About EcoEquity

EcoEquity is a small, activist think tank that has had an outsized impact on the global climate equity debate.  It has done this primarily, but not exclusively, by way of its work on fair shares international effort sharing, via first the Greenhouse Development Rights project and, more recently, by way of its successor the Climate Equity Reference Project.

EcoEquity was founded in 1999 by Tom Athanasiou and Paul Baer.  Paul, as you may know, took his own life in September 2016.  See here for his memorial page.  His death was a blow, but the project is ongoing, as is this website, which functions both as a portal into EcoEquity’s work and as Tom Athanasiou’s climate equity blog.

EcoEquity is focused on political and theoretical work on climate solutions that are fair enough to actually work.  Through its participation in domestic and international networks of activists and scholars, it argues for emergency climate strategies that protect the poor, and more generally protect the rights of all people to dignified levels of just and sustainable development. This does not in any way imply a repudiation of realism.  It does mean the rejection of forced optimism, and a focus on approaches to the climate transition in which the politics of economic justice and the politics of emergency climate mobilization are one and the same.

EcoEquity works by emphasizing the importance of equity principles in all aspects of the policy response, by producing political and economic analyses that highlight equity issues, and by developing practical proposals for equitable climate policies.  Its focus has been on the international negotiations but we also promote domestic approaches to climate justice that explicitly and organically expand into the project of a just global transition.  Indeed, we are working more and more on the domestic front, a fact that will soon become apparent in the next edition of the Climate Equity Reference Calculator.

EcoEquity has done a great deal,and much of its work — though not all — winds up, sooner or later, being reflected on this website.  Our greatest accomplishment has clearly been the development, along with colleagues at the Stockholm Environment Institute, of the Climate Equity Reference Framework.  You can find much more information about the CERP at its website at Climate Equity Reference Project.

EcoEquity is a virtual organization that lives as its projects and its partnerships, and as this website, which is curated by Tom Athanasiou, who is EcoEquity’s Executive Director.  It is project of the Earth Island Institute, which supports it in all matters organizational and financial.

  Tom Athanasiou is an organizer and policy activist who specializes in climate equity—the great problem of stabilizing the climate system in a world that is simultaneously divided between wealthy and poor countries and within all countries, between the rich and the poor.  This “twice divided world” poses grave and rarely acknowledged challenges that must be overcome if we’re to achieve the emergency climate mobilization we now so obviously need.  As we face these challenges, our goal has to be a climate transition that is fair enough to actually succeed, both within the United States and at the planetary level.

Tom coordinated the Climate Action Network International’s Equity Working Group in the critical years between the 2009 Copenhagen and the 2015 Paris climate summits.  This work evolved into the Civil Society Equity Review, which published a widely endorsed, high-profile review of the fairness of the first-round Paris pledges of action that was almost certainly the most influential climate justice document to be released within the negotiations halls.

Most recently (late 2018) the same civil society coalition behind this review published Fair Shares: Inequality, Fair Shares, and the Climate Emergency, which cut new ground by beginning to integrate an analysis of inequity within countries into the global fair shares debate.  He co-directs the Climate Equity Reference Project, a policy initiative to make climate equity a driver of extremely ambitious action.  He remains an active observer of the international climate negotiations.

Tom has been around for a while, and is both a political ecologist and a technology critic with a long series of publications to his name.  Ages ago, he was an early critic of artificial intelligence, and in that capacity was the ghost writer of Hubert Dreyfus’ Mind Over Machine (New York, Free Press, 1986).  Later, he wrote Divided Planet: the Ecology of Rich and Poor (Little, Brown, 1996) while working as a project manager at Sun Microsystems.

As a climate equity activist, Tom authored Dead Heat: Global Justice and Global Warming (Seven Stories, 2002) and then co-authored the highly influential The Right to Development in a Climate Constrained World (Heinrich Boell Foundation, Berlin, 2008).  He also writes occasion pieces on climate science and politics for The Nation.

Regarding the global negotiations, Tom focuses on the enormous question of which countries are doing their fair share and which are not.  This is the problem of equity assessment, which the Paris Agreement says (Article 14) is to be conducted “in the light of equity and the best available science.”  Its importance cannot be overstated.  Equity is essential to the Agreement’s “ambition ratcheting mechanism,” which must function well if the climate is to be stabilized in time.

Tom’s main focus now has shifted from equity within the international negotiations to climate within the climate mobilization more generally.  He is committing some time to the U.S. (as opposed to international) Climate Action Network, where he working to bring the international fair shares challenge back home by integrating it more closely with the domestic climate justice challenge.  He is also writing a new book, the working title of which is Everybody Knows: Climate Emergency and the New Age of Inequality.

Contact information


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