Climate Change, Federalism, and Promoting Technological Change

This chapter of Beyond Environmental Law: Policy Proposals for a Better Environmental Future examines the level of government—state versus federal—at which an Environmental Competition Statute could be most effectively implemented.  After years of inaction, the federal government is now debating legislation to address climate change. Recent federal action follows a period of rapid policy development by state and local governments.  In the absence of strong federal leadership, a growing number of states have filled the void in climate policy with a broad array of programs, including regulation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from vehicles and power plants, renewable energy mandates, GHG emissions registries, and energy-efficiency initiatives.  The question Adelman addresses is how state initiatives can operate in conjunction with federal programs to induce the technological change needed to mitigate climate change.  This chapter seeks to refocus attention on the independently valuable objective of inducing technological change through measures like an Environmental Competition Statute. It then explores several avenues for state to induce technological change, whether through technological innovations or adoption of existing technologies.  Market dynamics will differ according to whether states adopt policies in the shadows of federal legislation or instead act alone; both scenarios are examined herein.  The chapter demonstrates that technology-forcing laws such as an Environmental Competition Statute, can be effectively implemented by state and federal governments.  It concludes with specific recommendations for harmonizing state and federal climate change policies.

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