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3 climate opportunities corporate America can't afford to miss

Opinion: Ben Ratner argues that in order for the U.S. to seriously mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, businesses have to lead the way.

Too much ink has been spilled on the anti-climate furor of the Koch brothers. If we lose on climate, it won’t be because of the Koch brothers or those like them.

It will be because too many potential climate champions from the business community stood quietly on the sidelines at a time when America has attractive policy opportunities to drive down economy-endangering greenhouse gas emissions.

Corporate executives have the savvy to understand the climate change problem and opportunity. They have the incentive to tackle it through smart policy and the clout to influence politicians and policy makers. Perhaps most important, they can inspire each other.

And today, they have a chance to do what they do best: lead. Corporate climate leadership has nothing to do with partisanship — it’s ultimately about business acumen.

For starters, here are three immediate opportunities smart companies won’t want to miss.

Clean Power Plan: Will spur new jobs and investments

The Obama Administration’s plan will cut emissions from coal plants by 30 percent by 2030. This is expected to trigger a wave of clean energy investment and job creation. It also will seize energy efficiency opportunities and take advantage of America’s abundant and economic supply of natural gas.

Every company with an energy-related greenhouse gas footprint has something to gain from a cleaner power mix. Each company therefore has a stake in the Clean Power Plan.

Google and Starbucks — two large and profitable American companies by any standard — are among more than 200 businesses that already have stepped up to voice their support.

Who will follow them?

Methane rules: Will make industry more efficient

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s upcoming methane emission rules are another opportunity for business leaders to weigh in.

The rules are part of a White House plan that seeks to reduce methane emissions — a major contributor to global warming and resource waste — by almost half in the oil and gas industry.

Globally, an estimated 3.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas leaks from the sector each year. This wasted resource would be worth about $30 billion in new revenue if sold on the energy market.

Some oil and gas companies that already have taken positive steps include Anadarko Petroleum, Noble Energy, and Encana, which helped develop the nation’s first sensible methane rules in Colorado.

Engaging to support strong and sensible national standards is a good next step for companies in this space — and for others with a stake in cleaning up natural gas, such as chemical companies, and manufacturers and users of natural gas vehicles.

New truck standards: Can help companies cut expenses and emissions

New clean truck standards are scheduled for release this summer. Consumer goods companies and other manufacturers stand to see significant dollar and emission savings as they move their goods to market.

Cummins, Wabash, FedEx, Con-Way, Eaton and Waste Management are among those that applauded the decision to move forward with new standards.

American business leadership is still the global standard and will remain so if it adds climate policy to its to-do list. While it will take time to build the bipartisan momentum for comprehensive national climate legislation, there are immediate opportunities to move the needle.

Which companies will take the field?

This article originally appeared in EDF's Voices blog.

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