- The Washington Times - Monday, July 27, 2015

Accelerating his second-term push to address climate change, President Obama on Monday enlisted the help of some of corporate America’s biggest players, each of which vowed to work with the White House to reduce emissions, conserve water and use more renewable energy.

Thirteen major companies — including Apple, Alcoa, Goldman Sachs, Wal-Mart and Bank of America — signed on to the White House’s “American Business Act on Climate” pledge, the president’s latest attempt to bring government and the private sector together to fight climate change. The businesses also are publicly backing December’s high-stakes U.N. climate conference in Paris and calling on Mr. Obama to lead the way on an unprecedented global climate agreement.

The White House has often had a contentious relationship with business leaders, on issues ranging from health care to Wall Street reform. There’s also key disagreements in the business community over some of Mr. Obama’s specific environmental policies.

SEE ALSO: Hillary Clinton talks big on climate change but silent on Keystone XL

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, two of the nation’s leading business organizations, are fighting hard against the Environmental Protection Agency’s looming ozone regulations and the agency’s plan to dramatically limit carbon emissions from power plants.

Still, on the president’s broad goal of improving the environment and combating climate change, top companies have found common ground with the administration.

White House officials say the involvement of private industry is vital to meeting Mr. Obama’s goal of reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least 26 percent by 2030, and convincing countries such as China and India to implement comparable cuts.

SEE ALSO: Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action still looks like one-man band

“The companies that will be represented today generated more than $1.3 trillion in revenue in 2014. They are brands that recognized in households around the United States and also are leaders in their industries,” Brian Deese, senior adviser to the president, told reporters on a conference call. “This is, fortunately, not entirely new. What we’ve seen with respect to several of the administration’s key energy and conservation priorities is that it’s not, in fact, just the administration that is supporting them.”

In addition to speaking out in favor of the Paris climate conference and backing Mr. Obama’s carbon-reduction goals, companies also are taking voluntary action.

Apple, for example, says it will bring 280 megawatts of renewable power generation online by the end of next year. Coca-Cola says it will cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020. UPS has promised to cut its emissions by 20 percent by 2020.

Alcoa says it will cut emissions by 50 percent by 2025, among other steps. The company also is throwing its full weight behind the Paris climate conference later this year, saying it is a vital opportunity for Mr. Obama and other world leaders to reach a lasting deal on global warming.

“We think it is critical the business community get behind government and ensure we really do use Paris as the opportunity to really move the world in a different direction,” Kevin McKnight, Alcoa’s chief sustainability officer, told reporters.

But leading Republicans say Mr. Obama’s goal of cutting carbon emissions by at least 26 percent by 2030 is unrealistic and charge that the involvement of big business won’t save a plan that is simply unachievable.

“While companies’ efforts may be sincere in attempting to lower their respective corporate footprints, the Obama administration is not,” said Sen. James Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican and chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “The American Business Act on Climate pledge, like most of the president’s climate agenda, looks good in a press release but does little to fill the gap of President Obama’s unrealistic Paris commitments.”

There’s also mounting evidence that specific pieces of Mr. Obama’s climate plan, especially the EPA’s carbon-reduction mandates, known as the Clean Power Plan, will have a negative impact on the U.S. economy. The administration already has admitted the proposal will raise electricity prices for most Americans, at least in the short term.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), which represents more than 900 private electric cooperatives across the country, on Monday released new research showing just how painful electricity price hikes could be.

The organization said a 10 percent increase in electricity prices would suck $2.8 trillion from national gross domestic product from 2020 to 2040. Such an increase also would eliminate about 1.2 million jobs in 2021 alone, the group said.

“Affordable electricity is rural America’s economic lifeline. This study shines a light on the true, real-life cost of higher electricity prices — a cost that policymakers in Washington would do well to remember,” said Jo Ann Emerson, CEO of the NRECA.

Other companies signing the White House pledge were Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Cargill, General Motors, Google, Microsoft and PepsiCo.

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