Groups affiliated with Treasury nominee support mandatory emissions limits; ABC, CBS reports took a pass

››› ››› RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN

Reports on the CBS Evening News and ABC's World News Tonight noted treasury secretary nominee Henry M. Paulson's environmentally friendly outlook but failed to report that Goldman Sachs, the investment bank Paulson leads, and The Nature Conservancy, an organization where Paulson serves as board chairman, have both urged mandatory reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions, a policy the Bush administration has categorically rejected.

May 30 reports on the CBS Evening News and ABC's World News Tonight noted treasury secretary nominee Henry M. Paulson's environmentally friendly outlook but failed to report that Goldman Sachs, the investment bank Paulson leads, and The Nature Conservancy, of whose board Paulson is chairman, have both urged mandatory reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions, a policy the Bush administration has categorically rejected. In fact, The Nature Conservancy has even stated that the Bush administration's rejection of the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty mandating that countries reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions, has caused U.S. companies to "lose ground" to foreign rivals.

The World News Tonight report, by ABC business correspondent Betsy Stark, called Paulson a "devout environmentalist who unwinds as a birdwatcher and has given $100 million of his own money to conservation causes." The Evening News report, by CBS chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod, did note that Paulson "believes global warming is a threat, and that could put him at odds with some members of the administration." But neither report noted that the position taken by the Nature Conservancy and Goldman Sachs is fundamentally at odds with the administration's approach of voluntary industry cooperation.

Current administration policy, according to a July 27, 2005, Associated Press report, rejects mandatory requirements, such as those contained in the Kyoto agreement, in favor of voluntary reductions in the rate of increase of emissions, and trying to foster the development of new, cleaner technologies. The AP reported: "The Kyoto pact, which the United States has rejected, requires that industrial countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The Bush administration prefers to addresses climate change through voluntary actions and by emphasizing the need to develop technologies that cut emissions and capture carbon." Similarly, the AP reported in February 2005 that administration policy in 2002 was for industry to voluntarily "slow the growth" of greenhouse gas emissions:

Instead, the president unveiled a plan in 2002 to rely on voluntary measures by industry to slow the growth of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere mainly from the burning of fossil fuels. It calls for the "carbon intensity" -- the amount of greenhouse gases released as a percentage of economic growth -- to fall 18 percent by 2012, or about 1.5 percent a year - about the same rate of reduction already occurring.

The latest statement by President Bush's Council on Environmental Quality, issued June 30, 2005, is a "Fact Sheet" on how "President Bush Is Addressing Climate Change." It makes no mention of mandatory limits on emissions.

By contrast, Paulson has headed two organizations that have called for mandatory, government-imposed reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions. As noted by the weblog Think Progress, Paulson was (and still is) chairman of the board of The Nature Conservancy in February 2005 when it issued a press release hailing the day the Kyoto Protocol entered into force. The press release also said that U.S. companies would suffer because the United States is not participating in the treaty:

Even though companies here in the United States are not subject to Kyoto's emission caps, U.S. companies that operate in nations complying with the Kyoto Protocol do have to meet those countries' caps. Until the United States passes its own limits on global warming emissions, innovative companies based here will lose out on opportunities to sell reduced emission credits to companies complying with the Kyoto Protocol overseas. Additionally, without enacting our own emission limits, U.S. companies will lose ground to their competitors in Europe, Canada, Japan, and other countries participating in the Protocol who are developing clean technologies.

The United States needs to take steps now to maintain its role as a world economic leader while also forging a path to stop global warming and protect the natural habitats and resources we all need to survive. Global warming emissions from energy production, manufacturing, transportation, and the destruction of forests must be curtailed to ensure the survival of the biodiversity we are working to protect.

Although both CBS and ABC noted that Paulson said one of his goals as treasury secretary would be maintaining American competitiveness -- with CBS airing a clip of him saying "We must take steps to maintain our competitive edge in the world," and ABC airing a clip of him saying that he'll work "to help keep the American economy strong and competitive" -- neither noted the above statement from Paulson's group that "U.S. companies will lose ground to their competitors" if the United States fails to enact mandatory emissions limits.

