How to Protect Workers Hurt By the Fight Against Climate Change

In a dramatic move for global efforts to combat climate change, the European Union last week laid out an ambitious proposal to transition away from fossil fuels. Brussels’ announcement marks the latest step in a rapidly accelerating green revolution. Driven by a stunning reduction in the cost of renewable energy systems and an unprecedented drive for carbon neutrality, the world finally has a real chance to tackle climate change. But even though decarbonization is essential to humanity’s survival, the transition will have profound economic effects—as the EU proposal acknowledges. Although it will be a net benefit for the world, the transformation will create winners and losers. Moving from fossil fuels to renewable energy will inevitably displace long-established industries, cost millions of workers their jobs, and disrupt communities that rely on the coal, oil, and natural gas industries.

Policymakers have been here before. Mitigating the impact of climate change might ultimately resemble the effects of globalization and trade liberalization in the latter half of the twentieth century. Gains from those transformations were real, but as leaders failed to expand social safety nets, they also led to rising inequality and a chronic shortage of good jobs. These

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