To date, climate ambition has been largely hindered by potential trade-offs between climate policy and other goals, such as affordability, competitiveness, job creation, natural resource management, and public health and safety. In response, these authors recommend refocusing policy priorities through a well-being lens to facilitate “two-way alignment” between climate policy and these other objectives. The authors argue that systematically placing people’s well-being—not just their economic welfare, but also their political and social rights, health, education, security, and environment—at the center of decisionmaking will increase political and social support for more ambitious climate action and help overcome barriers to change.
The authors examine five economic sectors in depth: electricity, heavy industry, residential, surface transport, and agriculture. They explain how refocusing policy priorities and adopting indicators to track progress and inform decisions will make trade-offs and areas of potential collaboration more visible and manageable. They also highlight the importance of reconsidering traditional economic indicators—such as wealth, income, or GDP—when evaluating people’s well-being to acknowledge that pursuing purely economic goals can have negative impacts on other aspects of well-being. They point out the potential benefits of establishing priorities across sectors to deliver multiple well-being and sustainability outcomes, which they argue also helps identify opportunities for cooperation and coordination to meet ambitious climate mitigation targets.