State and local governments, along with civil actors, are transforming U.S. energy-climate-society relations according to the Foundation for Renewable Energy & Environment
For Immediate Release
June 14, 2022
New York — Despite national climate and energy policy failure in the United States, the American people, through their state and local governments and regional partnerships, have successfully passed impactful policies to lower national emissions, according to a new paper on the Foundation for Renewable Energy & Environment website.
“Communities are faster-acting and set higher targets than policymakers at the national level,” said John Byrne, lead author. “Co-benefits such as jobs, local development, clean air and water are driving support for clean energy. The political and economic support is proving to be resilient and enduring over the last 20 years. These polycentric initiatives have also shown that principles of justice, sustainably, and affordability can be met in the green economy.”
Read the paper, “American policy conflict in the hothouse: Exploring the politics of climate inaction and polycentric rebellion,” by John Byrne, Job Taminiau, and Joseph Nyangon, which is published in the July issue of Energy Research & Social Science.
Byrne said the Foundation’s team has measured the effect of state and local government laws through 2030 and has concluded that their actions alone have reduced the national carbon footprint by 77 percent by 2030 compared to their absence.
The national cycle of policy conflict in the U.S. so far has only delivered the cancellation of a reliable U.S. climate policy, leading hopeful national policymakers to plead for cooperation with policy deniers. Alternatively, a network of counterparties—which the paper’s authors term “polycentric”—is finding success based on principles of social justice and moral responsibility to mobilize social change.
“We offer supporting empirical evidence of the power of this polycentric counterparty to transform U.S. energy-climate-society relations,” said Byrne.
The paper cites President Trump’s announcement on June 1, 2017, to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change as a continuation of opposition by the national Republican Party to any American climate policy. Fast forward to 2021 on President Biden on his first day in office, January 20, 2021, Biden signed the instrument to bring the United States back into the Paris Agreement and unveiled a national climate action plan, signaling his intention to return the country to negotiations organized under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Biden also signed an Executive Order directing the federal government to use its scale and procurement power to achieve five ambitious goals:
- One hundred percent carbon pollution-free electricity by 2030, at least half of which will be locally supplied clean energy to meet 24/7 demand;
- One hundred percent zero-emission vehicle acquisitions by 2035, including 100 percent zero-emission light-duty vehicle acquisitions by 2027;
- Net-zero emissions from federal procurement no later than 2050, including a Buy Clean policy to promote the use of construction materials with lower embodied emissions;
- A net-zero emissions building portfolio by 2045, including a 50 percent emissions reduction by 2032; and
- Net-zero emissions from overall federal operations by 2050, including a 65 percent emissions reduction by 2030.
In response, the Republican Party declared its goal to prevent the plan from being implemented, exposing a repeating cycle of Democratic Party attempts to fashion a national climate policy continually confronted by successful Republican Party assaults to prevent a national policy from coming into being. Yet, a policy effort at the subnational level has recently confronted the national policy-making-and-undoing cycle in place for nearly 20 years. A polycentric layer has continually created policies designed to overcome the national posture of inaction.
This paper follows the publication of the 2007 article in Energy Policy, “American policy conflict in the greenhouse: Divergent trends in federal, regional, state, and local green energy and climate change policy,” which presented state and local policy movements in the U.S. that contest the federal climate policy stalemate. In the intervening years, the state and local layer has faced new and complex challenges as Republicans have controlled the U.S. Senate. In response, state and local policymaking has evolved as the source of society-wide platforms to counter the destruction of policy at the federal level, while also expanding the aspirations and achievements of the polycentric layer to decarbonize the U.S. economy. The 2007 article predicted that the U.S. would reach 64% and this proactive policy process is now on track to exceed that.
American policy conflict in the hothouse: Exploring the politics of climate inaction and polycentric rebellion.
About the Foundation for Renewable Energy and Environment
The Foundation for Renewable Energy and Environment is a non-profit, international organization based in New York established in 2011 to promote a better future based on energy, water and materials conservation, renewable energy use, environmental resilience, and sustainable livelihoods and environmental justice for all.