Bivens: The Job-Creation Potential of Green Investments, A Boost to Labor

Labor News

Reprinted from The Economic Policy Institute by Josh Bivens on May 15, 2019.

“A key dividing line between competing proposals to address climate change is the role of publicly financed and directed investments,” writes Josh Bivens in The Economic Policy Institute.

A recent open letter about policies that should be enacted to slow climate change from a group of prominent economists mentioned only carbon pricing, and, at least implicitly argued against publicly financed and directed investments by asserting that a carbon tax “should …be revenue neutral to avoid debates over the size of government.”

Alternatively, the central organizing principle around the “Green New Deal”—both the congressional resolution as well as the looser collection of ideas associated with the phrase–is that pricing carbon alone is not enough, and that a substantial degree of public planning and investment will be necessary to stop catastrophic climate change. …

Public investments to help forestall catastrophic climate change are extraordinarily valuable, and policymakers should think hard about how to best incorporate them into an overall climate policy. A valuable knock-on effect of these green investments is the boost they would give to labor demand – particularly for workers without a 4-year college degree. But, as valuable as this boost to labor demand for non-college labor is, it’s not always the case that green investments will create net new jobs, and that does not detract from their value at all. …

EPI 5/15

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Jeff Burman represents assistant editors on the Guild’s Board of Directors. He can be reached at

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