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Kirsten H. Engel

Starting in the 1990s, states began filling the gap left by the federal government’s failure to enact climate change legislation. Policies adopted by states, such as regional greenhouse gas cap-and-trade regimes and renewable portfolio standards, have been lauded as demonstrations of the continuing ingenuity of the states as ‘laboratories of democracy’, devising new and innovative solutions to the global problem of climate change. This view is in tension with the predictions of well-respected economists that states will innovate at sub-optimal levels due to the risk-averse nature of politicians and the ability of one state to free-ride off the innovative ideas of other states. This chapter concludes that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. While state governments are the original source of only a few of the most touted climate policy initiatives, they are frequently the first to adapt a policy previously adopted only on the national level. As opposed to ‘policy innovators’, state and local governments might more accurately be described as ‘scale innovators’. Given the overarching necessity of cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions, policy adoption on multiple scales is arguably of greater social value than developing new and original policy tools.

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Kirsten H Engel

Since Congress exploded onto the scene in the 1970s with several major pieces of environmental legislation, federalism has been a fixture of environmental policy debates. Prior to this time, environmental regulation had been left largely to state and local control. Since then, scholars and policymakers have debated the justifications for a strong federal role and the manner that authority should be allocated between states and the federal government. Scholars have divided more or less into two camps: those that support allocations designed to achieve efficiency according to models of perfect competition, and those identifying benefits of a more dynamic and overlapping relationship between state and federal authorities. Interestingly, the actual practice of environmental federalism, as seen in the major federal environmental statutes, has tended not to follow either model exactly. Recent indications, however, signal a trend toward the dynamic model. A case in point is the duplication, overlap and incorporation of state-level climate change policy into federal law.
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H Engel Kirsten

Abstract Since the early 2000s, many US states and local governments have functioned as policy leaders with respect to climate change mitigation, instituting programmes and laws to reduce greenhouse gases and adapt to climate change impacts. States and local governments are active in climate policymaking in many countries with federal systems of government, but significant differences exist between the alacrity of national governments to adopt these local measures and apply them as national law. This chapter will explore this suite of issues arising from the state-led climate federalism paradigm. It will canvas the problems posed, the solutions offered, the long-term prospects for this alternative federalism paradigm and the degree to which insights drawn from US federalism is relevant and consistent with the experience of climate policymaking in other countries with federal systems of government.