All Economic Policy Is Climate Policy: Tools for a Post-Neoliberal Green Transition
May 11, 2022
By Suzanne Kahn, Rhiana Gunn-Wright
The climate crisis is critical context for the Roosevelt Institute’s work across our five program areas. Whether considering outsized corporate power, industrial policy, labor rights, civil rights, or macroeconomic policies, the climate crisis dictates both what is necessary and what is possible. It is increasingly clear that the obstacles to achieving a truly equitable economy—for example, excessive corporate power and deference to the market—are also key barriers to effectively addressing the climate crisis.
In a series of issue briefs from across our program areas, the Roosevelt Institute investigates how the climate crisis intersects with many dimensions of our economy. These briefs explore a range of topics, from how reliance on fossil fuels destabilizes entire industries and the macroeconomy to how best to structure climate policies to facilitate a just and equitable transition. In launching these issue briefs, Roosevelt is not offering a new diagnosis of the problems, nor a full prescription for a path forward. Instead, together, these briefs demonstrate that all economic policy is climate policy, and that the neoliberal, market-driven economic policies of the last half-century are failed climate policies. Neoliberal economic policies have failed to control carbon emissions and have allowed the economy to continue to rely too heavily on inherently volatile, nonrenewable energy sources.
New economic policies that seek to address the climate crisis must move away from a neoliberal stance and actively work to minimize corporate power while building public institutions that can help execute a rapid transition away from fossil fuels. These policies must include direct investment in clean energy industries and new regulations that restrict corporate power and shift pricing to reflect the true costs of fossil fuels—including damage from extreme weather events, impacts on public health, and disruptions to agriculture and ecosystems. Further, they must build up the power of workers and specifically labor unions, to create more stable industries.
- In “Energy Price Stability: The Peril of Fossil Fuels and the Promise of Renewables,” Deputy Director of Macroeconomic Analysis Lauren Melodia and Climate and Economic Transformation Program Manager Kristina Karlsson explore how cascading climate disasters and unstable energy sources pose a persistent and regular threat to the stable markets neoliberals prioritize.
- In “Everything is Climate Now: New Directions for Industrial Policy from Biden’s Supply Chain Reports,” Director of Industrial Policy and Trade Todd N. Tucker shows how the 19 supply chain reports recently issued by seven federal agencies demonstrate that there is no corner of our economy that will remain untouched by the climate crisis and, conversely, no part of our economy that should not be harnessed to help mitigate the crisis.
- In “Power Struggle: How Shareholder Primacy in the Electrical Utility Sector Is Holding Back an Affordable and Just Energy Transition,” Director of Corporate Power Niko Lusiani will explore how deference to shareholders’ short-term interests has served as an excuse for companies to resist investing in clean energy technologies that would serve the broader public.
- In “Workforce Policy for a Just Transition,” Deputy Director of Worker Power and Economic Security Alí Bustamante argues that workforce training programs for the green economy are an opportunity to strengthen labor unions. When workforce training programs are built around union partnerships rather than solely around employer relationships, they foster higher wages and better job quality, and defend against racially discriminatory hiring practices.
- In “Clean Energy Neoliberalism: Climate, Tax Credits, and Racial Justice,” Deputy Director of Climate & Economic Transformation Lew Daly and Just Solutions Collective’s Sylvia Chi explain how energy tax credits embody a neoliberal approach to climate policy that continues to rely heavily on private incentives and market choices to drive the energy transition. They discuss how this could not only privatize the clean energy future but also squander a once-in-a-generation opportunity for remedying historic harms and chronic underinvestment in communities of color.