Environmental Regulation in Cities and Other Localities
The IUCN Academy of Environmental Law series
Edited by Benjamin J. Richardson
Chapter 5: US Municipal Climate Plans: What Role Will Cities Play in Climate Change Mitigation?
Melissa Powers* 1. INTRODUCTION For the past two decades, municipalities throughout the United States have been developing and implementing local climate action plans designed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from US cities.1 As the US government moves away from efforts to pass comprehensive climate change legislation, and as some states have retreated from their previous commitments to reduce GHG emissions,2 local government efforts have taken on increased importance in reducing American GHG emissions. Despite this trend, however, one may reasonably question whether local governments can play a meaningful role in effectively reducing emissions and mitigating climate change. Climate change, after all, is a global problem subject to significant leakage concerns that may render local action ineffective when measured against global GHG increases.3 What role can cities in the United States realistically play in confronting the massive problem of global climate change and how have US cities done so far in their efforts to address climate change? A review of the scholarship and an evaluation of various cities’ efforts demonstrate that local governments can meaningfully affect daily actions that contribute to global climate change. At first glance, it may appear that the * The author thanks Benjamin Richardson for his helpful comments and for organizing a very engaging workshop about local climate law. Thanks also to Paige Spence for her helpful research assistance and Shari Lachin for editing help. 1 Zhenghong Tang et al., ‘Moving from Agenda to Action: Evaluating Local Climate Change Action Plans’ (2010) 53(1) Journal of...
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