(Climate) Change We Can Believe In

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With campaign season in full swing and Republicans pushing back on the President’s tiring message of change, some of us are wondering who’s still fighting against another kind of change: climate change.

With Democrats in power, the past twenty-one months may have been our best chance yet to pass meaningful climate change legislation.  And yet, every time Congress has come close to even considering climate change legislation, the efforts have fallen flat.  Green politicians have become the Charlie Browns of our government… and Lucy just keeps pulling that legislative football away at the last minute.

If we want Congress to pass climate change legislation, green legislators need to take a step back and re-frame the debate.  Here are three ideas:

1. Line up the companies that already care – Believe it or not, there are plenty of companies that would love to see cap and trade legislation passed.  For nimble and innovative companies, regulations on emissions would give them a competitive advantage over the dirty dinosaurs unwilling to invest in new clean technologies.  The smart companies are already taking action without laws in place.

2. Use businesses to turn the screws – Green politicians need to start leveraging companies in strategic districts and states to pressure wavering legislators.  Nothing sparks a convenient political flip-flop like a major employer of thousands of constituents putting pressure on Capitol Hill.  Boston-based Ceres is already doing their part to get these influential green firms in front of officials.  Champions like Sun Microsystems, Coca-Cola, and Virgin America are leading the charge.  (Be sure to check out Ceres’ complete – and impressive – list of partners here)

3. Never underestimate the power of semantics – This doesn’t have to be a conversation about “punishing” business.  Even the word “cap” suggests restrictions that can only have a negative implication. Instead, climate change legislation can be about “innovation” and “empowering businesses” to gain a “competitive advantage” in an evolving marketplace.  Business-savvy Republicans will be hard pressed to reject a bill that “generates competitive incentives that empower innovative American businesses.”  Even Tea Partiers can get excited about that line.

Opponents say that domestic climate change legislation will only hurt our global competitiveness.  However, just as Wal-Mart is using its market presence to green its supply chain, so too can the U.S. and our (still) robust presence shape the global marketplace.  The sooner we green our own industries, the sooner we can control the new global green economy.

Image credit: cerebros1 via flickr/CC license

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