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American policy conflict in the hothouse: Exploring the politics of climate inaction and polycentric rebellion



In 2021, the U.S. government unveiled a national climate action plan, signaling the Biden Administration's intention to return the country to negotiations organized under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The plan would zero out CO2 emissions from the U.S. energy sector by mid-century. In response, the national opposition party quickly declared its goal to prevent the plan from being implemented, exposing a cycle of American climate policy inaction in which cancel politics are practiced by the Republican Party after the Democratic Party attempts to fashion a national compromise. The pattern has been repeated for decades with a common result: U.S. failure to sustain a responsive national policy to the climate crisis. However, while the U.S. ‘hothouse’ of national policy conflict is unmoved by overwhelming evidence of American impact in the global greenhouse, a third party (led by alliances of social movements with state and local governments) has emerged that is aggressively designing, enacting and enforcing responsive policies far exceeding the aims of a national plan that appears to have no future. We offer a theory to explain American national climate policy inaction and its contestation by an American “polycentric” counterparty, arguing that polycentric success in this contest can be traced to its focus on principles of social justice and moral responsibility to mobilize social change and to gauge its effectiveness. We offer supporting empirical findings of the power of this polycentric counterparty to transform U.S. energy-climate-society relations.
Energy Research & Social Science 89 (2022) 102551
Available online 20 April 2022
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American policy conict in the hothouse: Exploring the politics of climate
inaction and polycentric rebellion
John Byrne
, Job Taminiau
, Joseph Nyangon
Center for Energy and Environmental Policy, University of Delaware, Newark, DE, USA
Foundation for Renewable Energy and Environment, New York City, NY, USA
Climate change
Policy conict
US climate policy
In 2021, the U.S. government unveiled a national climate action plan, signaling the Biden Administration's
intention to return the country to negotiations organized under the UN Framework Convention on Climate
Change. The plan would zero out CO
emissions from the U.S. energy sector by mid-century. In response, the
national opposition party quickly declared its goal to prevent the plan from being implemented, exposing a cycle
of American climate policy inaction in which cancel politics are practiced by the Republican Party after the
Democratic Party attempts to fashion a national compromise. The pattern has been repeated for decades with a
common result: U.S. failure to sustain a responsive national policy to the climate crisis. However, while the U.S.
‘hothouseof national policy conict is unmoved by overwhelming evidence of American impact in the global
greenhouse, a third party (led by alliances of social movements with state and local governments) has emerged
that is aggressively designing, enacting and enforcing responsive policies far exceeding the aims of a national
plan that appears to have no future. We offer a theory to explain American national climate policy inaction and
its contestation by an American polycentriccounterparty, arguing that polycentric success in this contest can
be traced to its focus on principles of social justice and moral responsibility to mobilize social change and to
gauge its effectiveness. We offer supporting empirical ndings of the power of this polycentric counterparty to
transform U.S. energy-climate-society relations.
1. Introduction
On June 1, 2017, the Ofce of the U.S. President formally announced
the country's intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on
Climate Change, stating the national government would cease all
implementation of the non-binding Paris Accord and the draconian
nancial and economic burdens the agreement imposes [1]. Ignoring
the oxymoron in its declaration, the Trump Administration began its
contribution to the now well-established opposition by the national
Republican Party to any American climate policy.
Over the last thirty
years, elections of Republican presidents, supported by Party leaders in
the U.S. Senate and House, have immediately and continuously attacked
the reality of anthropogenic climate change and the very idea of a policy
to avert a climate crisis. Diverging Republican voices urging climate
action have repeatedly been marginalized and, in some cases, ousted
from the Party [2,3].
The attacks carried out by Republican Party presidents have relied on
three strategies since the 1992 Earth Summit: 1) whole-cloth rejection of
scientic ndings as a basis for policy formation, claiming without ev-
idence that science is divided on the existence of human ability to cause
climate change; 2) outright hostility by Party leadership to any effort to
raise concerns about systemic climate injustice; and 3) vigorous denial
of any possible moral responsibility for the social and environmental
violence caused by the Party's political intransigence.
