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Posted - 08/06/2014
Coalition of the Willing by Nicole Lederer

E2 - Environmental EntrepreneursEnvironmental Entrepreneurs (E2) was founded on a contrarian idea - that business people would make the most effective advocates for the environment. 

Back in 2000 the common belief that we had to choose between the health of the planet and our economic prosperity was as widely accepted as it was illogical.  Who better to refute that premise than those with economic credentials - people who run companies and create jobs?  Over the past 15 years I've been impressed and delighted by how many business leaders from different sectors of the economy and different regions of our country have stepped up with E2 to make the argument that strong environmental performance is the basis of a strong economy.

Adding to our knowledge base and credibility, retired military officers, farmers and faith leaders have joined our ranks, each bringing their own compelling perspectives on both the need to address climate change as well as the economic and security benefits that will result from clean energy solutions.

Together, these climate advocates have become a true "coalition of the willing" - willing to speak out to their own communities and to unfamiliar audiences; willing to dedicate their time, resources and reputations; and willing to set aside other issues to work together. Thanks to this coalition, and thanks to our Invoking the Pause grant, E2 was ready to spring in to action when a major new opportunity arose in June.

Up until then, our work to promote national climate and clean energy policy had been focused in Washington, D.C., where progress has been slow.  But in June, President Obama announced a game changing initiative to reduce carbon emissions from the power sector - the Clean Power Plan - instructing EPA to work with each state to devise a strategy to meet the new standards.  Suddenly the stage for climate policy shifted from Capitol Hill to 50 state capitals. 

With our broad range of advocates, representing every major sector of American life and every region of the country, we knew E2 could help state leaders see the benefits of working with EPA to lower their carbon emissions while realizing the potential for their states to become innovation hubs for clean energy.

Our ITP grant provided us with the spark we needed to make the leap from DC-based to state-based advocacy.   Thanks to ITP we were able to plan our first "More Jobs, Less Carbon" campaign trip, to the strategic state of Iowa.  E2 advocates from around the country convened with new E2 members in Des Moines to receive specific communications training on climate change, to learn about one another's viewpoints, and to work together to advance the benefits of the Clean Power Plan. 

In meetings with the Des Moines Register, two local mayors, and staffers from Senator Grassley's and Governor Branstad's offices, our group made an indelible impression.  From energy efficiency and renewable energy entrepreneurs, to farmers, veterans and evangelical faith leaders, they told their own stories with authority and conviction. 

The positive impacts from our trip to Iowa are stacking up.  The DM Register quickly published an op-ed by E2 member and veteran Jon Gensler, Iowa E2 advocate Tim Dwight has2014_07_02_iowacapitole2_thumb.jpg already given several radio interviews with more scheduled for the near future, and we are now scheduled to meet with both Governor Branstad and Senator Grassley in person. Our pro-clean energy voices will serve as critical counterweight to the push back that will inevitably come to Iowa from enormously well-funded fossil fuel interests.  Now that we have this template for launching a state-based campaign, we plan to take the same model to Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina and Colorado in the coming weeks.                                                              

The E2 team in front of the Iowa State Capital Building

Having founded E2 on one contrarian idea, this work has led me to another contrarian conclusion: Climate change is uniting our country.  Despite the divisiveness of our politics, the E2 coalition has proven to me that faced with the common enemy of climate change, the American people can and will pull together and focus our famous ingenuity to get the job done. 

Nicole Lederer is the co-founder of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2)