The Pew Center on Global Climate Change and the Business Environmental Leadership Council

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change was established in 1998 as a non-profit, non-partisan and independent organization whose mission is to address global warming (Pew). Alongside the creation of the Pew Center was the Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC). BELC was created in the belief that businesses must develop efficient and effective solutions in addressing the climate problem. BELC has grown into the largest U.S. based association of corporations focused on addressing climate change. It currently consists of forty-one members representing $2 trillion in market capitalization and over three million employees (BELC). Many sectors are included, such as oil, gas, transportation, utilities, chemicals, and many more.

Many well known companies are part of BELC, including: Boeing, BP, GE, Hewlett-Packard Company, IBM, Intel, Lockheed Martin, Maytag, Novartis, Toyota, and many other companies with tremendous market influence (BELC). It is extremely interesting to note that the Pew Center doesn’t receive money from the companies of the BELC. Instead, it receives its money from The Pew Charitable Trusts (“Pew Charitable”). The Pew Center and BELC companies hold four core beliefs. First, they accept the views of most scientists that enough is known about climate change to finally do something about it. Second, businesses can and should establish and meet emission requirements, invest in new, more efficient products, practices, and technologies. Third, they recognize that The Kyoto Protocol is the first step in the international process. They believe that the countries that have joined the Protocol must implement the market-based mechanisms that are written into the Treaty. And lastly, they believe that significant progress can be made in both addressing climate change and sustaining economic growth in the United States (BELC). Before getting into the transnational controversy that the Pew Center and BELC is engaged in, examining the problem of global warming is needed to understand the context and scope of the issue.

Global Warming is a huge problem threatening the very existence of our species on this planet. In 2002, the Pentagon predicted that a sudden change in the Earth’s climate could cause

Prolonged droughts in northern Europe and the United States [that would] lead to acute food and water shortages, while typhoons and hurricanes devastate low-lying regions like Bangladesh. Africa is crippled by disease and famine; southern Europe is flooded with millions of refuges; in the Persian Gulf, Chinese and U.S. naval forces square off over access to Saudi oil fields. (Goodell 132)

This is what our own government believes will happen if the Earth’s temperature goes up a couple of degrees! Ross Gelbspan points out that since the start of industrialization in the 19th century, the human thirst for fossil fuels has gotten to the point where most scientists believe that global temperatures have risen at least 1 degree Fahrenheit over the last century (“Boiling” 24-27). In addition, the evidence shows that carbon dioxide levels have increased from 280 parts per million (ppm) over the last hundred years to about 380ppm today (“Denial” 16a). That means that within the next hundred years, if we keep up our pace, carbon dioxide levels will go up to a lot more than 480ppm because the amount of pollutants and greenhouse gases we are using keeps going up and up. The Pew Center has a policy program that does four main things to try to help the international and domestic community (the United States is responsible for 25% of global greenhouse emissions) clean up it’s act. First, it produces independent, non-partisan analyses of global warming policy alternatives in the United States and abroad. Second, it educates key decision-makers about policy options. Third, it encourages the domestic and international community to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. And lastly, they produce reports, policy briefs, working papers and Legislative/Administrative Proposals (Pew).

The Pew Center is located in Arlington, Virginia. Its measures and activities extend throughout the globe, especially because global warming is an issue affecting every nation. How can the world trust the Pew Center and BELC when the BELC companies are comprised of so many companies historically known to be huge polluters? This seems like a conflict of interest domestically. The United States hasn’t signed the Kyoto Protocol, and the Pew Center admits “The Kyoto Protocol is the first step in the international process” (Pew). When the President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Eileen Clauseen, was asked why the U.S., the largest producer of carbon dioxide, has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, her response was, “…no, it has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol. President Bush has also made it clear that the U.S. will not ratify the Protocol…” Clauseen goes on to say that

Most countries were waiting for the outcome of the November meeting in The Hague before moving forward with ratification. They are now awaiting decisions that might be made in Bonn. But whether enough countries ratify it for it to enter into force is an open question. The EU has indicated that it will ratify, and other may as well. It will take 55 countries representing 55 percent of developed country emissions for the treaty to enter into force” (“Global”).