As Think Progress also noted, Goldman Sachs, the investment bank for which Paulson has been chairman of the board and chief executive officer since May 1999, issued its "Environmental Policy Framework" in November 2005. It called for world governments to enact "a strong policy framework that creates long-term value for greenhouse gas emissions reductions and consistently supports and incentivizes the development of new technologies that lead to a less carbon-intensive economy." Among the "principles" the Goldman Sachs document lays out to "guide public policy development" is that "[v]oluntary action alone cannot solve the climate change problem." In addition, the framework specifically says that Sachs supports limiting greenhouse-gas emissions through mandatory regulation:

Policy: We will establish and fund a Center for Environmental Markets to undertake independent research with partners in the academic and NGO community to explore/develop public policy options for establishing effective markets around climate change, biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services. Our public policy views will be informed by this research. At the same time, we recognize that the climate change problem cannot be solved through voluntary action alone and will work to develop partnerships with other organizations to help identify and promote effective and efficient regulatory/policy approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Goldman Sachs will disseminate this information through a combination of website postings, strategic communications and targeted outreach to engage and educate policy makers and clients on key issues.

Both statements expressed the idea that mandatory reductions will help spur industry to create cleaner technologies -- a philosophy at odds with the administration's policy of voluntary reductions in emissions growth while funding industry partnerships to develop cleaner technologies.

From the May 30 broadcast of ABC's World News Tonight:

STARK: If confirmed, as expected, it will now be Paulson's job to talk up the economy and manage the federal government's $2.3 trillion balance sheet, collecting taxes, supervising banks, and making trade agreements with the rest of the world.

PAULSON [video clip]: I look forward to working with you, your administration and the Congress to help keep the American economy strong and competitive

STARK: On Wall Street, where Paulson made a fortune now worth more than $600 million, the 60-year-old financier, educated at Dartmouth and Harvard Business School, has superstar status. He's an international dealmaker who's been to China more than 70 times and a devout environmentalist who unwinds as a birdwatcher and has given $100 million of his own money to conservation causes. But his status on Main Street is another story. As famous as Paulson is in the financial markets, most of the public has never heard of him. And at this point in the Bush presidency, there are questions about how effective any treasury secretary could be.

From the May 30 broadcast of the CBS Evening News:

AXELROD: Washington's worst-kept secret is now a matter of fact. The president wants a new treasury secretary. John Snow is out, and Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson is the man Mr. Bush wants in.

BUSH [video clip]: The American economy is powerful, productive, and prosperous, and I look forward to working with Hank Paulson to keep it that way.

AXELROD: Paulson, the top man at arguably Wall Street's most prestigious firm, now becomes the chief salesman for the U.S. economy.

PAULSON [video clip]: It is truly a marvel, but we cannot take it for granted. We must take steps to maintain our competitive edge in the world.

AXELROD: Leaving a job that paid him $38.3 million last year in salary, stock, and options to take one that pays a $175,000 grant and to join the last two and a half years of a struggling administration, the question isn't why the White House would want him, but why he would want the job.

TONY SNOW [White House press secretary]: It's stimulating. It's important. It's exciting, and it's unlike any kind of job that you'll ever have for the rest of your life.

AXELROD: The administration needs a salesman. No matter how much they trumpet 5.3 percent economic growth in the first quarter, 5.2 million more jobs since August 2003, or unemployment down to 4.7 percent, there's another number to contend with. In the most recent CBS News poll, just 34 percent approved of the president's handling of the economy. And the market didn't exactly present Paulson with a parting gift. The Dow plunged today. Even so, former Bush Commerce Secretary Don Evans said Paulson will play well on both Wall Street and main street in the long run.

EVANS [video clip]: He understands, he knows what we need to do here in America to remain competitive when it comes to attracting capital, which leads to investment, which leads to more jobs in America.

AXELROD: Paulson's a huge supporter of environmental causes, and by huge, I mean he donated $100 million in Goldman Sachs stock to a family foundation dedicated to conservation. He also believes global warming is a threat, and that could put him at odds with some members of the Bush administration -- Bob.

SCHIEFFER: OK, Jim.

Posted In
Environment & Science, Climate Change, Energy
Network/Outlet
CBS, ABC
Show/Publication
ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.