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 goal 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 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 keen 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 and educational materials that highlight equity issues, and by developing practical proposals for equitable climate policies. Its focus has been on international negotiations, and it also promotes domestic approaches to climate justice that explicitly and organically expand into the project of a just global transition. Indeed, EcoEquity is working more and more on the domestic front, a fact that will become obvious in the next edition of the Climate Equity Reference Calculator.
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 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, 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 across the world.
This won’t be easy. The Earth system is heading towards extremely dangerous “tipping cascades,” which must be avoided now, within the world as we find it. The great problem is that this world is riven between wealthy and developing countries, and, within all countries, between rich and poor. The political dynamics of this twice divided world are extremely hostile to the solidarity and cooperation that are now matters of existential necessity.
There is no way forward that does not squarely face this problem.
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 currently co-directs the Climate Equity Reference Project, an activist think tank that aims to make climate equity a driver of extremely ambitious action. He is also co-chair the Global Issues and Responsibility Working Group of the U.S. Climate Action Network, and is prominent in the emerging debate about America’s proper role in an international climate mobilization. He remains an active observer of the U.N. climate negotiations.
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 highly influential The Right to Development in a Climate Constrained World (Heinrich Boell Foundation, 2008). He continues to write and blog about climate equity and related issues.
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 he was right. In this context, his focus is on the public secret at the heart of the global climate reckoning, the one everybody suspects but rarely acknowledges—the climate system simply cannot be stabilized without a global push to restructure the economy in fundamental ways.
The good news is that the path forward on this front is also becoming visible. His new book, No Easy Way: Justice and Emergency in the Climate Century, is being written with this in mind.
Tom believes in debate, and is an engaging public speaker.
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