The Climate Seminar at BESI | Spring 2024

The Climate Seminar at the Berkeley Economy and Society Initiative (BESI) brings leading scholars of the political economy of climate change to UC Berkeley for hybrid talks and conversations. The Seminar is co-sponsored by the Socio-Spatial Climate Collaborative, or (SC)2, and organized by Daniel Aldana Cohen. In Spring 2024, we will have three events, all from 12:00-1:30pm PT. Each event will be moderated by Daniel Aldana Cohen, Assistant Professor of Sociology and the Director of (SC)2, UC Berkeley.

brett christophers

The Price Is Wrong: Why Capitalism Won’t Save The Planet

March 12, 2024, 12:00pm-1:30pm PT

Brett Christophers, Professor at Department of Human Geography, Professor at Institute for Housing and Urban Research, Uppsala University.


Camila Gramkow

Public Investment For Climate And Social Goals: An Agenda For Brazil And Latin America

April 23, 2024, 12:00pm-1:30pm PT

Camila Gramkow, Director a.i. of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Brazil Office


The National Investment Authority: An Institutional Blueprint and Implications for Climate Policy

April 30, 2024, 12:00pm-1:30pm PT

Saule Omarova, Beth and Marc Goldberg Professor of Law, Cornell University


Core Themes: New Struggles Over The Scale, Speed, And Control Of Green Investment

For the foreseeable future, the political economy of climate change will be the story of massive investments to transform the built environment for decarbonization and adaptation, while likely seeking to accommodate legacy interests including the fossil fuel industry. Some will endeavor to increase equity and democracy through green investment; others will be comfortable preserving inequalities. Some will try to move faster; others to slow down change. This will be a planetary upheaval—and an uneven one. 

Scholarship in this area will include a mix of passive and constructive research agendas—from stepping back and observing to proposing paths forward. To get a handle on this epochal shift we need to focus on the intersection of—and tensions between—public and private investment, with an orientation to large-scale transformation. 

The goal of the Spring 2024 seminar is to invite prominent thinkers who are struggling to make sense of all this change, who are working in the field of political economy broadly construed, and whose work exemplifies some of this seminar series’s core themes. For those of us obsessed with struggles for justice, democracy, and equity, we need to understand the changing investment landscape at the coming scale, and in its most likely near-term institutional contexts. 

Since this is a global process, we are inviting speakers from three continents, each working at the interface of academic research and public policy. The first event will raise questions about the viability of decarbonization largely financed by the private sector under capitalism. The second two events will explore frameworks for more muscular public participation in the green transition, in the contexts of the Global North and South.