Clauseen has acknowledged that it will take a substantial effort to reduce the current carbon dioxide levels in the air. It’s a complicated and controversial issue. On one hand, you have developed countries reducing their emissions and finding energy alternatives. We even have the United States acknowledging the threat of global warming. However, a huge problem lies within developing countries. These countries, located in regions such as South American and Asia, will add to the carbon dioxide level as they economically improve and as the standard of living for its people increases (Balaam 463). But this increase comes at a cost. We may see a “second wave” of industrialization sweep the developing world and create more climate problems. Or, the industrialized nations must help developing countries economically expand without destroying the world. However, creating “green and clean” infrastructure in developing nations becomes a huge monetary issue.

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change and the BELC are engaged in a transnational controversy that extends all over the globe and includes extremely poor third world countries as well as very rich countries. They are ultimately trying to reduce and eliminate global warming. Global warming affects all nations, and all nations have contributed to the problem. Thus, the key question is whether or not you can trust the Pew Center, and especially the BELC, in finding a solution. There are many actors involved in this initiative. Because the United States only contains 4% of the world’s population yet emits 25% (“Global”), it’s a huge actor because this problem is of global proportions. The leaders of many top businesses are also key actors because their companies are partly responsible for the environmental problems we face. Herein lies a conflict of interest and an open door for criticism. Many of these top businesses are a part of the BELC. Most of these companies are huge polluters and are, according to the Pew Center and BELC, trying to cut down on their emissions and come up with new alternative energy sources. How sincere are these companies in actually addressing global warming? Are they willing to accept the financial losses associated with being ‘green’ and ‘clean’? Other actors include all the heads of nations, NGOs, environmental and green groups, and even every single individual who makes an effort to reduce pollution.

In examining the international political economy of the global environment, there are four aspects of environmental problems in general: “…the environment as a communal good, the increasingly global scope of environmental problems, the proliferation of actors involved in these issues, and the multidimensional makeup and linkage between the immediate causes and effects of environmental issues” (453). A very positive example was when Alcan joined BELC on October 18. “Alcan is a multinational, market-drive company and a global leader in aluminum and packaging…aerospace applications, bauxite mining and alumina processing” (Michaud). Alcan has had great success in reducing its greenhouse gases. It has proven that it’s possible to address global climate change while maintaining competitive excellence, growth, and profitability.

The reason Alcan is such a positive example is because

The principal vehicle for this effort is Alcan’s GHG emissions reduction program, TARGET, which was implemented in 2001 and is a key component of the Company’s Environment, Health and Safety (EHS FIRST) management system. In TARGET’s first four years, Alcan’s cumulative GHG reduction objective was set at 575,000 tonnes of CO2e. By the end of 2004, Alcan far surpassed this by recording a reduction of 2.9 million tones of CO2e (Michaud)

This one company, a member of BELC, set its own policy and reduced its emissions 2 million tones more than its original goal! It is definitely interesting to note that according to Anik Michaud, the Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the United States’ largest philanthropies, established the Pew Center. It has an influential voice in improving the environment and is dedicated to providing credible information and innovative solutions to address global climate change. Maybe the Pew Center is sincere in its efforts to help global warming, seeing how it was actually setup by a charity. It’s important to understand some of the IPE problems regarding global climate change before examining what the Pew Center has done about it.

The environment has been severely abused as a result of economic growth, industrialization, trade, and investment policies of the developed nations. As more international trade and investment occurs, more industrially manufactured products and services are produced that require vast amounts of energy resources (Balaam 460). Over the last hundred years, the countries that are now industrialized have become so at the cost of the environment. A key environmental problem is in regards to growth in developing nations and there effect on environmental problems. This is a key reason why the Bush administration hasn’t signed the Kyoto Protocol; the protocol doesn’t call for an equal proportion of emission reductions for industrialized and developing nations. However, developing nations counter and say that they would mean vast amounts of international aid in order to economically and industrially prosper and curb emissions at the same time. It is interesting to note “Many of the newly industrialized countries (NICs), such as China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, and India among other, have also been criticized for their failure to take the environment into account (Balaam 460).