The Trump administration added pitch to this three-prong strategy,
openly declaring it would vigorously act to cancel any vestige of a U.S.
or, for that matter, international climate policy. Troubling many U.S.
allies, President Trump announced he wanted an entirely new trans-
actionto replace the Paris Agreement ([1], italics added by the au-
thors). The Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on
Climate Change (UNFCCC) responded, stating that the Paris Agreement
cannot be renegotiated based on the request of a single Party[4]. In
* Corresponding author at: Foundation for Renewable Energy & Environment, New York, NY, USA.
E-mail address: (J. Byrne).
The term ‘climate policyis used in this paper to mean policy or legislation whose stated purpose is to specically address climate change and reduce greenhouse
gas emissions.
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Energy Research & Social Science
journal homepage:
Received 4 August 2021; Received in revised form 12 February 2022; Accepted 20 February 2022
Energy Research & Social Science 89 (2022) 102551
November 2019, the U.S. delivered notice to the UNFCCC that the
country would exit the Paris Agreement on November 4, 2020 the
earliest date possible under Paris Agreement stipulations [5]. The harsh
tone of the Trump administration was lamented by a few members of the
Party but the underlying political stance adopted across three Repub-
lican presidencies was not questioned. It should be remembered that, in
1992, a Republican U.S. president declared: The American way of life is
not up for negotiation. Period.([6], see also [7]).
The 2020 election of a Democratic Party president has ushered in the
companion response that continues the cycle of American policy con-
ict in the greenhouse[8]. The Biden Administration has returned the
U.S. to the Paris Agreement and is preparing a national climate policy
that would put the country on a course to zero out carbon dioxide (CO
emissions from its energy sector by mid-century or sooner [9]. So far, the
aspirations of every Democratic Administration have not led to a na-
tional policy, even when the Party controlled both branches of the U.S.
Congress. Instead, a third actor in the conict state and local gov-
ernments in partnership with civil society driving them (documented
below) is the owner of actual climate policy achievement in the U.S.
Despite national policy failure every year since the vote against the
McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act, the polycentric layer has
invented policy tools that potentially lower 2030 national emissions by
77% (see Fig. 6).
And so, we have a repeating cycle in the U.S. case of Democratic
Party attempts to fashion a national climate policy continually con-
fronted 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 (dened below)
has continually created policies designed to overcome the national
posture of inaction.
With the benet of 14 years of observation and reection since
publication of American policy conict in the greenhouse [8], we
argue in this palimpsest that: 1) the national cycle of policy conict in
the U.S. so far has only delivered cancellation of a reliable U.S. climate
policy, leading hopeful national policy makers to desperately plead for
cooperation with policy deniers whose measure of success appears to be
ever more ruthless destruction of policy hope; and 2) a growing poly-
centric strategy that is building an institutional fabric based on princi-
ples of social justice, environmental sustainability and moral
responsibility, and installing new governance paradigms tasking politics
and economics to meet these aims, rather than those espoused by the
national policy ‘cyclists.
We identify two ‘waves of the polycentric response: sub-national
efforts from roughly 2001 to 2014 that sought to overcome American
policy stalemate; and a second wave from 2014 to 2021 evolving to
challenge American federal policy destruction by building a polycentric
governance system (dened below) that effectively negates national
policy destruction.
We offer a theory of American policy conict, supported by empirical
ndings, that depicts cancel politics (dened below) at the U.S. federal
level; and the rise of a polycentric movement dening a politics and
economics of transformation [10,11] that searches for how to negate
existing national policy paralysis. The latter explicitly resists challenges
and seeks to displace intransigence. We measure an even greater impact
on U.S. carbon emissions from polycentric transformation since the
2007 effort [8] (described in detail in Section 5.3). We stress that policy
transformation at this layer intends to go beyond changes in American
carbon emissions per se. Indeed, the argument here is that the poly-
centric strategy targets an overhaul in institutions of governance and
power rst and foremost, rather than the adoption of policies focused on
affecting greenhouse chemistry alone. Simply stated, we suggest that the
polycentric strategy over the last 15 years has shifted, with a focus on
changing the political economy of climate-society relations (by which
we mean the displacement of ‘cornucopian political economywith one
committed to ‘just sustainabilities) [12,13].
The implications of this movement for global action and the possi-
bility of nding alliances with initiatives in Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin
America, etc. are left to another paper.
