New ‘Green Growth’ Report Shows How the U.S. Can Cut Carbon Pollution by 40 Percent While Creating 2.7 Million New Jobs

Summary of Report Co-Authored by the UMass Amherst Political Economy Research Institute and the Center for American Progress Now Available Online
Robert Pollin
James Heintz
Heidi Garrett-Peltier

AMHERST, Mass. – The University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) and the Center for American Progress have announced a groundbreaking report that quantifies the investment and technology deployment needed for the United States to do its part to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. Released as climate leaders and policymakers meet in Nevada for the seventh annual National Clean Energy Summit, the executive summary for “Green Growth: A U.S. Program for Controlling Climate Change and Expanding Job Opportunities” shows that the United States can cut its carbon pollution by 40 percent from 2005 levels and create a net increase of 2.7 million clean energy jobs in the process, reducing the unemployment rate by 1.5 percentage points.

The complete report, which is scheduled for release in the coming weeks, also provides analysis showing the need for a substantial new wave of mostly private investment in advanced energy technology and higher performing buildings, as well as public and private investment in efficient infrastructure.

“Our work shows that the fundamental imperative of climate stabilization is not an outlandish fantasy, but is truly within reach,” says Robert Pollin, co-director of PERI and distinguished professor of economics at UMass Amherst, and lead author of the report. “By investing about $200 billion annually on energy efficiency and clean renewable energy for the next 20 years—meaning 1.2 percent of current U.S. gross domestic product—we can cut overall U.S. energy consumption by 30 percent relative to today, as well as expand by 400 percent the production of solar, wind and other clean renewable sources. These clean energy investments will drop U.S. CO2 emissions by 40 percent while also generating 2.7 million net new jobs. The opportunity is right before us and needs to be seized.”

Green Growth presents a practical program for investing in clean energy to control climate change,” says report co-author Heidi Garrett-Peltier, a research assistant professor at PERI.  “While much research has shown that the environment-versus-economy is a false dichotomy, this study explicitly details how private investments and public policy together can control rising emissions while creating jobs. Starting from emissions targets widely agreed upon by climate scientists, Green Growth analyzes the possibilities for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and to what extent we must continue to rely on fossil fuels, and presents a 20-year investment program that is affordable and achievable.”

“The conventional wisdom is that we can either protect the environment and stop climate change or we can create jobs and grow the economy – but we can’t do both. This study shows why this is not the case,” says James Heintz, Andrew Glyn Professor of Economics and associate director of PERI, who also served as co-author of the report. “By investing in clean energy technologies, the U.S. economy can boost employment, become more energy efficient and stave off the potentially devastating effects of greenhouse gas emissions. The report shows how saving the planet requires bold, new—yet eminently feasible—policy directions.”

“Our research demonstrates that it is technologically and economically feasible today to create more jobs and growth, while using 40 percent less fossil fuel, improving energy efficiency 30 percent, and powering communities with four times more clean and renewable energy,” explains Bracken Hendricks, senior fellow with the Center for American Progress and a co-author of the report. “This is a story of hope and opportunity, but the window for action is small and narrowing.”

The executive summary of the report can be found here, and the complete report is scheduled for release at www.AmericanProgress.org on Sept. 18. A number of comments and quotes from lawmakers, business leaders and scholars in support of the report’s findings can be found here. Pollin has also published the lead article in a Boston Review forum based on the Green Growth study. His article, “Build the Green Economy,” and responses from seven discussants, can be found here.