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Businesses try to adapt to changing climate politics

Corporations and their K Street lobbyists are grappling with rising pressure for action on climate change from the White House and its Capitol Hill allies.

Why it matters: Democrats' ascendance is prompting powerful business and industrial interests to try and influence the new initiatives in their favor — or at least limit the fallout.

A few examples ...

1. The Securities and Exchange Commission is getting an earful from companies and trade groups over plans to mandate disclosure of climate-related risks and opportunities.

  • What's noteworthy is that many powerful interests in finance and industry aren't trying to block the rules. Instead, their comments are geared toward helping shape the rules' breadth and specifics.
  • For instance, the National Association of Manufacturers says mandates should focus only on metrics that are "financially material to the investors in a specific business."

2. K Street powerhouses including the American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have adopted new climate positions this year.

  • API in March endorsed putting a price on CO2 emissions, while in January the Chamber similarly called for a "market-based approach" to speed emissions cuts.
  • Both groups also now embrace regulation of the potent greenhouse gas methane under the Clean Air Act.

3. Renewable energy companies, electric vehicle producers and other clean tech interests, meanwhile, are rushing to take advantage of new openings for supportive policy.

  • For example, the solar industry has thrown its weight behind a new proposal from Sen. Jon Ossoff, a Georgia Democrat, to create new tax credits for domestic solar equipment manufacturers.

The big picture: The political landscape has changed seismically from the Trump era, and corporations — especially polluting industries — also face increasing pressure from activists and shareholders to do more.

The intrigue: Look for plenty of big battles as President Biden attempts to enact his agenda. The oil industry strongly opposes a White House move to impose even a temporary pause on new oil-and-gas lease sales.

  • And the industry's embrace of carbon pricing comes as pricing has lost momentum on the left and top Democrats are not aggressively pursuing it.

What they're saying: “Because there is unified control of Washington, there is a lot of excitement by the majority party to execute on their vision,” said Shane Skelton, a senior VP with Boundary Stone Partners, which represents an array of clean energy clients.

  • However, “you also want to keep the minority involved," said Skelton, who was an aide to former House Speaker Paul Ryan. He added that policies are more lasting and durable when they have bipartisan buy-in.

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