Thus, one can see that the Pew Center must address the climate issue globally and that BELC is needed in order to actually accomplish the reduction of greenhouse gases. What the Pew Center has done is put together a group of many top companies that operate in many countries. Because the Pew Center’s goal is addressing global climate change, having all of these top companies pledging to do there part makes the Pew Center more credible and puts them at an advantage over other environmental groups because it has ties to these forty-one companies that represent over $2 trillion in market capitalization. As Alcan illustrated, these companies are actually doing their part in curbing emissions while still maintaining economic growth.

After extensive research, it’s fair to say there are no major critics of The Pew Center on Global Climate Change. As a matter of fact, a Pew Center quote was used to debunk a critic of global warming in a PBS article. A huge critic of global warming is Petr Chylek, Professor of Physics and Atmospheric Science at Dalhousie University in Halifx, Nova Scotia. He wrote “Scientists who want to attract attention to themselves, who want to attract great funding to themselves, have to (find a) way to scare the public…and this you can achieve only by making things bigger and more dangerous than they really are” (“Debating”). The PBS article used this quote from the Pew Center to debunk Professor Chylek

Addressing climate change is no simple task. To protect ourselves, our economy, and our land from the adverse effects of climate change, we must ultimately dramatically reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases…shifting away from a century’s legacy of unrestrained fossil fuel use and its associated emissions in pursuit of more efficient and renewable sources of energy. Such a transformation will require society to engage in a concerted effort, over the near and long-term, to seek out opportunities and design actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (“Debating”)

Most outsiders and environmental groups see the Pew Center as a step in the right direction. They also view the BELC as a collection of companies who are trying to make a difference. There are always going to be environmentalists so out of touch with reality that they believe every single industry or machine that pollutes should be destroyed and that every single area that is not used by humans should be reforested and inhabited by animals. They don’t realize the economic catastrophe this would cause: Millions would lose jobs because the companies they work for would be closed because they release emissions, millions would starve. This isn’t worth cleaner air and more animals flocking about. Never mind losing jobs, because cars would be illegal, how would anybody get to work in the first place? The emphasis is clear. This is the extreme side of the spectrum. The other extreme side is polluting and profiting so much that eventually, the planet would become financial rich but uninhabitable. Thus, the Pew Center’s approach is correct. Addressing the issue while sustaining economic growth is complicated but has proven to be possible.

It seems that The Pew Center on Global Climate Change is a very reputable and positive organization that is using its resources to address global warming. The research has shown that different sources all agree that both global warming is a huge threat and that the Pew Center is positively addressing it. The Pew Center receives its funding from The Pew Charitable Trusts. The Trusts will invest $204 million in fiscal year 2006 to provide organizations and citizens with fact-based research and practical solutions for challenging issues (“Pew Charitable”).

A great deal of evidence shows that the BELC are actually making a difference and curbing their emissions. Some companies are even exceeding Kyoto goals. Because the BELC companies openly admit that enough is known about global warming to address it, they actively participate in emission curbing activities. For example, BELC member BP Amoco “plans to bring its own carbon emissions to 10 percent below its 1990 level by 2010, exceeding the Kyoto goal of roughly 5 percent for industrial countries. (“Social”). Dupont, another BELC member, has already cut its 1990 greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent. They plan to reduce them by 65 percent by 2010. This also proves that meeting the Kyoto goal is not only possible, but also surpassing it is as well (“Social”). Other BELC companies, such as Toyota and Boeing are advancing company-wide programs for reducing carbon emission. Toyota was the first automaker to mass-produce a hybrid car, the Prius (“Social”). Some BELC companies are also looking for alternative energy sources. BP Amoco and Dutch Shell have been investing heavily in new sources of energy. “BP Amoco is now a leading manufacturer of solar cells. Shell, already a major player in both wind and solar cells, is also investing heavily in hydrogen and will likely open the world’s first chain of hydrogen stations in Iceland” (“Social”).

