Climate:

Small-business leaders urge Congress to move emissions policy

How would small businesses be affected by tighter air regulations coming out of U.S. EPA? During today's OnPoint, Richard Eidlin, director of public policy and business engagement at the American Sustainable Business Council, and Anne Kelly, director of Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy, discuss a new initiative by small-business leaders to encourage Congress to move on climate change policy.

Transcript

Monica Trauzzi: Hello, and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today are Richard Eidlin, director of public policy and business engagement at the American Sustainable Business Council, and Anne Kelly, director of business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy. Thank you both for joining me.

Anne Kelly: Thank you, Monica.

Richard Eidlin: Thanks for having us.

Monica Trauzzi: Anne, your organizations have teamed up to bring dozens of small business leaders to D.C. to meet with members of Congress about the impact climate change is having on their business operations. What are the key themes that are emerging from these conversations?

Anne Kelly: Well, several things, and we're seeing that there's a real bipartisan push for energy efficiency. Energy efficiency sort of transcends the partisan divide. There's a real sense of urgency on the part of the businesses to see some action, and these businesses are ready to work the Hill. They're seeing the way that tackling climate change is really an economic opportunity. And they're getting a little impatient, and they'd really like to see some post-partisan conversations. In many ways, we're opening up conversations. We're meeting with both Republicans and Democrats, and we're, you know, really looking to see some progress.

Monica Trauzzi: Richard, like Anne mentioned, the goal here is really to try to move the ball forward ...

Richard Eidlin: Right.

Monica Trauzzi: ... on some kind of climate policy, but with the current state of play here in Washington, that's pretty unlikely. What's the reaction been from members, when you talk about actual policy and moving legislation?

Richard Eidlin: Well, being businesses, we have a certain amount of credibility from the get-go, so the members and their staff are very interested in the fact that business people are showing up. But we're also acknowledging that there's a difference of perspective on what needs to be done, and some basic philosophical differences. So some of the Republican offices we've met with have laid out a very specific set of criteria, no new taxes, no expansion of federal mandates, no expansion of the government role, whereas those on the Democratic side of the aisle have a different perspective about maybe the appropriate role of government. But as Anne said, we're finding that there is some sense of bipartisanship around certain issues, but the methods of getting there vary.

Monica Trauzzi: Anne, talk to me about the climate declaration. You already have some major corporations that signed onto it. Why was it so important to engage small businesses on that as well?

Anne Kelly: Yeah. Well, the declaration itself makes the message clear, that tackling climate change is a phenomenal economic opportunity, in addition to being the right thing to do. And we have several hundred companies signed on now. Today, we announced 360 small businesses across the country. So we have a variety of sectors, a variety of companies in various places, various sizes, saying it's time, that actually fixing this problem is an economic boon. It's an economic opportunity, and the costs of inaction are actually higher than the costs of letting the problem continue. So small businesses get that message. Businesses have done the cost-benefit analysis and concluded that this just makes sense on every level. And we're really widening the tent. We have individuals signing. We have groups of all sorts signing. And you'll hear about that throughout the year. Really, its' a popular movement. I mean, it's a non-prescriptive, general declaration that America is about leading. Leading is what we've always done. It's what we always will do. And we need to just move forward.

Monica Trauzzi: And are small businesses affected differently by climate change and its impacts than large businesses?

Anne Kelly: Well, to some extent, and I'll let Richard talk about this, because I represent mostly large businesses. I guess a key change is that for many of the companies signing on, and not all of them, they're in a variety of sectors, but they have lengthy supply chains. So they may have leather in the game, or coffee, or cotton, or workers, supply chains, in the game. And that's one of the reasons they're deeply concerned. And I think small businesses have another set of concerns.

Richard Eidlin: Yeah. And those are a challenge of adapting to the impacts of climate change. So what we find historically is that when there's a hurricane or peculiar weather event, small businesses don't recover as quickly as large companies do. They may not have the insurance coverage. They may not have the resilience in their supply chain. They may not have the manpower, and they may not have the capital reserves to recover. So we find that small businesses throughout the country are really concerned about the economic impact of climate change, and they're also innovators. Most of the jobs in the United States are actually provided by small businesses. The overwhelming percentage are by companies with less than a few hundred people, and even a larger percentage by those with less than 50 employees. So we find that those companies are genuinely concerned, and they want some action to be taken.

Monica Trauzzi: And we're hearing from the White House, in particular, Heather Zichal had made some comments about the administration moving forward ...

Richard Eidlin: Right.

Monica Trauzzi: ... with some kind of emissions reduction, regulation. How will that influence and impact small businesses, if we're looking at regulation instead of policy?

Richard Eidlin: Yeah. Well, our contention is that there are good regulations and there are sometimes challenging regulations. So we think regulatory change can be a boost for competitiveness, foster innovation, level the playing field. And we think of those regulations that come out, particularly on new source power plants and existing facilities, that can really be a boon to small business. We're concerned that there isn't an additional cost or increased cost of electricity, and we're mindful of that. But our overall sense is that those regulations issued by EPA, or to be issued, will be a benefit to small business.

Monica Trauzzi: All right. We're going to end it right there. Thank you both for coming on the show. Very interesting.

Anne Kelly: Thank you, Monica.

Richard Eidlin: Thank you.

Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

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