A Pan-American Green New Deal? Green Investment, Extraction Battles, and Reforestation

MAY 11, 2021 |  12:00-1:30 pm EDT

Poster advertising A Pan-American Green New Deal?  2021 May 11 event

The politics of the climate emergency are inextricably entwined with public and private investment at a planetary scale. There can never be adequate climate policy in one country alone; and there can certainly never be climate justice in one country alone. So how can one link domestic and global climate politics in 2021? Could it be possible to forge a “Pan-American Green New Deal” that centers workers and communities, while deconstructing centuries of American imperialism in the region? Certainly, any move toward continental climate justice will require policymakers, social movement, researchers, and others in the United States to face a Big Question:

How should US-based Green New Dealers—and other advocates of ambitious climate justice action—understand, respond to, and engage with climate politics in other parts of the world?

This panel, “A Pan-American Green New Deal? Green Investment, Extraction Battles, Reforestation,” considers our Big Question in the broad context of climate politics in the Americas. The panel is also part of a broader series, called Democratizing Global Green Investment: Aligning Domestic and International Policies around Green New Deal Principles, which will also feature discussions focused on global climate justice struggles across regions and Chinese climate politics.

The overall context is changing rapidly. This year, we’ve entered a new age of climate geopolitics. The United States is once again committed to massive green investment and some measure of low-carbon ambition. President Biden has outlined four ambitious targets for the United States: carbon neutrality by 2050, a 50% cut in emissions by 2030, a carbon-neutral electric grid by 2035, and 40% of climate investments benefiting disadvantaged communities. As a result of all these measures, the world’s three great economic blocs—the United States, China, and the European Union—which together comprise nearly two thirds of the global economy, are now all committed to carbon neutrality—by 2050 for the US and EU, 2060 for China. And all are committed to prioritizing massive amounts of green investment.

What about Latin America? One idea is the “Big Push” for sustainability framework that is being studied by the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC, or CEPAL in Spanish and Portuguese); this investment-first approach to a green transition has been developed by panelist Camila Gramkow. We know that Brazil, green industrial policy has had some important successes, especially in the wind industry, as our panelist Kathryn Hochstetler has shown. But the question of green transition must also consider the question of extraction, a massively contested process—and discourse—across the continent, on which our panelist Thea Riofrancos has written. And of course, it is impossible for Latin America to slash its greenhouse gas emissions without reversing deforestation in a socially equitable way with Indigenous leadership, especially in the Amazon, which is the life’s work of Beto Veríssimo, co-founder of the great Amazonian organization Imazon.

The series is co-sponsored by the Socio-Spatial Climate Collaborative, or (SC)², Perry World House, the McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology, and the Population Studies Center, all at the University of Pennsylvania. Our media partner is Dissent magazine. And the series is co-organized by Daniel Aldana Cohen, Billy Fleming, Thea Riofrancos, and Kate Aronoff.


photo of Camila Gramkow

Camila Gramkow holds a PhD degree in economics of climate change from the University of East Anglia, UK. She has a master’s degree in economics from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ in Brazil) and a degree in economics from the University of São Paulo (USP in Brazil). She has been working in the sustainability area for more than 10 years. Currently, she is Economic Affairs Officer at the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) at its Office in Brazil.

photo of Thea Riofrancos

Thea Riofrancos is an associate professor of political science at Providence College, an Andrew Carnegie Fellow (2020-2022), and a Radcliffe Institute Fellow (2020-2021). Her research focuses on resource extraction, renewable energy, climate change, green technology, social movements, and the left in Latin America. These themes are explored in her book, Resource Radicals: From Petro-Nationalism to Post-Extractivism in Ecuador (Duke University Press, 2020), her co-authored book, A Planet to Win: Why We Need a Green New Deal (Verso Books, 2019), and academic articles in World Politics, Perspectives on Politics, and Cultural Studies. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Boston Review, The Baffler, n+1, Dissent, Jacobin, among others. She is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and serves on the organization’s Green New Deal Campaign Committee.

photo of Kathryn Hochstetler

Kathryn Hochstetler is Professor and Head of the Department of International Development at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). She has been researching and publishing on environmental politics in South America for three decades. Her work includes studies of social movements, environmental policy, trade agreements like Mercosur, development finance, and participation in international environmental negotiations. Her most recent book is Political Economies of Energy Transition: Wind and Solar Power in Brazil and South Africa (Cambridge, 2021), which pays particular attention to the relationship between economic and environmental aims in the electricity sectors of these emerging powers.

photo of Beto Veríssimo

Beto Veríssimo is a co-founder of Imazon, a think-and-do tank organization based in the Brazilian Amazon founded in 1990. He holds a master degree in Ecology from The Pennsylvania State University (USA) and graduate degree in Agriculture Engineer from the Federal Rural University of the Brazilian Amazon. His work has helped created about 25 million hectares of Conservation Units in the Brazilian Amazon and support forest management for more than 7 million hectares. In the last years he has work on different strategies to reduce the level of deforestation and forest degradation in the Brazilian Amazon. He received several awards including 2010 the Skoll Foundation Award for Social Entrepreneurship. In 2015 he received the Brazilian Award on conservation by Globo Newspaper. He is also co-founder of Amazon Center for Social Entrepreneurship and Affiliated Scholar, Brazil Lab at Princeton University.


Michael Weisberg photo

Michael Weisberg is Senior Faculty Fellow and Director of Post-Graduate Programs at Perry World House, as well as Professor and Chair of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania. He serves as Editor-in-Chief of Biology and Philosophy, advisor to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Nairobi Work Programme, and directs Penn’s campus-wide transdisciplinary research in Galápagos. He is the author of Simulation and Similarity: Using Models to Understand the World and Galápagos: Life in Motion, as well as a contributing author to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 6th Assessment Report. Much of Professor Weisberg’s research is focused on how highly idealized models and simulations can be used to understand complex systems. He also leads efforts to better understanding the interface between humans and wildlife, between humans and the climate system, and how scientific issues are understood by communities in the Americas and in East Asia.


photo of Daniel Aldana Cohen

Daniel Aldana Cohen is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, where he directs the Socio-Spatial Climate Collaborative, or (SC)². He is the co-author of A Planet to Win: Why We Need a Green New Deal (Verso 2019). His research and writing on climate politics in São Paulo, New York, and elsewhere have appeared in Nature, Public Culture, Environmental Politics, The International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, NACLA Report on the Americas, City, The Guardian, The Nation, Dissent, and elsewhere.