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

joe biden delivering remarks on progress in fight against covid-19 pandemic

Biden Made Big Compromises on Climate — and Movements That Backed Him Are Livid

The climate crisis rages on as Biden prioritizes bipartisanship on an infrastructure bill that guts climate action.
activists with sunrise movement stand with protest signs

Biden Should Reject the Infrastructure Plan Written by Exxon and Invest in Saving the Climate Instead

As disaster after disaster unfolds, any plan that doesn’t tackle the climate crisis with urgency isn’t worth taking seriously.
An indigenous woman speaks at the White House about the need to shut down the DAPL and Line 3 oil pipelines to preserve access to clean water

Fossil Fueled-Crackdowns Are Part of the Assault on Democracy

As more communities rise up to resist the well-known danger of fossil fuel extraction, the industry has been radicalizing against democracy.
adult and child look fondly out the window at public transportation in action

Fund Public Transit, Not More Roads

We should stop subsidizing sprawl and spend those savings on our resource-starved mass transit systems.
youth lead movement for climate change

Over 100 Youth-Led Groups Convene To Address Intersectional Climate Justice

Addressing inequality remains a top priority for youth climate advocates.
worker from the solar industry doing maintenance on solar panels

Green Jobs Are the Wave of the Future

Solar energy, in particular, shows potential to create inclusive, well-paying union jobs that working Americans need.
trump and modi - far right - fossil fuel - climate

The Fossil Fuel Industry Is Lining up Behind Far-Right Authoritarians

As climate change intensifies and countries turn to clean energies, Big Oil will take increasingly desperate measures to survive.
transit rail train in rural america

Small Towns And Rural Communities Need Transit, Too

Millions of rural Americans don’t have a car. With the pandemic battering transit agencies, they’re being totally isolated.
police at a protest for Black Live Matter

Law Enforcement's Dangerous Double Standards on Protest

We're getting an up-close look at how law enforcement treats left and right protests differently. But the solution is protecting protest, not supercharging law enforcement.
A utility structure is encased in ice on February 15, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by May-Ying Lam, via Creative Commons)

Fossil Fuels Caused the Texas Freeze

The state's fossil-fuel heavy electric power grid simply couldn’t handle the peak load.
link between fossil fuel money, white supremacy, and far right extremism

Fossil-Fueled Fascism

How the oil, gas, and coal industries support and fund white supremacy and far-right politics.
black-dirt-collective-cropped-1234x700

A Black Agrarian Collective is Working To Build a Self-Sufficient Community

The Maryland-based initiative targets people who have historically helped to build the wealth of this society but had no real participation in that wealth.
police at the standing rock pipeline protests

Paying Politicians to Criminalize Protest

More communities are protesting pipelines. The fossil fuel industry wants to make that a felony.
fossil-fuels-g20-summit-climate-and-energy-protester

I was Invited to Join the G20 Think Tank Summit. Here’s Why I Declined.

My participation in a session on climate and energy policy hosted by the Saudi government would have “greenwashed” the summit.

How Militarized Police and Fossil Fuel Corporations Are Criminalizing Protest

This new wave of anti-protest laws has emerged in the context of broader social justice mobilizations and demonstrations.
climate change california wildfire

This Is a Climate Emergency. We Need More Than Half-Measures from Democrats.

How to get the Democrats’ climate policy from “better than the Republicans” to “sufficient to save the planet.”
climate activists protest against oil and gas pipelines

Key Oil and Gas Pipelines Are on Their Last Legs — That’s Good News

A systematic program of investment in renewables and energy efficiency will create many more jobs than pipelines and pose far less threat to life on our planet.
fare evasion - an empty train station in new york

Decriminalize Fare Evasion

You don’t go to jail for missing a highway toll. It shouldn’t be any different for fare evasion on public transportation.
Joe Biden

Democrats Need Both Climate and Jobs at the Center of COVID-19 Recovery

Across the globe, policies once dismissed as impossible have been implemented. To get America out of its post-pandemic slump, bold thinking is essential.
flooding in Kolkata

Cyclone Amphan Is a Warning for the United States

The storm ravaged India and Bangladesh all the worse because of social and economic inequality. The same, or worse, could happen here.

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Experts

Basav Sen

Project Director

Climate Policy

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