Businesses Needs to Show Up on New Climate Bill | Opinion

The Supreme Court recently ruled to limit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. Independent of the esoteric questions of regulatory approach and legislative intent considered in this ruling, one thing is clear, emissions from electricity generation must decline rapidly in the coming years. Our ability to reduce CO2 emissions and fully decarbonize the broader economy depend on it.

Legislative action is needed now more than ever. As leaders representing U.S. businesses that encompass key elements of this country's economy—recreation and transportation—we're speaking out together to raise the alarm.

For ski resorts, climate change is an end-game played out in melted snow and burning mountainsides. In the last four years, Aspen has seen our airport shut down due to climate-fueled fires, and later, mudslides that peppered our main interstate with car-sized boulders.

Never mind that our region has lost a month of winter since 1980 and warmed 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the ski resort was founded in 1947.

For the auto industry, fossil-fuel combustion has accelerated planetary warming and air-quality challenges that persist in many metro areas. These impacts demand an industry-wide retooling toward zero emissions.

Committing to future climate friendly actions is important. But, today, we ask other business leaders to move beyond commitments alone and step forward to create and demand action on fundamental, system-level change.

Encouragingly, the building blocks for meaningful climate legislation are under consideration in the Senate right now. They include tax credits for clean energy and storage, investments in the electric vehicle supply chain, incentives for families to electrify and decarbonize, creation of a civilian climate corps, and initiatives for environmental justice. These are the large-scale and meaningful climate programs we need.

The U.S. Capitol is seen
The U.S. Capitol is seen. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Although the histories of both our companies are tied to fossil fuel use, our new trajectories are clear. Audi is launching its last new combustion-engine vehicles in 2025, and investing $19 billion in electric vehicle technology in the next four years alone. Aspen Skiing Company and community partners spent decades reinventing its electric utility so that by 2030 all electricity will be sourced from 100 percent carbon-free energy assets within the region. New hotels will be all-electric, serving as models for decarbonizing the built environment.

Greening the global economy requires wholesale systemic change. To get there, the business community must work in partnership with government, to help catalyze the political will to act.

We are confronted by historic challenges—as a country and as a global community—and among these, we must keep focus on climate change as an overarching and existential threat to our society. The time to meaningfully address it is exceedingly short if we are to avoid the most severe impacts.

We need our industry peers to come together and demand that a legislative climate package move forward in Congress this summer; otherwise, we run the risk of the midterm elections taking climate action off the table.

Our shrinking snowpack, weakening infrastructure, parched forests and wildlands, and warming and acidifying oceans cannot withstand further delay.

Many business leaders talk about their own emissions but remain silent on policy. Large, influential companies have a special responsibility to support climate legislation. Put simply, business has not been nearly active enough in the climate revolution. This must change.

Mike Kaplan is president and CEO of Aspen Skiing Company.

Daniel Weissland is president of Audi of America.

The views expressed in this article are the writers' own.