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 fair shares campaign, in the context of a global emergency climate mobilization. This campaign has been pursued, first, via 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 died in September 2016. 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 global 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 both nature and 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 — just the contrary. It means the rejection of forced optimism in favor or a new climate realism in which global economic justice is recognized as an essential precondition of emergency climate mobilization ,
EcoEquity works by emphasizing the importance of equity principles in all aspects of climate policy, by producing political and economic analyses and educational materials that highlight equity issues, and by developing practical proposals for just climate policies. Its focus has generally been on international organizing, but it works within the US as well, promoting approaches to climate justice that explicitly open into the challenges of both domestic and international just transitions. For a closer look at the US side of this work, see the US Fair Shares website.
For a small outfit, EcoEquity has done a great deal. Our greatest accomplishment, along with colleagues at the Stockholm Environment Institute, has been the development of the Climate Equity Reference Framework. You can find much more information about this framework and its uses here, and at the website of the Climate Equity Reference Project and by reviewing the major discussion paper we just wrote for the International Climate Action Network.
EcoEquity is a virtual organization that lives as its projects and its partnerships, and as this website, which is curated by Tom Athanasiou, EcoEquity’s executive director. It is project of Earth Island Institute, which supports it in all matters organizational and financial.
Tom Athanasiou is a specialist in global climate equity—the great problem of shaping a planetary climate transition that is fair enough to actually succeed, both within the U.S. and around the world.
Tom coordinated the international Climate Action Network’s Equity Working Group in the critical years between the 2009 Copenhagen and the 2015 Paris climate summits. He was a key organizer of the Civil Society Equity Review effort before the Paris meeting, and co-directs the Climate Equity Reference Project, an activist think tank that aims to shape the longing for climate equity into a driver of extremely ambitious action. He is a writer as well as an activist, and works within both the US and the international Climate Action Networks. He is prominent in the emerging debate about America’s role in an international climate mobilization.
As a writer, Tom is a long-time political ecologist and technology critic. He ghost-wrote Hubert Dreyfus’ Mind Over Machine (Free Press, 1986), an early critique of artificial intelligence, and then, while working as a project manager at Sun Microsystems, wrote Divided Planet: the Ecology of Rich and Poor (Little, Brown, 1996). As a policy activist, he co-authored (with Paul Baer) Dead Heat: Global Justice and Global Warming (Seven Stories, 2002) and co-authored the influential The Right to Development in a Climate Constrained World (Heinrich Boell Foundation, 2008). He continues to actively write and blog about global climate equity and related issues. For a reasonably complete list of his most recent essays and reports, see here.
Tom has long believed that once the true scale of the climate danger became visible, despair would become a paramount political and cultural threat, and he now considers that, in this judgement, he was correct. Given this, his focus is on the public secret at the heart of the global climate reckoning, the one everybody suspects but few acknowledge —the planetary climate system simply cannot be stabilized without a global push to restructure the economy in fundamental ways.
Tom believes in debate, and is an engaging public speaker.
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