The Domestic Politics of Global Climate Change

The Domestic Politics of Global Climate Change

Key Actors in International Climate Cooperation

New Horizons in Environmental Politics series

Edited by Guri Bang, Arild Underdal and Steinar Andresen

Why are some countries more willing and able than others to engage in climate change mitigation? The Domestic Politics of Global Climate Change compiles insights from experts in comparative politics and international relations to describe and explain climate policy trajectories of seven key actors: Brazil, China, the European Union, India, Japan, Russia, and the United States. Using a common conceptual framework, the authors find that ambitious climate policy change is limited by stable material parameters and that governmental supply of mitigation policies meet (or even exceed) societal demand in most cases. Given the important roles that the seven actors play in addressing global climate change, the book’s in-depth comparative analysis will help readers assess the prospects for a new and more effective international climate agreement for 2020 and beyond.

Chapter 8: The United States: Obama’s push for climate policy change

Guri Bang

Subjects: environment, climate change, environmental politics and policy, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy, international politics


The position of the United States in international climate negotiations has for 25 years been one of caution due to lack of a comprehensive federal climate policy. What are the drivers and barriers for realizing the Obama administration’s proposed climate policy changes? The USA is the world’s second biggest emitter of GHGs, with ample domestic coal, shale gas and shale oil reserves. Increased use of natural gas replacing coal in the power sector resulted in declining levels of energy-related CO2 emissions from 2009 onwards. Deep reliance on fossil fuel energy, in combination with intense polarization between Republicans and Democrats on climate policy issues, strong opposition to climate action from key stakeholder groups, and lack of public pressure to act on the problem are the most important barriers to an ambitious domestic climate policy in the United States. Despite these profound barriers, the Obama administration proposed significant changes in the approach to climate change policy. Obama used his executive powers to develop new regulations aimed at cutting CO2 emissions through existing law. As a result, state-specific CO2 regulations for power plants are being developed for the first time in the USA. While public pressure for more federal climate action has slowly increased in step with the recovery of the US economy after the financial crisis, deep disagreements that have dominated US climate policy deliberations among federal law-makers over the past 20 years persist.

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