With the evidence presented, it’s quite evident that a coalition of top companies, contrary to what one might think, are actually addressing the global climate issue. The deeper political economic issues behind all of this include political pressure from companies (non-BELC) that lobby hard for lax industrial regulations, environmental groups that lobby the opposite, the need to address this issue with every single country in the world, the need to unite with every country to fight this battle, and lastly, addressing the climate issue while still growing economically. There are many actors involved from many different perspectives. From the industrial side, business leaders are trying to lobby for regulations that help them. From the environmental side, organizations like the Pew Center are main actors because they are independent, non-partisan, and in this case, encompass many top companies that have been proven to take measures into their own hands and address the global climate issue. There are other actors as well, such as researchers who are trying to find that next big energy alternative, and each individual, who is ultimately affected by decisions that are made by the upper levels, because environmental policy and economic issues go hand in hand. In answering cui bono, one must first realize that The Pew Center on Global Climate Change isn’t looking to make a profit; The Pew Charitable Trusts contains billions of dollars. The BELC represents over $2 trillion in market capitalization and 3 million workers, so profit isn’t a big deal to them. The environment benefits. The people who live on this planet benefit. When addressing Global Warming and than asking cui bono, the answer is “Everybody.”

There are many interesting things I discovered as I researched the Pew Center and BELC. At first, I thought that a center that is comprised of so many companies that have historically been polluters made me think that they are in this for some kind of profit or publicity. However, as I dove into the information, I began to discover some interesting things. The Pew Center is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, thus BELC companies don’t contribute at all to the Pew Center. The Pew Center and BELC have formed a mutually advantageous relationship not centered on money. My research has showed that both The Pew Center and BELC companies heavily address the climate issue. This issue is very controversial to begin with. Even though all scientists believe global warming is occurring, not all agree that it’s a big threat. Some believe there is no need to curb economic growth to address this issue. However, the Pew Center and BELC realize that the evidence shows there really is a threat. Globally, it’s a very complicated situation. Poor nations don’t have the means to help global warming, and this is why a system needs to be setup where the international community helps these poor nations economically advance without destroying the environment. Industrialized nations must unite together to use their resources to rescue the planet from the condition The Age of Oil put us in. At first look, when you see an organization partnered up with very big companies, you would believe that it is not a good thing for the environment. But if you look at all they have done over the years, you can clearly see the BELC companies regularly exceed Kyoto goals and that the Pew Center regularly pushes for greenhouse gas emissions and even gives proposals to the United States government that fights this issue.

Works Cited

Balaam, David N., and Michael Veseth. Introduction to International Political Economy.

BELC. 12 Dec. 2005. Pew Center. 13 Dec. 2005 “Debating ‘Global Warming’.” 22 Apr. 2005. PBS 13 Dec. 2005

Gelbspan, Ross. “Our denial is at Category 5.” USA Today 26 Sept. 2005.

Gelbspan, Ross. “Boiling Point.” Nation 8 Aug. 2005.

Center. 23 Dec. 2005

Goodell, Jeff. “WAS IT GLOBAL WARMING?” Rolling Stone Dec. 2005.

Michaud, Anik. “Alcan Joins [BELC] to address global climate change.” CNW Group. 18 Oct. 2005

Pew Center on Global Climate Change. 12 Dec. 2005. Pew Center. 13 Dec. 2005 The Pew Charitable Trusts. 12 Dec. 2005. Pew Center. 13 Dec. 2005

Social Funds. 26 July 2000. “Global Climate Coalition Cools Down.” 13 Dec. 2005