2. Methods
2.1. Advanced review
An advanced review of published work on the topics of our paper was
prepared. Our approach included an inventory of previously docu-
mented conicts between state and local level efforts on the one hand
and U.S. national policy conditions on the other hand. This inventory
was used to prepare our characterization of the deepening rift in climate
and energy policy ambition, achievements, and motivation at the U.S.
national and local levels. The inventory was used to identify publicly
available data in order to build a method for measuring past and ongoing
climate and energy performance at the national, regional, state, and
local level. Forms of governance, strategies of inclusion, and justice
principles were recorded in the advanced review and during the in-
ventory. The advanced review and inventory of performance were then
used to characterize the evidence and resulted in a new explanation of
the political economy of conict in the U.S.
2.2. Policy analysis
Carbon impacts traceable to formal policies of states and localities
were measured in a manner that used, updated and improved upon the
analysis found in the original paper [8]. State-wide policy diffusion
patterns were determined by year of policy adoption (see Fig. 2). To
compare actions between cities and the U.S. as a whole, we linearized
policy ambition and achievements. Policy objectives with target dates
before or after 2025 were linearly connected with known conditions in
2005 to establish policy ambition by 2025. A similar process was fol-
lowed for policy achievements (see Fig. 4).
2.3. Data
To support the paper's analyses, relevant energy, emissions, and
policy status data were collected, relying on platforms provided by the
Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efciency (DSIRE),
several databases created and updated by the U.S. Energy Information
Administration (EIA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),
and the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). State-specic information,
such as the performance of the RGGI cap-and-trade system, or policy- or
innovation-specic information, such as the performance of sub-
national efforts in California and Massachusetts, were added by
consulting databases kept at the state and local levels. Figs. 1 and 3 were
built directly from available secondary data. Fig. 5 required the use of
sources from the nance sector and government to prepare and display
comparable trends by investment category.
2.4. Modeling
The paper includes a model to measure recent and potential impacts
of American subnational policy on U.S. CO
emissions during the rst
and second ‘wavesof polycentric policy development. It relies on a
counterfactual strategy for dening ‘business-as-usual (BAU) and then
measuring policy impact [14]. Details of this model can be found in an
We wish to stress that our concern here is not party politics but the evolving
and strengthening ability of polycentric efforts to restrict and even override
national policy paralysis in the U.S.
J. Byrne et al.
Energy Research & Social Science 89 (2022) 102551
online data repository [15]. The results are described in Section 5.3 of
the paper.
3. A theory to explain American cancel politics and the rise of
polycentric political economy in the case of U.S. climate policy
We suggest that an understanding of two political dynamics is
needed to explain American climate policy failure/success. The rst
concerns tactics to cancel the opportunity to vote. These tactics domi-
nate in attempts to create a national policy in the U.S. (see section 3.1).
The second regards a strengthening polycentricpolitical economy that
relies on sub-national actors to formulate and implement climate policy
(see sections 3.2 and 3.3).
3.1. Non-voting
The American Republican Party has sustained a consistent policy
position regarding the countrys engagement in world climate negotia-
tions for more than two decades. Its presidential candidates and lead-
ership of the U.S. Senate have pursued a strategy of non-cooperation and
have embraced a hostile view of American communities who disagree
[4446]. Every policy proposal to cut national greenhouse emissions
introduced since 2003 has been ‘libustered, a technique used by the
Republican Party in the U.S. Senate without exception to halt debate, no
matter the nature, extent or methods of reduction that a proposed
climate policy contained. The idea of having policy was rejected
outright, regardless of content.
National proposals for a climate policy have garnered insufcient
Republican support for 20 years. Several attempts to pass the McCain
(Republican) - Lieberman (Independent) Climate Stewardship Act (CSA)
failed during 20032007. In 2003, there were six Republican senators
voting for the bill. In 2007, the bill failed to make it out of committee.
Similarly, the Sanders (Independent) Boxer (Democrat) Global
Warming Pollution Reduction Act (GWPRA) was introduced in the U.S.
Senate but never voted on. The American Clean Energy and Security Act
of 2009 was supported by only eight Republicans in the U.S. House and
was denied a vote in the U.S. Senate by Republican Party leaders. Two
additional efforts in 2013, the Climate Protection Act and the Sustain-
able Energy Act, likewise failed to make it out of committee.
