With Congress poised to begin deliberating national climate change legislation this fall, states across the country are anxious to see how the federal government will look at state climate change efforts. Mindful of the role state “laboratories” have traditionally played in federal policy development, WRI undertook an historical analysis to determine the factors of state policies that have most strongly influenced previous federal policy efforts such as gun control, welfare reform, vehicle emissions and nitrogen oxide trading, among others.
“Climate change is an international crisis, and the U.S. is far behind other countries in drafting a national strategy,” said Dr. Jonathan Pershing, co-author of Climate Policy in the State Laboratory and director of the Climate, Energy and Pollution Program at WRI. “Fortunately, climate change policy experiments have been taking place in the state laboratory for the past five years. The lessons states are learning can support federal policy that mitigates climate change, creates jobs and opportunity in the US and helps diversify our energy sources.”
WRI’s analysis and recommendations are detailed in Climate Policy in the State Laboratory: How States Influence Federal Regulation and the Implications for Climate Change Policy in the United States, a white paper released today for public officials, business representatives, and non-government experts.
WRI’s recommendations, based on the analysis, to states that wish to influence federal legislation on climate change policy include:
- States should support investment in communication programs to allow state experts to speak in public forums and provide testimony on state policy goals.
- States should not delay their own policy design and implementation. State policy action taken today is more likely to inform and shape federal outcomes.
- States should disseminate analyses, modeling, forecasts, and program data to better inform the federal policy debate.
- Collective, coordinated action at the state level can lead to reductions and infrastructure investments that help smooth the transition to a clean, low-carbon economy.
- State climate policy stakeholder processes that engage, and educate the business community as well as leverage business experiences may help ensure business support and speed policy adoption.
Two current state-level policy experiments appear to be poised to have a profound effect on U.S. federal climate change policy, according to WRI’s analysis: the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and California’s greenhouse gas vehicle standards, also known as the 2002 “Pavley bill.” These initiatives possess factors that WRI identified as most influential, such as a push by state champions, and their potential to serve as examples from which other states can easily learn.
These, and other environmental cases WRI examined, suggest that a future federal policy may employ some form of partial federal preemption that would establish minimum guidelines for states to follow in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This, in turn, suggests that the states could play a leading role in greenhouse gas regulation and innovation for decades to come.
“The state laboratory phenomenon is a fundamental part of our federal form of governance,” said Dr. Paul Posner, an expert on federalism at George Mason University and a co-author of the WRI analysis. “It is no mistake that the Founding Fathers created a system by which the more politically maneuverable state governments could experiment with policy issues too politically charged or legislatively complex for the federal government to act on
Copies of the paper can be downloaded at: http://www.wri.org/climate/pubs_description.cfm?pid=4145.
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