I write on behalf of climate-justice leaders and clean-energy advocates calling on businesses to hold the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce accountable for its obstruction of Minnesota’s clean-energy transition. While many prominent chamber members have pledged to eliminate their carbon footprints by 2050, the chamber itself has helped to block key clean-energy proposals in our state over the past five years.

Our new report, “The Power Behind Climate Denial,” details the chamber’s history of hard-line opposition to even the most moderate clean-energy policies.

For instance, the chamber resisted a measure encouraging investments in clean energy and requiring utilities to reach 100% clean energy by 2050, as called for in Minnesota’s Renewable Energy Standard. It even raised concerns about the ECO Act, a bill expanding and modernizing Minnesota’s Conservation Improvement Program, which has helped Minnesotans conserve energy while creating more than 40,000 jobs.

The chamber is moving in the wrong direction. Its lobbyists kicked off the 2021 legislative session by reprising their opposition to the ECO Act, again working against Minnesota’s unions, utilities, and businesses.

Worse, late last month, the chamber testified in support of a bill that would allow smaller utilities to petition to adjust their energy-savings goals under Minnesota’s popular Conservation Improvement Program. Allowing this could reduce the state's yearly energy savings goals by up to a third. This at a time when Minnesota is already lagging behind the bipartisan emission-reduction goals set in the 2007 Next Generation Energy Act.

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The chamber seems intent on continuing to waste time we don’t have, peddling baseless concerns about the cost of clean energy, as long as its members allow it to.

With the evidence of climate chaos confronting us daily, there’s no denying the problem. But the chamber seems to be stalling, blocking the clean-energy transition, which would gain a few more years of profits for its allies in Big Oil. That’s why the chamber will say that climate change is real but also suggest we shouldn’t worry ourselves enough to do anything about it. It seems to want us to believe a crisis decades in the making can be undone through good intentions alone.

But it wasn’t just bad intentions that got us here; it was bad policy. We have a decade to transform our society if we want a recognizable planet for our children. We have a decade to counteract fossil-fuel subsidies, untangle perverse incentives, and replace the infrastructure that we’ve been building since the start of the Industrial Age. Now more than ever, we need good government.

The damage businesses do by supporting the chamber’s lobbying and rhetoric far outweighs the benefits of their individual sustainability commitments.

Businesses have both the power and the responsibility to change the chamber. Their membership lends the chamber credibility and authority, and they bear responsibility for the actions it takes in their names. For too long the chamber has relied on its members to avert their eyes and keep silent while it worked with polluters to auction off our future.

Chamber members: We are calling on you to make it clear, explicitly and publicly, that the chamber will lose your support if it continues to obstruct the important work of protecting our climate for future generations. Use your influence to bring the chamber’s lobbying in line with science, Minnesota values, and your own best interests. State publicly how your commitments to sustainability and climate policy differ from the chamber’s. If the chamber continues to block meaningful climate action, you should sever ties.

We know the climate crisis is bad for business. It’s time for Minnesota businesses to stand up for meaningful climate action.

Sam Grant is executive director of MN350 Action (mn350action.org), a nonprofit that promotes climate justice. This commentary was also signed by the following supporters or contributors: John Farrell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ilsr.org); Margaret Levin, Minnesota state director of the Sierra Club (sierraclub.org/minnesota); Sasha Lewis-Norelle of Sunrise Twin Cities; Julia Nerbonne, executive director of Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light (mnipl.org); and Timothy Schaefer, executive director of Environment Minnesota (environmentminnesota.org).