Repeated marginalization of the scientic consensus regarding
climate change by Republican leaders further afrms the partys
uncompromising opposition. Republican U.S. Senator McConnell said in
2014 that [f]or everybody who thinks its warming, I can nd some-
body who thinks it isnt[47]. And presidential candidate Donald
Trump in 2016 dismissed the combined weight of empirical and
modeled evidence as a hoax [48]. The Republican Party platform for
2020 explicitly rejected the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement,
demanded an immediate haltto U.S. funding of the UNFCCC, and
argued that seeing climate change as a national security priority is the
triumph of extremism over common sense, and Congress must stop it
The unyielding opposition of the U.S. Republican Party, including
all of its recently elected presidents since at least 1992, combined with
the inability of the U.S. Democratic Party to build a national policy
stance that can overcome Republican Party refusals to act, has practi-
cally guaranteed that total policy failure will remain a feature of U.S.
national climate debate [44].
3.2. Local action is becoming global action
U.S. federal policy failure is contested by tactics at the sub-national
level to promote climate policies [8]. A ‘polycentric strategy is devel-
oping a favorable politics and economics supporting greenhouse emis-
sions constraint that is material and offers some hope of changing the
American policy landscape. In the Byrne et al. 2007 paper, it was found
that polycentricism's impact would amount to a 65% decrease in what
would otherwise be an American greenhouse emissions increase in 2020
[[8]: 4566]. A network is now forming at this layer to strengthen the
national impact. For example, U.S. cities have entered local, regional
and international climate and energy governance interventions acting as
cooperating units [1922]. The observation that the U.S. is home to an
active movement of local governance and innovation has since become a
generally accepted fact of U.S. climate and energy policy analysis
Sub-national governments and civil society actors have also gained
prominence in global climate policy dynamics. This is underlined in a
recent assessment of the Paris Agreement: the post-Paris climate regime
sees sub/non-state actors not as an alternative to the [UNFCCC] process,
or as merely a helpful addition, but as a core element of its logic of
spurring rising action on climate over time [26]. One example of this
core elementin action has been the participation in the Non-State
Actor Zone for Climate Action: at least 2021 cities, representing 7.3%
of the global population, submitted climate action commitments
through the United Nations-sanctioned platform [27,28]. The promi-
nence of sub-national actors has since been repeatedly underscored
[29]. As a case in point, Kona et al. [30] reviewed the activities of the
Covenant of Mayors an international network of local governance and
innovation with over 10,000 signatories. Their review reveals an ability
by sub-national and non-state actors to lead the way to emission
reduction pathways consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5 C.
3.2. Polycentric governance
In this paper, Ostrom's compelling conceptualization of polycentric
governance [31,32] is used as a guide to parsing the American climate
policy conict. Ostrom characterized polycentric systems as:
“…multiple governing authorities at different scales rather than a
mono-centric unit. Each unit within a polycentric system exercises
considerable independence to make norms and rules within a specic
domain (such as a local government, a network of local govern-
ments )
[[31]: 552]
Frustrated by the lack of progress at the global stage on climate issues,
Ostrom called for investigation of polycentric governance in a series of
publications [31,32], opening a line of inquiry that many researchers
have pursued [26,29,3336]. The idea of a climate change response in
polycentric terms, operationalized by many actors at various scales as
opposed to hardgovernmental structures negotiated from the top-
down, has similarities with previously proposed concepts such as
multi-level governanceand consociational power sharing [37,38].
The climate policy response has been described as a paradigm that ex-
hibits the characteristics of polycentricity foreseen by Ostrom [34].
Although the language has become more hostile over time, previous na-
tional Republican Party platform documents have signaled aversion to acting on
climate change. For instance, the 1992 Republican Party platform included: “…
we applaud our President for personally confronting the international bureau-
crats at the Rio Conference. [President George H.W. Bush] refused to accept
their anti-American demands …” [184]. Likewise, in 1996, the Republican
Party platform took the following stance: Despite scientic uncertainty about
the role of human activity in climate change, the Clinton Administration has
leapfrogged over reasoned scientic inquiry and now favors misdirected mea-
sures, such as binding targets and timetables…” [185]. In 2004, as part of the
re-election bid of President George W. Bush, the Party Platform stated: Our
President and our Party strongly oppose the Kyoto Protocol and similar
mandatory carbon emissions controls that harm economic growth and destroy
American jobs [186].
