BASG Webinar - Environmental Subsidies: Helpful, Harmful or Hopeful?

BASG subsidy event image

The discussion of this topic within the Boston Area Sustainability Group started with reflections on the effectiveness of incentives to accelerate adoption of sustainability-minded solutions (e.g., residential/community solar, electric cars) and the creation of green jobs. That path quickly led organizers to the topic of subsidies and the environment more generally – big and small, well- and poorly-designed, local and broad. What they learned was surprising, and suggested a topic that both has a large impact and that would be useful to share resources, stories, and insights related to subsidies with members. This led to the current event with Doug Koplow of Earth Track and Greg LeRoy of Good Jobs First providing an overview of subsidies; their work to highlight them; and the challenges in ensuring that these subsidies are visible, well targeted, or removed when they are not.

In addition to regulatory approaches, the government uses subsidies (financial or market-based incentives like taxes, loans, exemptions, and guarantees) to address environmental issues. Their outcomes can come with serious tradeoffs and put communities and individuals face to face with industry on what is really best for energy, the environment, the economy, and all those involved. The speakers are deeply involved in unpacking the complexities of these tools and exploring with new transparency how they actually work, where, and to whose benefit. 

As usual, the BASG event begins with a broad overview of subsidies to lay the groundwork of our conversation and follows with more concrete examples of different strategies applied to varying degrees of success. We hope you’ll come away from the evening with a more informed understanding of how subsidies are designed, what to expect in terms of their impact, and strategies to stay informed and influence existing and emerging adoption of these powerful interventions.