03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Businesses Urge Congress to Act after Copenhagen

The lead up to the recently-concluded talks in Copenhagen started literally years ago, with pre-meetings and conferences and those that are for addressing the issue of climate change and those who are intent on muddying the waters with the intent of increasing their profits at the expense of the planet fighting an increasingly public fight.

After two weeks of speeches, protests, and stumping, significant progress has been made. We have seen the five biggest players (US, China, India, Brazil, and South Africa) come to a consensus about cutting carbon pollution. They have also agreed to a transparent framework for evaluating carbon-cutting benchmarks. Last week, I wrote about the need for developing countries to have a voice in these talks. Without a voice, the most vulnerable countries to climate change will be set up for disaster. Thankfully, their voices were heard. The talks concluded with a pledge of resources to help the poor and vulnerable countries deal with the oncoming effects of climate change.

In sports, when progress is made and goals become within reach, it's called "The Big Mo." Momentum is swinging behind a UN binding resolution and achieving this means putting pressure on national governments to take action.

Ironically to some perhaps, it is businesses that are standing up and putting the pressure on Congress to make clean energy and climate legislation a reality. A group of 750 (and counting) businesses have come together under the umbrella group American Business for Clean Energy (ABCE). Their purpose is simple and direct - to demand comprehensive action be taken by Congress to enact a Clean Energy Act. The group is advocating strongly that a seismic shift in our energy policy from carbon to clean will create jobs and increase profitability.

"We are one of the many hundreds of mainstream companies actively sending a message to Congress that American businesses are eager for strong federal climate policy that will create good jobs and strengthen our economy," said Tedd Saunders, chief sustainability officer at the Boston-based Saunders Hotel Group.

It shouldn't be overlooked that for a clean energy bill ever to make it out of Congress with enough teeth to make a difference it will need the backing of big business. This is why ABCE is an important step in the systemic change that is needed to get us off of our current carbon energy policy. Business has to make the innovations. Business has to create the jobs. Business has to show that it can be profitable by using clean energy practices. Business has to lead.

ABCE membership is not hodgepodge of green startups looking to garner some attention from all the Copenhagen buzz. The energy company powering my computer right now is a member - National Grid. So it GAP, Winslow Management, and ROL Transport. Companies from every sector (large, small, and everywhere in between) are getting on board and leading. Who exactly are these companies leading is the next relevant question. Their consumers of course. If systemic change is going to happen it needs to be top down. While me bringing my own mug to Starbucks and using reusable shopping bags reduces consumption and eventually waste, the big difference is going to come when businesses apply the same logic of "reduce, reuse, recycle" into their processes.

As more businesses join the ranks of ABCE the pressure will mount on Congress to take the momentum from Copenhagen and translate it into something binding. Listen to them, Congress. Pass a clean energy bill that forces those business who are not serious about reducing their carbon footprint to change. Pass a clean energy bill, because Americans need jobs. Pass a clean energy bill, because Americans know that climate change exists and want to do something about it. Pass a clean energy bill for energy security. Pass a clean energy bill as the foundation for a new, stable economy. All reason enough. Pass a Clean Energy Act.

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