J. Byrne et al.
Energy Research & Social Science 89 (2022) 102551
State- and local level governments in a federal system are provided
opportunities to trial innovative and perhaps risky experiments that
might later realize horizontal and/or vertical diffusion. Polycentrism,
however, presents a conceptually distinct frame compared to the multi-
level arrangement of federalism: a federal system may consist only of a
sequence of neatly nested jurisdictions at the local, state or provincial,
and national levels, but a polycentric system also includes cross-cutting
jurisdictions specializing in particular policy matters[[39]: 15]. A key
feature of a polycentric system of governance is that it involves coop-
eration, competition, conict and conict resolution among multiple
‘centersof decision-making distant from the process of efcient
administrative decentralization envisioned under federalism [33,40]. In
other words, a decentralized unitary structure of a classic federal system
assigns actors at different scales responsibilities for different policy
problems; while polycentric governance is more akin to networked
governance systems - nonhierarchical, interactive and operating at
multiple levels without a central predominant authority that distributes
power downward (and, tellingly, includes social movements as well as
local governments) [41].
We would add to this that polycentric governance recognizes conict
as often a healthy feature of decision-making and political action (to be
distinguished from national cancel politics, which preempts decision
making and action altogether). Unlike the envisioned power-sharing
acquiescence under federalism, we recast the conict as occurring in-
side a ‘hothousewhere alarming increases in average surface temper-
ature coincide, in the U.S. case, with loud vitriolic claims that a
‘greenhouse effectdoes not exist. The resulting political dysfunction has
led actors in the polycentric layer to rebel against an intransigent na-
tional government and search for system-scale policies and policy im-
pacts without asking for national permission. Our analysis shows that an
American polycentric layer exists in the politics of climate policy.
Indeed, more than the idea of ‘federalism in which local governments
are portrayed as early experimenters of policy and strategy that might be
adopted later by national government (e.g. [42]), we nd that the
polycentric layer embodies a broader movement to resist national
intransigence with specic locally conceived and implemented policies
for climate response; and to network in ways that transfer local in-
novations into a national and international presence despite hostility
from the federal government. Further, in the case of the polycentric
layer, principles, procedures, policy tools, and more have converged to a
point where it is appropriate to refer to commonalities of purpose and
values contrary to nationally stated policy. This is why we believe
polycentrism and polycentricity are appropriate terms when discussing
the American climate policy conict.
Climate policy and its conicts within U.S. energy and climate
governance might not t precisely Ostrom's original focus on commons
management of natural resources. Nevertheless, the work produced by
Ostrom, and subsequently explored by many researchers
[26,29,3336], provides insight into climate policy negotiation and
conict. Specically, conict denition and conict negotiation
regarding the climate crisis include actors and processes that are
additional to, and in our judgment, sometimes more consequential, in
the case of the U.S., than the domestic policy work and international
treaty negotiations of its national government. Indeed, we argue that
the most impactful policies in the U.S. have been authored by its local
governments and civil society organizations, and sustained policy
support has been the work of this polycentric layer, by which we mean
the institutions of local, state, and civil society, both individually and
via the networks they have formed (e.g. Regional Greenhouse Gas
Initiative (RGGI), the We are Still Indeclaration of American busi-
ness, civil society, and local and state governments, the representation
of the U.S. position by state governors at global climate negotiations
with opposing viewpoints to the national government, and the U.S.
climate action initiative the Conference of Mayors pursued without
national support) [22].
Political leadership and policy innovation has
in no small measure sprung again and again from this layer. As we
argue below, the polycentric movement is challenging the prevailing
political economy of climate-society relations in the country. In short,
national political party-based conicts are strongly challenged by
vibrant sub-national action intended to overturn entrenched cancel
politics at the national level.
