first company in its sector to sever ties with the lobbying group. Apple’s President of Worldwide Government Affairs, Catherine Novelli, wrote in a letter to Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Donohue on Monday:
Apple supports regulating greenhouse gas emissions, and it is frustrating to find the Chamber at odds with us in this effort. We would prefer the Chamber take a more progressive stance on this critical issue and play a constructive role in addressing the climate crisis. However, because the Chamber’s position differs so sharply with Apple’s, we have decided to resign our membership effective immediately.
Last week Donohue issued a statement on the chamber’s position on climate change, emphasizing support for “strong federal legislation and a binding international agreement to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change,” while opposing the Waxman-Markey climate bill and emission regulation by the EPA. Responding to the WSJ’s Environmental Capital this afternoon, the chamber reiterated its position that “climate change must be addressed.”
In other statements, however, the group has used less diplomatic language. As the Los Angeles Times notes today, “The Chamber claims that limits on greenhouse gas emissions by Congress or the Environmental Protection Agency would be ‘a job killer’ that would ‘completely shut the country down’ and ‘virtually destroy the United States.'”