Nike, Starbucks, Sun Microsystems, Levi Strauss & Co. and The Timberland Co. have partnered with Ceres to create a business coalition that will lobby Washington for swift and stringent climate change legislation.

The group, dubbed Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy, (BICEP) plans to flex its muscles for aggressive new environmental policies based on a set of eight principles ranging from renewable energy requirements, a national greenhouse gas cap-and-trade system and the elimination of federal subsidies for fossil fuels.

"Jump starting the transition to a clean energy economy will require bold energy and bold climate policies from Washington, and all businesses, not just the major emitters, must have a voice in crafting these policies since climate change will impact all sectors of our economy," said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, a coalition of investors and environmental groups working to address sustainability challenges.  

The need for many players to join the complex debate on climate change policy was one reason for creating a new coalition, Lubber said, rather than joining other established organizations, such as the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, whose members tend to be larger emitters with different needs than consumer facing companies.

"We really felt strongly that the consumer facing brands' voice was missing from this dialogue," said Sarah Severn, director of Horizons, corporate responsibility at Nike. "A lot of us have been working consistently on climate change efforts over the years. Our consumers are familiar with it, our legislators less so, and we felt that was important voice."

The eight principles are robust, yet Lubber claims they are consistent with the platform advocated by President-elect Barack Obama, who this week professed his support for wide-ranging climate legislation to a global warming summit in California.

BICEP's principles include:

-- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, a more stringent goal than California's far-reaching climate change regulation, which aims for cutting emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

-- A nationwide greenhouse gas cap-and-trade system in which all emissions permits are auctioned off, not given away.

-- Creating aggressive policies that will lead to a doubling of the historic energy efficiency improvement rate.

-- A national renewable portfolio standard where 20 percent of electricity will be come from renewable sources by 2020, increasing to 30 percent by 2030.

-- Investment in renewable energy and carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies and the elimination of subsidies for fossil fuels.

-- No more coal-fired power plants unless they use CCS technology, with a plan to eliminate existing plants without CCS by 2030.

-- Boosting more efficient transportation in the form of plug-in electric and fuel-efficient vehicles, low-carbon fuels and transit-friendly development

-- Green collar job investment