Over 100 leading economists on Tuesday urged policymakers to seize "the rare opportunity" at hand to wholly transform the economic system into one that rejects a reliance on fossil fuels in favor of support for a livable planet and more just world.
"As we seek to rebuild our world, we can and must end the carbon economy," the economists wrote.
The experts—including Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, and Mariana Mazzucato of the University College London (UCL)—made their case in an op-ed published at the UK's Guardian in which they address the "interconnected emergencies" of the coronavirus pandemic, ecological breakdown, and stark inequality.
The statement says that "we should recognize that the present moment creates an opportunity to bring about a better future for ourselves and our children," and that by "taking on the carbon economy, we can begin charting a pathway towards economic recovery while building a fairer, more sustainable world in the process."
Arguing that the "carbon economy amplifies and begets racial, social, and economic inequities, creating a system that is fundamentally incompatible with a stable future," the economists lay out three specific steps needed for a green and just economic shift.
First off is ending fossil fuel subsidies, because these prop-ups are "distorting markets while locking us into a future we cannot afford."
The statement further calls on "institutions of financial power" to divest from fossil fuels and instead reinvest "those resources in a just and stable future."
Lastly, "People must build political power to advocate for a fairer economic system," the experts wrote. From the statement:
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If we attempt an economic rebuilding whose guiding principle is a return to "business as usual" we will simply substitute one crisis for another. Instead, we must recognize that when crises strike, the disaster amplifies along society's fault lines, and that when we don't prepare for disasters, the costs of inaction fall most heavily on the most vulnerable. A green recovery can and must uplift those who need it most, at home and around the world, creating a more resilient and regenerative society in the process.
By leaving behind the carbon economy, the economists wrote, "we have an opportunity to begin the process of economic recovery while working to undo the injustices at the heart of our modern system."
The new statement drew praise from Connor Chung, an organizer with Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard, one of the student climate justice groups involved with organizing the letter.
"As a young person, I am scared that my country's leaders will try to recover from one crisis while investing in the next," said Chung. "Today's statement helps us separate false solutions from the bold action we need to ensure a just and stable future that so many of my peers are fighting for."
This key moment to effect positive and transformational change should not be lost, says signatory Clair Brown, a renowned UC Berkeley scholar of labor and technological economics.
"The pandemic provides us the opportunity to create a modern, just, sustainable economy by replacing carbon energy with clean energy, by reducing inequality, and caring for the well-being of people and the planet," said Brown.
"The climate crisis has shed light on how inequality hurts people, and how a sustainable equitable economy makes people healthier and happier," she continued. "We must not miss this opportunity to rebuild the economy to fulfill our vision of a just and livable world."