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

An Open Letter to Secretary of State John Kerry regarding the Murder of Honduran Indigenous and Environmental Activist Berta Cáceres

Over 200 Organizations Call on Secretary Kerry to Support Independent Investigation into Murder of Honduran Environmental and Indigenous Rights Activist Berta Caceres.

Remembering Berta Cáceres, Assassinated Honduras Indigenous & Environmental Leader

IPS’ Beverly Bell says Cáceres was killed because she was working for a wholly new form of governance in Honduras – true participatory democracy that empowered those who have always been left on the margins.

Al Gore Moves to the Bright Side

Investments in renewable energy are exploding, while fossil fuel bastions grow desperate

Betting the Farm on Free Trade

The White House is gambling with our health, jobs, and the environment by embracing the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

In the Keystone Suit, It’s Big Oil vs. Democracy

A Canadian oil conglomerate is suing the U.S. over its actions to protect the climate. It’s a small taste of what could come under the TPP.

Seven Wrinkles in the Paris Climate Deal

Will the landmark UN climate deal mark a turning point in the fight against climate change? The devil’s in the details.

COP21 and the carbon market menace

There is a diplomatic silence over carbon trading at COP21, but a Paris climate agreement could offer a lifeline to carbon ‘offsetting’ schemes, while new rules could help build a global carbon market.

Climate Protesters Defy State of Emergency in Paris

IPS’s Janet Redman reports from Paris on the challenges presented to world leaders by COP21

A Big Fat Radioactive Lie

Billionaires are hyping nuclear power as a magic cure for climate change.

U.S. NGO letter to President Obama on Climate Negotiations in Paris

A letter from environmental, social justice, faith, consumer and partner organizations.

Five Dead-Ends on the Road to the Paris Climate Talks

So far, UN climate change conferences have sidestepped the real business of keeping fossil fuels in the ground.

Will the Paris Climate Talks Deliver the World We Need? Not Likely.

Even as governments set climate targets, they’re working hard to expand the extractive global economy with measures that could deepen the climate crisis.

Who Can Follow This Climate Leader?

President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline while backing increased oil, gas, and coal production.

Walking the Talk?

World Bank Energy-Related Policies and Financing, 2000-2004 to 2010-2014

Pope Francis vs. Fossil Fuel Execs

The Pope has taken aim at a lucrative system.

Executive Excess 2015: Money to Burn

This 22nd annual report reveals how CEO pay is accelerating climate change.

Getting Climate Finance Right

Successful Examples for the Green Climate Fund from around the World

5 Key Things Pope Francis Says about Climate Change

Here are five key quotes from the encyclical that will shake up the global climate debate.

An Open Letter to Obama: If You Want Money for the Climate, Tax Wall Street

An innovative new tax could fund climate transition and help rebuild the social safety net. So why is the White House knocking it?

Why Obama’s Climate Change Proposal Falls Short

Emission targets proposed by the Obama administration are insufficient to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.