Green or Bust: COVID-19 Fiscal Policy Is Climate Policy

October 29, 2020

New Roosevelt report argues that the best way to move our economy forward is with a green stimulus package.


The COVID-19 recession and climate change are not happening in isolation from one another. We are trying to rebuild our economy at the same time—and in the same places—as fires rage, waters rise, and homes are destroyed. As policymakers debate how to initiate and sustain recovery from the COVID-19 recession, it’s imperative that they recognize this moment for what it is: a rare opportunity to address two existential crises.

A new report, A Green Recovery: The Case for Climate-Forward Stimulus Policies in America’s COVID-19 Recession Response, co-authored by the Roosevelt Institute’s Rhiana Gunn-Wright, Kristina Karlsson, Kitty Richards, Bracken Hendricks, and David Arkush, argues that green stimulus policies can both revive the economy and mitigate future climate disruption in ways that move the US toward sustained resilience and a living planet for future generations. These policies not only drive economic stimulus, they provide immediate and direct assistance to the people and institutions most in need of reinvestment. Moreover, the authors explain, investments in decarbonization, adaptation, and environmental justice are necessary to transition workers to industries that will withstand future crises and reverse the damage of centuries-long dependence on fossil fuels.

The report proceeds as follows:

  • First, the authors explain how ignoring climate crisis mitigation in order to conduct economic stimulus is a grave mistake.
  • Second, they outline why a green recovery can efficiently and effectively provide immediate economic relief and meet stimulus goals borne from COVID-19.
  • Next, they outline several green stimulus policies that are fast-acting and can contribute to immediate relief efforts.
  • Finally, they demonstrate how other nations with economies similar to ours have led the way in a climate-centered recovery.

Insight from the authors:

“The choice facing policymakers is not “climate-friendly” policies or “climate-neutral” policies. All stimulus policies have the potential to affect emissions levels, even if they do not directly relate to climate or emissions. In that sense, policymakers are choosing between policies that are climate forward and those that will entrench carbon-intensive industries and infrastructure,” said Gunn-Wright.

“Solving the climate crisis is at root an economic problem requiring economic solutions and massive new investment. Responding to this COVID-19 driven recession puts trillions of dollars on the table that can both decarbonize economic production and simultaneously redress environmental injustice in our communities. A green recovery may in fact be our last-best-chance to support short-term stimulus while growing a truly just and sustainable economy for the long-run,” said Hendricks.

“For the economy to recover from the COVID-19 downturn, the federal government must significantly increase investments in financial relief for impacted families, funding to create jobs, and support for state and local governments. Green stimulus policies can help do all three,” said Richards.

 “It’s critical that we start a green recovery as quickly as possible.  A number of policies can be enacted as part of immediate COVID-19 relief legislation that can meet the economic needs of this moment and set America on the path toward a liveable climate and stronger economy,” said Arkush.

“Now is the moment to enact change. To halt the progression of climate disaster and secure the recovery of the current economic crisis demands, a green stimulus program is essential,” said Karlsson.


About the Roosevelt Institute

The Roosevelt Institute is a think tank, a student network, and the nonprofit partner to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum that, together, are learning from the past and working to redefine the future of the American economy. Focusing on corporate and public power, labor and wages, and the economics of race and gender inequality, the Roosevelt Institute unifies experts, invests in young leaders, and advances progressive policies that bring the legacy of Franklin and Eleanor into the 21st century.

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