Just two weeks ago, San Francisco and Oakland filed lawsuits against BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell. The lawsuits allege that these oil companies have created a costly public nuisance by producing and selling fossil fuels that are the main cause of climate change. The plaintiffs argue these companies are saddling the cities with enormous expenses relating to sea level rise and other consequences of climate change.
While the oil companies deserve to be held accountable, they are not the only corporations responsible for the ravages of climate change. Many seemingly socially responsible companies are complicit via their funding of one of the leading opponents of action on climate change: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
One of these companies is an iconic San Francisco-based brand: Gap. Gap talks a good game on climate. Art Peck, its CEO, has stated that climate change is such a serious problem that the company “can’t afford not to act.” Gap has pledged to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions, and the company helped pay for full-page ads urging President Donald Trump not to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.
There’s only one problem. Gap funds the Chamber, and the Chamber is at the center of the fight against action on climate change. The Chamber helped organize the opposition to President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), which would limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. It even sued to block the CPP. An indefatigable booster for fossil fuels, the Chamber also paid for the now-debunked “study” Trump used as a rationale for withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. Believe it or not, the Chamber’s president, Tom Donohue, still doesn’t know if he believes in climate science.
Add to this the facts that the Chamber is by far the largest lobbying group in the nation, having spent almost $1.4 billion lobbying the federal government over the last two decades, and that it is one of the largest dark money elections spenders, having spent more than $150 million since 2008 on behalf of congressional candidates — almost all of them climate deniers or skeptics — and it becomes readily apparent to all but the willfully blind that one cannot profess to care about the climate while funding the Chamber.
Gap’s willful blindness is not shared by many of its corporate brethren. Apple and PG&E, two other California-based companies, publicly quit the Chamber in 2009 over the Chamber’s opposition to action on climate change. And many other prominent Bay Area brands, including eBay and HP, have quietly left the Chamber in recent years, in part because of the Chamber’s anti-climate crusade.
Almost 200,000 consumers have now signed petitions asking Gap to stop funding the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. This follows a similar request from more than 50 civil society groups from around the world. It is time for Gap to follow the lead of its corporate peers and listen to the chorus of voices asking it to stop funding the Chamber and its campaign of climate denial. It’s time for Gap to drop the Chamber.
Dan Dudis is the director of Public Citizen’s Chamber Watch project. John Rizzo is a member of the executive committee of the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club.