This week the Obama administration announced its most ambitious effort yet to crack down on dangerous carbon pollution from U.S. power plants. As the Washington Post reported on Monday, "the regulation has prompted heavy lobbying from industry and environmental groups, and the ensuing battle promises to become, as the Natural Resources Defense Council Climate Director Peter Altman put it, 'the Super Bowl of climate politics.'"
Industry groups are already lining up on both sides of the debate. As the proposed rule was released, more than 170 leading companies and investors- including Unilever and Mars - immediately joined together to vocally back the new standard.
"Our support is firmly grounded in economic reality," the companies wrote in a letter to President Obama. "We know that tackling climate change is one of America's greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century and we applaud the EPA for taking steps to help the country seize that opportunity."
Meanwhile regressive lobbying groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have thrown facts and caution to the wind, forcefully seeking to undermine public support for the standard and kicking-off a misinformation campaign before the rule was even released.
Last month Oxfam's Standing on the Sidelines report revealed that the food and beverage industry, and specifically Kellogg and General Mills have a great deal to lose if ambitious action is not taken to address climate change. We pointed out that neither company was exhibiting leadership in the face of this crisis and called on them to be vocal advocates for climate action. In response, both Kellogg and General Mills cried foul, claiming they were already leading the charge.
But if the companies truly want to claim the mantle of leadership it begs a basic question: where do they stand on the EPA's new rule? Even as the "Super Bowl of climate politics," is well into the first quarter, both General Mills and Kellogg remain silent on this critical issue, firmly planted on the sidelines.
Companies like Intel have already distanced themselves from the Chamber of Commerce's misleading report. General Mills, which counts itself a member of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, has yet to take-on the national chamber's obstinacy.
The Business Roundtable, an association of CEO's of large U.S. companies that works to influence public policy, which counts General Mills CEO Ken Powell as a member, was aggressively non-committal in its statement on the rule saying, "As CEOs who lead major American companies that operate in communities all across the United States and in every economic sector, we care deeply about both the health of the environment and the health of the economy. We look forward to working with the Administration on how best to achieve cost-effective greenhouse gas emissions reductions while continuing to support growth and job creation." In other words "we have nothing relevant to say on this matter."
Kellogg for its part has also carefully avoided taking a position on the subject. Even though it spends millions of dollars per year lobbying on numerous controversial topics from GMO labeling and the Renewable Fuel Standard to regulations on school lunch programs and marketing to children, the company has not taken public a stand in support of the proposed rule, or any stand for that matter, even though climate change could directly impact the cost of its core products.
If General Mills and Kellogg are serious about their commitment to addressing climate change they will come clean about their position on the President's Climate Action plan and exactly what they are doing about it. They can start by publicly supporting the EPA's new rule, disassociating themselves from the backwards lobbying by the US Chamber and signing on to Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy's (BICEP) Climate Declaration.
The companies must go beyond rhetoric in obscure sustainability documents. As Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse has said, this requires real political muscle working to pursue climate action, "you've got to take the next step, and say, 'our lobbyist in Washington is going to add this issue to the agenda." Kellogg and General Mills know how to use their influence; they spend millions doing just that every year. But it's time to stop being coy and put real some skin in the climate game.
Find out more at www.behindthebrands.org/actnow