Managing Water and Climate Change in Europe and North America
Edited by Inger Weibust and James Meadowcroft
Chapter 7: Bottom-up versus top-down: the evolving American climate policy odyssey
Three of America's most prominent political leaders gathered in May 2009 on the White House lawn to announce an intergovernmental pact on climate change. President Barack Obama declared a new agreement on vehicle fuel efficiency and tailpipe emissions of carbon dioxide, establishing stringent new national standards intended to reduce American greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the transportation sector. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger beamed his consent, as this step represented the formal federal government embrace of legislation passed seven years earlier in Sacramento and later backed by 14 other states. Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm was also on hand to endorse the deal, even though her state had earlier opposed the efforts of other states to go into the federal courts to seek such a decision. This tableau underscores the fact that climate change policy has increasingly - and unexpectedly - assumed an intergovernmental dimension. This is true in formal federations such as the United States as well as for other governments around the world that foster some degree of cross-level governance. Of course, this challenges much conventional analysis, as climate change was long framed as anything other than an intergovernmental issue. Since its initial arrival on both the international and American domestic agendas in the 1970s and 1980s, climate change has been commonly presumed to entail a dominant role for major national powers that would cobble together a multinational pact to be implemented by an international regime.
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