Social Justice in a Green Economy

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Scholars debate the economic implications of climate change regulations for American communities.

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A green economy could counter the dangerous effects of climate change. It could also create thousands of new jobs.

But what happens to the many communities across the United States whose economies depend on industries like manufacturing and mining?

Legal scholars Sidney A. Shapiro and Robert R. M. Verchick grapple with the social implications of “a green transition” in a recent article, Inequality, Social Resilience, and the Green Economy. Specifically, they argue that policymakers must issue regulations that are both environmentally friendly and sensitive to the communities most vulnerable during a “green” economic shift.

Regulations should look to increase what Shapiro and Verchick term “social resilience”—that is, “a population’s capacity to survive, adapt, and grow in the face of misfortune and change.” But adopting socially resilient regulations will require cooperation from policymakers who have different and, at times, clashing views about how best to adapt to climate change and its effects.

This series in The Regulatory Review examines the implications and limitations of adopting social resilience as a basis for environmental policymaking. The series begins with an essay by Shapiro, who is the Frank U. Fletcher Chair in Law at the Wake Forest University Law School, and Verchick, the Gauthier-St. Martin Chair in Environmental Law at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law.

Following their introductory essay, scholars specializing in environmental law, public policy, and climate change join the debate: Nives Dolšak, professor and associate director at the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs at the University of Washington; Daniel A. Farber, the Sho Sato Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law; Alice Kaswan, a professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law; Aseem Prakash, the Walker Family Professor for the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington; and Michael P. Vandenbergh, the David Daniels Allen Distinguished Chair of Law at Vanderbilt University Law School. The series concludes with a response by Shapiro and Verchick.

Regulating the Green Economy

September 24, 2018 | Sidney A. Shapiro, Wake Forest University Law School, and Robert R. M. Verchick, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law

Environmental advocates of the early 20th century understood that environmental protection also included social and economic well-being. We contend it is time to reunite the broad environmental and human-needs movements and their common cause.

The Jobs and Regulation Issue Revisited

September 25, 2018 | Daniel A. Farber, UC Berkeley School of Law

As a predicate for policy responses, we need a better understanding of the extent of job loss due to regulation and a clearer map of the resulting types of harms.

Expanding Environmental Justice to Achieve a Just Transition

September 26, 2018 | Alice Kaswan, University of San Francisco School of Law

The environmental justice and social welfare movements have been good at focusing on how to raise up those who are down. But to avoid injustice in a transition to a green economy, these movements must join forces with other movements that seek to maintain a decent standard of living for working people.

A Green Economy Must Achieve Climate Justice

September 27, 2018 | Nives Dolšak, University of Washington, and Aseem Prakash, University of Washington

Climate justice must protect the interests of all, especially the underprivileged. This requires shielding underprivileged individuals and families from both the harms of climate change as well as from bearing an undue burden from policies required to mitigate it.

Environmental Protection Requires More than Social Resilience

October 1, 2018 | Michael P. Vandenbergh, Vanderbilt Law School

Doubling down on the progressive vision by focusing on social resilience in general, and environmental justice in particular, will not necessarily achieve Shapiro and Verchick’s progressive vision for environmental law.

Environmental Justice Is Worth Fighting For

October 2, 2018 | Sidney A. Shapiro, Wake Forest University Law School, and Robert R. M. Verchick, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law

Although protecting the environment and achieving justice has never been easy, the United States has made progress over time. We are persuaded, despite the caveats our commentators have identified, that the country can do so again.