Climate Policy Program

The aim of the Climate Policy Program is to support the transition from a financially extractive, fossil fueled economy to equitable, democratic and local living economies.  Because we understand climate disruption as a consequence of our broken economic system, and as a major factor exacerbating race, class, gender, and other forms of inequality, we look for root causes and promote solutions at the intersection of both the economic and climate crises.

We organize our work around the premise that to solve the climate crisis, we must confront systemic economic, social and racial inequality, both  in the U.S. and worldwide. We provide long-term vision and bold ideas in domestic and international policy spaces, using research, writing and strategic conversations to redefine what is politically possible.

The Climate Policy Program is currently focused primarily on the United States because of the urgent challenges, and opportunities, that have emerged in recent years. The U.S. has the highest per capita carbon emissions of any country, and is now led by an Administration that denies climate change and has begun recklessly reversing progress in reducing carbon emissions at home and internationally. The U.S. has also been at the forefront of “extreme extraction” such as fracking and mountaintop-removal coal mining. At the same time, the U.S. has seen a surge of brave and inspiring climate activism led by affected frontline communities, such as the struggles around the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines.

Both domestically and internationally, we seek to nurture deep relationships with grassroots organizations and networks and to align our efforts with the goals of social, economic and environmental justice movements. The project’s current work, led by Basav Sen focusing on the domestic policy work, and with Associate Fellow Oscar Reyes focusing on the international work, includes:

  • Promoting effective, just climate solutions at the state and local level. While national level change becomes harder, we work with grassroots groups and movement leaders to envision and define state and local policies that advance a ‘just’ transition to a new economy, and provide research and proposals to break down policy barriers and uplift solutions that reduce inequality while mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and promoting community resilience. By sharing stories and models of success, we aim to shift the culture of the climate movement beyond ‘carbon fundamentalism’ to one that embodies systemic change through concrete alternatives.
  • Increasing awareness and debate about the intersections of climate change and inequality. Climate change is caused by an economic model that values the short-term financial gain of a few over the rights of most of humanity, and especially indigenous peoples, people of color, and poor people. For resistance to the “dig, dump, and burn” economy to be truly effective, it has to confront the root causes that drive this economic model. No amount of tinkering around the edges or technological “fixes” are going to reverse climate change effectively. We aim to amplify the narrative of the necessity for systemic change through research and writing that illuminates the linkages between climate change and systemic racism, anti-immigrant ideology, and economic inequality.
  • Countering false populist narratives and false solutions. In the United States, we are confronted with a government that uses false promises of renewed growth in fossil fuel jobs to divide and confuse people and divert attention from their true agenda of giving the fossil fuel oligarchy license to profit by poisoning the air, water, and land, and violating the rights of frontline communities. Likewise, both in the U.S. and worldwide, we see dirty and dangerous technologies such as nuclear energy, trash incineration, biofuels, and big dams being promoted as “carbon free” energy solutions, ignoring the very real harm they do to the environment and to the most marginalized people. We work to effectively counter these false populist narratives and false solutions in the public debate around climate change.

Latest Work

coal-fossil-fuels

Killing for Coal (Literally)

Shocking as this sounds, the U.S. government is — by its own admission — willing to murder up to 1,600 Americans a year to enrich a few coal billionaires.
utilities-energy-efficiency

The Inequality Crisis Hiding Behind High Utility Bills

Low-income people and communities of color are disproportionately energy insecure. Here's how energy efficiency policy can address the divide.
fossil-fuels-pollution

Ireland’s Taking $380 Million Out of Fossil Fuels. Where Should It Go?

The Atlantic country has a huge opportunity to model getting money out of fossil fuel companies and into the hands of the people.
ireland-fossil-fuel

If Ireland Can Get Out of Fossil Fuels, Your Town Can Too

Almost 900 cities, universities, and governments have divested over $6 trillion from the fossil fuel industry. Why not yours?

