A Green Stimulus

As a nation we face three converging crises: the COVID19 pandemic and the resulting economic recession; the climate emergency; and extreme inequality.

Unemployment is rising at the fastest rate since the 2008 crash, and could eventually reach 20% — twice as high as the Great Recession. We need immediate and sustained intervention to protect people’s health and economic well-being, with a special focus on the most vulnerable. We must also begin planning our economic recovery in a way that protects us from the impact of climate change and lifts up workers and frontline communities.

Many other groups are focused on the emergency stimulus package to stabilize our economy, on preventing harm in an equitable way — which we fully support — so this letter focuses on the longer-term challenge of jumpstarting economic recovery and transitioning to a more sustainable economy. The question isn’t whether we will next need a major economic recovery stimulus, but what kind of stimulus should we pursue? In response we, climate and social policy experts in academia and civil society, have developed a menu of solutions that would collectively comprise a Green Stimulus.

The United States confronts the danger of an economic stimulus that restores — or even deepens — our reliance on fossil fuels. This danger comes from explicit proposals to bail out the fossil fuel sector and roll back workers’ rights, and also from generic general stimulus policies that do not take climate into account. Indeed, infrastructure spending as usual — e.g. highway expansion — will lock in more carbon pollution for decades. We can avoid these problems by crafting a recovery that accelerates the creation of a 21st century green economy.

Thus, we propose an ambitious Green Stimulus of at least $2 trillion that creates millions of family-sustaining green jobs, lifts standards of living, accelerates a just transition off fossil fuels, ensures a controlling stake for the public in all private sector bailout plans, and helps make our society and economy stronger and more resilient in the face of pandemic, recession, and climate emergency in the years ahead. This stimulus should be automatically renewed annually at 4% of GDP per year (roughly $850 billion) until the economy is fully decarbonized and the unemployment rate is below 3.5%. A Green Stimulus would make short-term interventions, restructure political and economic power towards workers and communities, and build toward deep long-term change.

Co-authored by Johanna Bozuwa (ccp), Mijin Cha (ccp), Daniel Aldana Cohen (ccp), Billy Fleming (ccp), Jim Goodman (ccp), Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Daniel M Kammen, Julian Brave NoiseCat, Mark Paul (ccp), Raj Patel (ccp), Thea Riofrancos (ccp)