Climate Policy

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

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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

In a political system awash with money, it’s Big Coal vs. democracy.

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.

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.

If There’s a War on Coal, Coal Already Lost

Trump’s coddling can’t save the notoriously dirty industry when cleaner options and better jobs abound.

The Brutal Racial Politics of Climate Change and Pollution

Trump administration policies are systematically making natural disasters more harmful for the poor and people of color.

Report: Green Climate Fund, A Performance Check

An initial assessment of whether the Green Climate Fund is living up to its mandate finds that its becoming a sideshow to big development banks.

It’s Lonely Being a Person of Color in the Sustainable Energy Sector

When it comes to diversity, there’s a “green ceiling” in many climate action groups, even as climate change affects people of color first and worst.

Texas Is Flooded Because Our Democracy Is, Too

Our culture of legalized bribery makes climate disasters more likely, but there’s an alternative.

How Energy Department Whistleblowers Outsmarted the Trump Administration

Rick Perry was all ready to release a broadside against clean energy policies. Career civil servants pulled the rug out.

The View From the U.S.’s ‘Unsinkable Aircraft Carrier’

Ratcheting tensions between the U.S. and North Korea are now nothing new for its Pacific colony Guam.

Dirty Energy’s Quiet War on Solar Energy

Investing in the renewable energy economy is a win-win-win for consumers, but fossil fuel interests will do anything to prove otherwise.

In Guam, the Gravest Threat Isn’t North Korea—It’s the United States

The United States is using this Pacific colony as its own private firing range.

Making Utility Bills Rise Again

The mercury is rising, and so are utility bills. So why does this administration want to scrap those Energy Star labels that help us save?

The World Won’t Wait for the U.S. to Take Climate Action

While Trump puts his fossil fuel interests first, cities, states, and the international community will move towards a clean energy transition, IPS associate fellow Daphne Wysham told the Real News Network.

Trump’s War on the Climate Will Send U.S. Scientists Fleeing Abroad

But by pursuing aggressive climate change action, states can create opportunities for scientists and engineers to remain in the United States. Let’s just hope they don’t jump ship for France first.