Microsoft joins Climate Leadership Council with some controversy

Microsoft this month joined the Climate Leadership Council (CLC), a group that advocates for a gradually increasing fee on carbon dioxide emissions in exchange for shielding companies from emissions-related lawsuits and striking some current regulations implemented to combat climate change.

Founded by former secretaries of state James Baker and George Shultz, the currently includes a number of oil companies like BP, Shell, and Exxon Mobil among its founding members. Outside of oil companies, Pepsico, Unilever, and GM, among others, have also signed on, but Microsoft is the first technology company to join the group.

"We are getting extremely impatient, frankly, for policy action on climate change," Microsoft's Chief Environmental Officer Lucas Joppa told The Guardian. "We support a carbon fee because we believe it's a policy mechanism that works and accords with economic principles. For us, joining the CLC gives us the opportunity to have this debate at a federal level."

A particular sticking point in Microsoft's decision to join the group, however, is its proposal to grant companies immunity from lawsuits brought over the effects of historical emissions and the slashing of current climate change regulations. Under the CLC's proposed plan, those concessions would come in exchange for a carbon fee of $40 a ton, and that fee would "increase steadily over time." Funds from the fee, under the proposal, "would be returned to the American people on an equal and quarterly basis via dividend checks, direct deposits or contributions to their individual retirement accounts."

In a statement to The Guardian, Matthew Pawa, a King county lawyer currently involved in lawsuits against BP, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shell, described the CLC's proposal for addressing climate change as a "raw deal" for taxpayers.

"Microsoft and other tech companies have been looking for a whizz-bang technocratic solution to climate change and they think this is it," Pawa said. "But they don't know what they are doing. This is a raw deal that would stick taxpayers with the bill for decades of carbon pollution. It's much like the NRA trying to get Congress to give them a free pass from our system of legal justice."

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