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Primer: Green Industrial Strategy for Just Transitions

by Patrick Bigger and Jesse Strecker

April 2023

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After forty years of neoliberal environmental and economic policy dominance, industrial policy is back at the center of agendas around the world. In the US, industrial policy (in fact, if not in name) has been taken up by both parties at the federal level, signaling an appetite for more direct and higher-profile state intervention in wide swathes of the economy. The return to industrial policy reflects a shift in attitudes about the appropriate role of government in identifying and achieving desirable outcomes.


This primer provides high-level overview of how the Climate and Community Project thinks about green industrial strategy as a comprehensive suite of coordinated policies that seek to achieve overarching coherent, complementary outcomes across economic sectors. The original Green New Deal proposal in 2019 was the US green industrial strategy par excellence; in the absence of a full-blown Green New Deal, the Inflation Reduction Act- despite all of its problems- offers a beginning of industrial strategy that can be built upon to achieve more transformative outcomes, especially for communities that have been systematically marginalized.


We differentiate green industrial strategy, and its subsidiary policies, from other, more market-focused modalities of environmental and economic policy. We reflect on the opportunities presented by a more robust approach to state intervention in markets, especially to pick ‘winners and losers’ in a way that drives climate change mitigation and delivers material benefits to communities that have been harmed by decades of economic exploitation and abandonment. 


This primer goes beyond federal policy to examine existing and proposed laws at the state and municipal level that could form the basis for a more robust industrial strategy across different scales of government. Given the degree to which federal industrial policy for decarbonization has turned on incentives and subsidies, especially for big companies and middle-to-upper class consumers, creating effective ‘sticks’ to go along with these carrots, and ensuring that federal industrial policy largess actually benefits working and racialized communities, will fall largely to the states. In the short term, this is most plausible in states that have strong climate framework laws with quantitative emissions targets, but we also consider the possibility of constructing an ad hoc industrial strategy on a policy-by-policy basis in tougher jurisdictions. 

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