Banking giants Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase join GOP-led carbon tax push

By Josh Siegel

Global banking giants JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs are joining a Republican-backed group pushing for Congress to pass a carbon tax.

The banks join a wide array of businesses in endorsing a carbon tax proposed by the Climate Leadership Council, a group led by former Republican Secretaries of State James Baker III and George Shultz.

Oil and gas giants BP, Shell, ConocoPhillips, and Exxon Mobil, along with automakers GM and Ford, have already donated money to the lobbying arm of the group, which advocates returning carbon tax revenue to taxpayers. Also joining the group Thursday are former Obama administration Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and former Executive Secretary to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change Christiana Figueres.

JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs are not committing money to help lobby for the Climate Leadership Council’s carbon tax and dividend plan, as the concept is known.

But senior executive-level officials from both banks were among 18 business leaders who participated in a dinner dialogue Tuesday night with Democratic and Republican senators of the Climate Solutions Caucus to discuss the Climate Leadership Council’s carbon tax and dividend plan. Representatives of BP, Exxon, ConocoPhillips, Microsoft, GM, and Ford, among others, also attended the dinner, according to a list of participants obtained by the Washington Examiner.

“It’s not ‘greenwashing,'” Climate Leadership Council CEO Ted Halstead told the Washington Examiner. “This is companies putting their name to a plan. All of these companies attending a dinner with senators is a sign of them putting their political muscle behind meaningful bipartisan climate progress.”

The participation of banks is noteworthy because the financial industry has faced increasing pressure in recent weeks to stop financing fossil fuels.

Last month, BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, pledged to make climate change central to its investment strategy and to pressure other companies to reduce their carbon footprints in what activists hoped would be a watershed moment for the financial industry.

But banks such as Goldman Sachs have said they will continue to raise money for fossil fuel companies and instead have called for federal policy, such as a carbon tax, to encourage investment away from coal, oil, and gas.

Despite business support for a carbon tax, Republicans in Congress, with a few exceptions, remain opposed to any form of it.

Sens. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, and Mike Braun, an Indiana Republican, the leaders of the Climate Solutions Caucus, released a noncommittal statement about the Tuesday meeting with companies, saying that they “look forward to continuing these conversations with a wide range of stakeholders and perspectives from across the country.”

House Republican leaders, meanwhile, introduced the first part of an agenda to address climate change on Wednesday that includes a provision for tax breaks for companies using technology to capture carbon emissions from fossil fuels.

“We are trying to take a more paternal, positive approach to a problem rather than a punitive approach,” said Rep. Brad Wenstrup of Ohio, explaining why House Republicans dismissed carbon pricing or mandates.

Nonetheless, Halstead is hopeful that the backing of wide swaths of corporate America for a carbon tax and dividend will encourage Republicans to reconsider their opposition to raising taxes.

“We believe we are close to a Republican jailbreak moment on carbon pricing,” Halstead said. “There is an ever-broader corporate coalition pushing a unified message that we need carbon pricing because it is the most cost-effective climate solution.”

To boost support for its plan, the Climate Leadership Council released a “Bipartisan Climate Roadmap” on Thursday that provides more detail for its carbon tax and dividend proposal, which it hopes informs eventual bipartisan legislation.

The Climate Leadership Council’s proposal would impose a gradually rising carbon tax beginning at $40 per ton, increasing 5% every year, and would return the money to the public through equal quarterly payments to offset higher energy prices. A family of four would receive roughly $2,000 per year in dividends in the first year with the amount growing as the fee increases, the group said.

This would cut U.S. carbon emissions in half by 2035, a greater amount than what the Obama administration pledged to do under the Paris climate accord.

The plan also calls for boosting the annual increase of the tax higher than 5% if the carbon reduction goals are not achieved.

And it contains a provision, attractive to businesses, to scrap or prevent carbon regulations of power plants and all other stationary sources imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency in favor of the tax.

You can read more on the Washington Examiner here.