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States on Steroids: The Intergovernmental Odyssey of American Climate Policy

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Abstract

Climate change has conventionally been framed as an issue that would be addressed by an international regime established through negotiation among nation-states. The experience of policy development in the decade following the signing of the Kyoto Protocol indicates that climate change also needs to be examined as a challenge of multilevel governance. The increasingly central role of state governments in American climate policy formation squares with recent experience in other Western democracies that share authority across governmental levels. This paper examines the American experience, considering factors that have contributed to a state-centric policy process and using that body of experience to assess competing strategic choices faced by individual states based on their mix of emission trends and policy adoption rates. In turn, the collective state experience allows for consideration of the varied political feasibility of competing climate policy tools that remain under active review in subnational, national, and international contexts. The paper concludes with a set of scenarios that explore different ways in which a state-centric system may be integrated with expanding involvement at the national level.

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