4. U.S. cancel politics: preventing debate of all proposed
legislation since 2003
Our analysis of U.S. climate politics has identied three primary
components of the Republican anti-climate policy strategy: 1) whole-
cloth rejection of scientic ndings as a basis for policy formation,
claiming without evidence that science is divided on the existence of
human ability to cause climate change; 2) outright hostility by Party
leadership to any effort to raise concerns about systemic climate injus-
tice; and 3) vigorous denial of any possible moral responsibility for the
social and environmental violence caused by the Partys political
intransigence [45,5052]. The resulting national party-based conict
effectively delivered a condition of prolonged stalemate [8]. However,
the stalemate highlighted by Byrne et al. [8] and by subsequent
researchers [44,53] gave way during 20142021 to a Republican
strategy of canceling any national policy, even ones to support
scientic data collection about the phenomenon [5457]. The
unambiguous objective was policy preemption now and in the future.
This altered the conict: no longer interested in perpetuating
stalemate, the outcomes of the conict have progressed to climate
policy destruction.
4.1. Republican efforts shift to policy preemption and destruction
Several recent policy conicts at the federal level are reviewed here
in order to exemplify our argument that Republican policy efforts in
the 20142021 period intended to prevent coherent national climate
strategy. The below examples demonstrate that American policy con-
ict at the federal level is producing forces for policy erasure, not
policy adoption. The America First Energy Plan, published in 2017 by
the Republican Party, was not bashful about the goal: eliminating
harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan
[58]. Indeed, the main characteristic of national policy appears to be
the destruction of coherence, leaving communities and American so-
ciety itself with little choice other than the pursuit of a polycentric
Throughout the paper, we interchangeably apply the term ‘polycentricas a
modier to nouns like ‘movement, ‘path, ‘challenge, ‘contestation, etc. to
underscore the point that sub-national action in the U.S. operates in accordance
with polycentric principles of conict, conict resolution, and others. Also, we
treat ‘polycentrismas a paradigm choice applied to a particular eld in this
case, climate-society relations which involves community assent to certain
values and principles underlying actions to transform social relations. Our
intention is to consider polycentrism as a social form of paradigm choice similar
to the way Thomas Kuhn dened it in science communities: as in political
revolutions, so in paradigm choicethere is no standard higher than the assent
of the relevant communitythis issue of paradigm choice can never be un-
equivocally settled by logic and experiment alone[43].
Several Conferences of the Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC included U.S.
states and cities offering alternative representations of the U.S. climate position
in contrast to the ofcial U.S. venues. Interestingly, the rival venues attended by
state and city representatives were apparently better attended [24].
J. Byrne et al.
Energy Research & Social Science 89 (2022) 102551
4.1.1. Clean Power Plan
An emblematic American policy conict designed to produce na-
tional incoherence is the March 28, 2017 executive order tasking the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the obligation to gut the
Clean Power Plan the agship U.S. climate response of the earlier
Democratic Administration [59]. The Clean Power Plan sought to
regulate CO
from existing power plants under section 111(d) of the
Clean Air Act. The objective of the Plan was to reduce 2030 emissions
from existing power plants by 32% below 2005, a signal to the states and
industry that ambitious climate change action would hopefully become
an integral part of the overall policy landscape [60]. Some assessments
of the program worried that coal-red power plants would struggle
under the regulation: a 2013 estimate found 56% of coal capacity would
be at risk of becoming uncompetitive [61]. In addition, the nal design
of the Clean Power Plan included explicit environmental justice con-
siderations in both process and substance due to signicant efforts by the
EPA and advocates for energy and environmental justice [62].
U.S. Clean Power Plan requirements never took legal effect,
notwithstanding the fact that at least twenty-two states and the District
of Columbia already adhered to policies that met the schedule of targets
in the Clean Power Plan [60,63]. Indeed, a review of state-level action
indicated that 31 states were on track to meet at least 50% of the Clean
Power Plan objectives and 14 of those states (equal to roughly 1/3 the U.
S. nationwide population) would fully meet or even exceed 2020 targets
on the planned implementation date [64].
Under the Republican Administration, the U.S. EPA released a
replacement program in 2018, the Affordable Clean Energy Rule (ACE).
Like the Clean Power Plan, no legislative support for ACE was sought.
