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The Case for Green Realism

The transition to a carbon-neutral economy is bound to make us worse off before it makes us better off, and the most vulnerable segments of society will be hit especially hard. Unless we acknowledge and address this reality, support for greening the economy will remain shallow and eventually wane.

PARIS – The Green New Deal promoted by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a fast-rising star in the US Congress, and others among her fellow Democrats, may trigger a welcome reset of the discussion on climate-change mitigation in the United States and beyond. Though not really new – European Greens have been pushing for such a “new deal” for a decade – her plan is ambitious and wide-ranging.

It may be too ambitious and wide-ranging. But, unlike economists’ favorite approach to climate change – set the right price for carbon and leave the rest to private decisions – the Green New Deal rightly encompasses the many dimensions of what must be a fundamental transformation of our economies and our societies if the climate challenge is to be met successfully.

The transition to a carbon-neutral economy is bound to be as revolutionary as the transition to the industrial age. Given the comprehensive nature of this transition, it cannot be summarized in one price. It must be a collective endeavor in which governments invest and every citizen finds his or her role. The optimistic, participatory ethos of the Green New Deal should be commended.

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