Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Home | Support RFF | Join E-mail List | Contact
RFF Logo
Skip navigation links
RESEARCH TOPICS
CENTERS
PUBLICATIONS
NEWS
EVENTS
RESEARCHERS
ABOUT RFF
 

 

 
Join E-mail List
Please provide your e-mail address to receive periodic newsletters and invitations to public events
 
 

Rethinking Environmental Federalism in a Warming World
RFF Feature
February 6, 2012

Capitol Dome
While Congress has stalled in passing comprehensive climate change legislation, several states and localities have taken steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Many authors emphasize that national standards are essential for ensuring efficient, cost-effective climate policy. And most analysis has focused almost exclusively on national policy and even on harmonizing climate policies across countries, implicitly assuming that synthesizing such policies at the subnational level would be mandated or guaranteed.

In a new discussion paper, William Shobe and RFF Senior Fellow Dallas Burtraw argue that the federal relationship between national and subnational layers of government should not be taken for granted— that it provides a crucial context for the design and implementation of cost-effective and ultimately successful climate policy. A strong policy strategy will diverge in important ways from notions that assume a unitary government and fail to recognize the interaction among the multiple layers of decisionmaking relevant to climate policy.

Rather than try to reign in the historic prerogatives of subnational entitities, comprehensive policy should take advantage of subnational autonomy, according to the authors. In a federal system, the information and incentives generated at the national level must pass through various layers of subnational fiscal and regulatory policy. Those signals are often distorted or muted before they reach actors in the public and private sectors at state and local levels of government—where planning and investment decisions build the infrastructure that society as a whole will inheret as it addresses climate policy challenges over this century. Effective policy design must recognize both the constraints and the opportunities presented by a federal structure of government; as Shobe and Burtraw point out, policies that take advantage of the federal structure of government can improve climate governance outcomes.

RFF Home | RFF Press: An Imprint of Routledge Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Copyright Notice
1616 P St. NW, Washington, DC 20036 · 202.328.5000 Feedback | Contact Us