Climate Justice

Addressing the grotesque and unsustainable levels of inequality and injustice in the world will require all kinds of policy changes that only governments can make. But the single most important way to address inequality is to make sure there are plenty of decent, well-paid jobs available. That is the core of any green transition.


No matter how it’s done, moving to a low-carbon economy will create millions of jobs. There are already 786,000 people employed in the renewable energy field in the US (compared to 3.8 million in China).[1] According to the US Department of Labor,[2]solar photovoltaic installers and wind turbine service technicians were the two fastest growing occupations in 2018.

Meanwhile, as many as 1.4 million jobs are at risk from the closing of coal mines, oil refineries, gas-fired power stations and other fossil-fuel dependent industries.[3]To ensure a fair and smooth transition to a green economy, it will be crucial to be able to offer these workers comparable jobs with comparable wages and benefits in the renewable energy field.[4] 

When the government creates jobs that pay a living wage sufficient to support a family, it does more than provide a decent job for those who get hired. It also sets a standard that private employers have to achieve, so it raises wages and standards of living for many more workers.

Prioritizing distributed power   

We can also address inequality by making sure that funding for climate solutions focuses on those areas that will best support low- and middle-income families in making the transition to clean, renewable electricity and a low-carbon future.

We must prioritize subsidies for distributed (rooftop) solar, especially in urban areas, and distributed wind, especially in rural areas. This could lower electricity costs and provide an unprecedented level of energy independence for large numbers of people. Subsidies for home battery storage would help ensure a fair distribution of the benefits of moving to electricity. Federal funding should also prioritize distributed solar and/or wind turbines for government buildings, schools, libraries and other public buildings.

Transportation priorities

Existing subsidies, in the form of IRS tax credits on the purchase of new electric vehicles, must be extended and increased in order to speed the sales of EVs. We will also need buy-back programs to dispose of old gas and diesel cars—there is unlikely to be a second-hand market for these vehicles once it becomes impossible to buy fuel for them.

Public transportation improvements are also key, both for reducing emissions and for improving human well-being.

Home heating and cooking

To ensure that the transition to a green economy is affordable for the poorest communities, public funds need to prioritize those communities. Those who can afford it should ideally be willing to pay for their own conversion to electric heating and cooking in homes, while federal funds go into speeding up the conversion of low-income housing and apartments.

US and Europe must lead

Some countries are at a considerable advantage when it comes to transitioning to a clean, green economy. Although the United States is the number two carbon emitter in the world, after China, the US industrial revolution started earlier, so it’s responsible for the biggest portion of the total accumulated carbon that is now in the atmosphere.  The US is also the wealthiest country in the world by some measurements, with the largest GDP and enormous leverage over the global economy as a result of the financial institutions and arrangements established at the end of World War II.[5]

There is therefore a strong moral argument for the US to be assisting other poorer countries to make the emissions reductions needed—and to be making larger reductions than other countries in order to achieve overall global targets. Similar moral arguments can be made for the countries of the EU, the UK and other wealthy countries like Canada, Japan, Australia and South Korea. Unless these countries make much deeper cuts in their emissions than those needed globally, the rest of the world is unlikely to be able to make up the gap to reach the global target.

[1] DOE. US Energy and Employment Report. (2017).

[2] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2023, September 6). Fastest Growing occupations : Occupational Outlook Handbook

[3] Statista Research Department. (2015). Total oil and gas industry employment by occupation U.S. 2015. Statista.

[4] Jay Inslee has called for the equivalent of the post-WWII ‘GI Bill’ to guarantee every fossil fuel worker a new job. A better term for this might be the ‘C,O&GI Bill,’ or ‘Coal, Oil and Gas Industry Bill.’

[5] The US dollar was given prominence in so-called Bretton Woods system which created the IMF, the World Bank and other institutions which still govern the way global finances are handled. The US was also given dominant roles on the governing boards of these institutions. See Wikipedia contributors. (2019, November 8). Bretton Woods system. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia; Wikimedia Foundation.