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Taking climate action to the next level

Signs carried by marchers reading "El Pueblo Unido" and "United for Jobs Justice and Climate"
  • Taking climate action to the next level
August 29, 2018

Taking climate action to the next level

Gus Speth

Gus Speth

Co-chair of The Next System Project more

Carla Skandier

Carla Skandier

Senior Research Associate with The Next System Project more

Johanna Bozuwa

Johanna Bozuwa

Exploring energy democracy and the just transition. more

For over forty years we have known that avoiding disastrous climate change requires breaking fossil fuels’ hold on our economy and way of life. Yet, throughout all that time, debate, negotiations, and actions have fallen short in triggering, never mind managing, an energy transition. At this pivotal moment, those considered climate leaders are just not going far enough. Even California, the United States’ “climate heavy-hitter” (but also top oil producer), seems to be unable to pursue a key climate action within its boundaries: ending the leasing of new oil fields. Instead of addressing the drivers of climate change head on, we just nip at the system’s edges.

Real climate leadership means taking on the root causes of climate change and other societal ills to change the system before we breach critical thresholds in temperature rises. Within the system we have, we will never be able to push the needle far or fast enough toward a renewable energy system. We need to start implementing energy interventions today in key points of the system with the aims of keeping fossil fuels in the ground, deploying renewable energy, and changing our political economy.

Three groundbreaking and complementary interventions could start transforming the power structures that promote and enable our problematic energy and political economic systems: quantitative easing for the planet, public ownership for energy democracy, and anchor strategies for the energy transition. By proposing interventions at all governance levels—federal, regional, and local—and aiming different points of the energy chain, these interventions combined can bring us closer to an system on common ground with  sustainability, democracy and equitability.

 

 

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Read the individual sections below:

Introduction: The Green Transition and the Next System

How we can—and must—put systemic transformation on the table in the climate discussion. read more
Two oil wells, one belching smoke and fire.

The Systemic Roadblocks to Climate Action

As the ecological rift widens, we must recognize the three interconnected imperatives of the current system that both push us toward climate catastrophe and prevent meaningful action—the unrelenting pressure for economic growth, the outsized power of corporations, and the United States’ extractive approach to resource use. read more

Reports

The sun setting with an ocean-based oil rig on the horizon

Quantitative Easing for the Planet

To keep carbon safely in the ground, the government should secure control of fossil fuel reserves by promoting a federal buyout of the top US-based, publicly-traded fossil fuel companies, using the power of the Federal Reserve to deploy newly created money into the financial system. By focusing on major companies in the first links of the fossil fuel supply-chain, the federal government could detach growth- and profit-driven interests from reserves and halt otherwise inevitable extraction. read more
Windmills under a blue sky

Public Ownership for Energy Democracy

For-profit energy utilities exercise their political and economic power to roll back climate regulation. Transitioning energy utilities to public ownership could help dismantle barriers to climate action and catalyze the redesign of power generation and distribution. A movement could simultaneously harness the opportunity for more democratic engagement in public utilities to accelerate energy democracy, while also taking for-profit utilities into community hands to reorient their focus towards the public good. read more

An Anchor Strategy for the Energy Transition

Anchor institutions—large nonprofit or public institutions, like universities or municipal governments—are positioned to be a prime ally for the energy transition at the local level. Anchors could align their power and place-based social mission to rise to the energy challenge in three important ways: by furthering community-centered renewable energy grids; by helping build a workforce compatible with a 1.5°C society (and a just transition for workers); and by deploying financial capacity needed to support the transition and to overcome corporate bias. read more