Help Spread the Word: #EnergyJustice

Help spread the word about our new report, Energy Efficiency with Justice
green-energy-fossil-fuel

Want to Create Useful Jobs? Reduce Fossil Fuel Use

Energy efficiency creates more jobs than fossil fuels - and at a faster rate and lower cost.
puerto-rico-farm-vegetables

This Hurricane Season, Puerto Ricans Are Imagining a Sustainable Future

Puerto Rican movements are rebuilding their island in a way that not only enhances climate resilience, but also reclaims their political power.
big-oil

Brett Kavanaugh Would Be A Disaster On Climate

When a literal reading of the law makes it harder to regulate corporations, judges like Kavanaugh stick to a literal reading. When it doesn't, they get creative.
puerto-rico-hurricane-maria

As we Celebrate 'Independence,' Remember That the U.S. Left Its Colony Puerto Rico to Die

The disastrous impacts of Hurricane Maria were made worse by inequalities of race, income and access to U.S. political power.
solar-panels-renewable-energy

Trump Thinks Propping Up Failing Coal Is a ‘National Security’ Emergency

Renewable resources won't threaten America's electric grid.
the-next-system

Toward Climate Justice with Jacquline Patterson and Basav Sen

scott-pruitt-epa

Impeach Scott Pruitt for Dismantling the EPA, Not His First-Class Flights

The petty corruptions lawmakers grilled Pruitt for pale in comparison to his actual policy record at the EPA.
A flaw in California’s cap-and-trade plan

A New Poor People's Campaign Is Rising — And It Puts Climate Front and Center

Only a system premised on extreme inequality would choose fossil fuel profits over the future of humanity.
Katie-Wilson-Transit-Riders-Union-Seattle

Activists Are Convening for Transit Equity All Over the Country

During the week of Earth Day, actions are cropping up all over to call for clean, accessible, and safe public transit.
ipcc-report-climate-change-mitigation-fossil-fuels-coal-oil-decarbonization-unfccc

The State Department Drama Shows Just How Far Trump Will Go for Big Oil

In this White House, the most dangerous industry on earth has a stranglehold on U.S. foreign policy.
valley-nature-trail

I’m an Eagle Scout, and I Don’t Want Pipelines in My Wilderness

A gas pipeline would put a gash the size of a 12-lane highway along the Appalachian Trail. Is nothing sacred?
public-transit-trains

Transit Equity Day: A New Way to Remember Rosa Parks

Transit equity isn’t just about where you sit on the bus. It’s about whether you can get on a bus at all.
Exec made of emissions

How One Coal Baron Set an Entire Administration’s Energy Agenda

In a political system awash with money, it's Big Coal vs. democracy.
fracking-debate-climate-change

The GOP Tax Bill Assaults the Planet as Well as the Poor

It kills the modest credits for wind, solar, and electric cars, while preserving much larger ones for fossil fuels.
climate-change-policy

The U.S. Is a Climate Rogue State. The World Should Treat It Like One.

It's time for the world to consider sanctioning the U.S. and companies who benefit from its efforts to undermine climate action.

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Reports

FAQs: The Green Climate Fund

An easy-to-understand "user's guide" to the Green Climate Fund – the first international fund under the United Nations established to support countries in the global South build clean energy, climate resilient economies.

Investing in Our Future Act of 2011

Climate change and the lack of health care services in developing countries are urgent and under-funded crises threatening the livelihoods and security of billions of people.

Climate Justice Policy Factsheets

Climate justice policy factsheets directly from the UN climate negotiations in Cancun, Mexico

Experts

Basav Sen

Project Director

Climate Policy

In the News

IL UTILITIES ON CORPORATE WELFARE

Politico | August 3, 2016

Utilities Aren't Paying Their Fair Share

Tax Justice Blog | July 21, 2016

What does that platform say?

Politico | July 19, 2016

Fracking fight looms for Democrats

The Hill | June 17, 2016

Imperialism’s Junior Partners

Jacobin | May 26, 2016