In the realm of the climate crisis, where the stakes are high and urgency is paramount, Akshat Rathi’s groundbreaking perspective transcends conventional narratives. In his latest book, “Climate Capitalism,” Rathi explores the intricate interplay between people, policy, and technology as they converge to combat the planet’s escalating temperature. Contrary to the notion that capitalism is the root cause of our environmental predicament, Rathi contends that it is the corruption of capitalism that has led us astray.

Capitalism as a Tool for Environmental Redemption

Rathi passionately argues that capitalism, when harnessed through intelligent policies, can be a potent tool for curbing carbon pollution without dismantling markets or stifling competition. “It is now cheaper to save the world than destroy it,” he asserts, even from a narrowly capitalist perspective. His optimism stems from a global exploration of success stories and failures, where capitalist systems are adapted to redirect financial resources and human efforts away from pollution.

Spotlight on Global Initiatives

The journey takes us from the bustling electric battery capital of Fujian, China, to a sprawling solar plant in drought-ridden Pavagada, India, and finally to the oil and gas heartland of Texas, USA. In each case, Rathi illustrates how capitalism is being molded to combat pollution effectively.

In the United States, the Inflation Reduction Act exemplifies the government’s commitment to funding clean technologies. The legislation represents a paradigm shift, where substantial financial backing is allocated to innovations that hold the promise of a greener future. This initiative mirrors a broader trend in the United States, where the emphasis on environmental responsibility is growing.

Meanwhile, in Europe, the European Union combines punitive measures against polluters with subsidies for cleaner alternatives. This multifaceted approach, although accompanied by bureaucratic challenges, underscores the EU’s dedication to fostering sustainability. While the financial commitment might be less substantial than in the US, the continent’s broader support for climate action sets an example for the rest of the world.

China’s unique brand of capitalism, driven by a nationalistic agenda, positions it as a global leader in electric vehicles and batteries. The Communist party’s strategic investment in national companies, coupled with an openness to private investment and entrepreneurial ventures, has catapulted China to the forefront of the clean energy revolution. Rathi notes, “The Chinese form of capitalism is very jingoistic. It’s aimed at creating national champions that can serve Chinese demand first and foremost, but then go out and satisfy global demand.” This approach showcases how a nation can leverage capitalism for environmental goals while maintaining a focus on its own economic interests.

India’s Unique Capitalistic Landscape

However, it is India that provides a particularly relevant case study. With its less developed economy rooted in socialist traditions, India strives to attract global investors despite challenges such as corruption and weak governance. Rathi draws attention to the hurdles he faced when attempting to install solar panels on his parents’ home in Nashik, highlighting the infrastructure and governance issues that hinder progress.

India’s attempt to navigate the intricacies of capitalism while dealing with corruption and weak governance encapsulates the challenges faced by many developing economies. Rathi’s personal experience underscores how even with a willingness to adopt cleaner technologies, the systemic issues in governance and infrastructure can impede the swift implementation of environmentally friendly solutions.

Challenges in the Global Adoption of Clean Energy

Despite the plummeting costs of solar panels, Rathi emphasizes the persistent challenges faced by households and businesses in Asia, Africa, and South America. The upfront costs remain high, particularly in regions where banks are reluctant to provide loans. Developing countries, in particular, require private sector assistance to navigate these hurdles and effectively combat the climate crisis.

Developing countries often find themselves caught in a paradox – while the price of solar panels has reached unprecedented lows, the upfront costs remain a formidable barrier. This is especially true in regions where financial institutions are hesitant to extend loans for clean energy initiatives. Rathi aptly points out that the cost of capital for a large solar farm is significantly higher in emerging economies compared to advanced economies or China, according to the International Energy Agency.

Rathi insists that the success or failure of the global climate effort hinges on the lessons learned from countries like India and China. He underscores the importance of demonstrating that clean energy technologies can scale in these nations and, subsequently, be applied in other regions such as South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria.

The Generational Progress and Future Challenges

Reflecting on his own life and generational progress, Rathi acknowledges the positive impact of fossil fuels and capitalism in lifting millions out of poverty. However, he warns against complacency, noting the reversal of some progress indicators, such as increasing hunger and poverty rates. Life expectancy, too, faces uncertainties given the impending climate impacts and migration.

The generational progress that Rathi reflects upon is a testament to the transformative power of fossil fuels and capitalism. His family’s journey, from grandparents who could never have dreamed of attending university to his father, who could provide a better life through education, exemplifies the positive impacts of these forces. However, Rathi’s cautionary note reminds us that progress is not guaranteed, especially in the face of climate change.

Profiles of Change-Makers

The book profiles individuals shaping the course of capitalism towards a more sustainable future. From Chinese bureaucrat Wan Gang, whose influence on electric cars rivals that of Elon Musk, to Farhana Yamin, a lawyer instrumental in crafting environmental laws, these actors represent a middle path between anti-capitalism and unbridled markets. Rathi argues that this practical approach can be achieved swiftly, mitigating the dire environmental consequences we face.

Wan Gang’s influence in China’s electric vehicle and battery industry highlights the pivotal role of government officials in driving clean energy initiatives. In many ways, his impact is compared to that of Elon Musk, showcasing how individuals within a nation’s bureaucracy can shape the course of environmental progress.

Farhana Yamin’s commitment to environmental law and activism underscores the role of legal frameworks in holding corporations accountable for their environmental impact. Her dedication, exemplified by physically attaching herself to the floor outside the offices of an oil giant, speaks to the urgency required in addressing environmental concerns.

A Practical Path to Environmental Redemption

Rathi insists that the experiences outlined in his book depict a middle path between anti-capitalism and unfettered markets. It is a practical approach that can be reached faster than the former and pollute less than the latter. This nuanced perspective acknowledges the complexities of our global economic system while emphasizing the need for swift and meaningful change.


As we navigate the complex terrain of climate change, Rathi’s “Climate Capitalism” provides a refreshing perspective—one that envisions capitalism not as an enemy but as a potential ally in the fight against climate change. By reshaping capitalism through smart policies and global collaboration, we can pave the way for a sustainable future. The stories of success and failure woven throughout the narrative offer valuable insights, proving that a practical and purposeful approach to capitalism can indeed lead us to a greener, more resilient planet.