How Do We Move Beyond a Politics of Limits in International Development?

"Pulling Up the Ladder" at Ecomodernism 2022

For all the talk about the need for an abundance agenda in the United States, it is all too easy to forget the relative abundance we already enjoy in rich countries, and the lack of anything comparable in low- and middle-income economies. Worse still, building industrial, abundant energy, and agricultural infrastructure in poor countries is increasingly stifled by constraints imposed by trade and development finance policies in the United States and Western Europe.

This has been called “pulling up the ladder,” an apt metaphor to describe limiting investment in fossil fuels, industrial agriculture, hydroelectric and nuclear power, and other technologies taken for granted in the wealthy world but largely out of reach for poorer countries. This panel will describe a number of ways such restrictions constrain development and growth abroad, how authoritarian regimes take advantage of the situation, and what a more equitable and abundance-oriented international policy would look like.


  • Robert Paarlberg, Associate, Sustainability Science, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Shayak Sengupta, Fellow, Observer Research Foundation America
  • Maia Sparkman, Assistant Director, Global Energy Center, Atlantic Council
  • Amanda Glassman, Executive Vice President, CEO of CGD Europe, and Senior Fellow Center for Global Development