Programs of this kind can produce or mitigate local and global harm
resulting from power generation. In particular, given that power plants
are typically located disproportionately near poor and minority pop-
ulations [65] and that co-pollutants from electricity generation have
adverse health and social impacts on local populations, policies that
curtail carbon emissions can deliver signicant environmental benets
and alleviate systemic injustice, especially when targeting polluting fa-
cilities with high co-pollutant intensities. However, analysis of the new
rule shows it delivered substantially the opposite of what was contem-
plated under the never-enacted Clean Power Plan. For example,
modeling found that ACE would increase the number of operating coal
plants and raise CO
emissions by as much as 8.7% in 18 states and the
District of Columbia by 2030 (compared to a baseline of no policy at all)
[66]. Regulatory impact analysis by EPA itself found that the proposed
ACE plan could raise greenhouse gas emissions by 3% by 2035 relative
to 2005 levels [67]. Emissions of co-pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and
nitrogen oxides would also increase under every scenario modeled
[68], exacerbating harm to nearby populations which typically already
suffer environmental and health-related distress caused by systemic
injustice. In fact, EPA's own analysis expected a greater reduction in
greenhouse gas emissions if the Clean Power Plan was not replaced by
ACE [69].
4.1.2. Vehicle fuel efciency standards
A second case of American policy cancellation concerns the March
15, 2017 executive order to review vehicle fuel efciency standards put
in place during the Obama Administration. Intended by the Republican
Administration to ease pressure on the automotive industry to advance
high-efciency personal car models [70], the executive order targeted
the 2012 U.S. rulemaking which scheduled improved fuel efciency
standards for light-duty vehicles from 29.7 miles per gallon (mpg) to
54.5 mpg by 2025. Climate considerations were explicit in the 2012
rulemaking: cross-agency collaboration between the EPA and the Na-
tional Trafc Safety Administration (NHTSA) culminated in the simul-
taneous introduction of new greenhouse gas emission standards for the
transportation sector. In the January 2018 State of the Union, the Trump
Administration, without hesitation, declared its destructive purpose,
announcing his issuance of executive order halting government man-
dates that crippled America's autoworkers so we can get the Motor City
revving its engines once again[71].
The Administration touted its largest deregulatory initiative as a
balanced approach, offering new vehicle standards that were to achieve
environmental protection and support the automobile market. An in-
house review of the proposal by the EPA science advisory board
concluded otherwise: net benets of the proposed revision may be
substantially overstated and the Obama Administration standards
might provide a better outcome for society than the proposed revision
[72]. Skirting moral responsibility for environmental and social harm,
nal rule design of the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efcient (SAFE) proposal
essentially admits as much as the EPA found that: the revised nal
standards will have a negative impact on air quality health outcomes,
including a projected increase [in] premature deaths from increased
air pollutionand that the nal standards are projected to increase CO
emissions[73]. Again, no legislative framework was discussed and no
legislative solution was considered. The policy aim was to lead the U.S.
automotive industry down an uncompetitive path favoring less fuel ef-
ciency a pathway of intentional climate policy destruction given that
over one-third of U.S. carbon emissions emanate from the transportation
California immediately rebelled and stated its aim to continue with
strict emission and mileage standards [74]. This posture forced promi-
nent auto manufacturers to join or oppose the new federal position:
General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, and Toyota aligned with the federal
reversal of action to improve fuel efciency. Honda and Ford, instead,
announced that they would support California's stricter emission stan-
dards [74]. In this case, Republican leadership sought not only the
cancellation of public policy but the redirection of industrial investment
policy in the hope that reversal of policy by a future Democratic
Administration would provide heated business and labor opposition.
While it couldn't realize unanimous industry redirection, the Republican
view in 2021 is that there is always the chance in the next cycle [75].
4.1.3. Defunding the ability to use research to explore solutions
A third case demonstrates that the aim in the new cycle has not been
to merely halt emission reduction efforts, but to undermine national
ability to reverse course. In national budget requests under the Trump
Administration, the Department of Energy (DOE) sought to defund the
Energy Efciency and Renewable Energy (EERE) division (Fig. 1). A
proposed 70% or just over $1.4 billion funding cut to this division,
tasked with research and development of a wide variety of renewable
energy and energy efciency technologies and programs, underscores
the destruction-aimed policy discourse. The attempt to defund the DOE
EERE threatened research to redress patterns of harm to low- and
moderate-income families due to long-standing patterns of energy and
environmental injustice associated with highcarbon energy systems (e.
g., [76]).
Additionally, the Trump Administration sought to starve climate-
responsive technology of the ‘oxygen of research in public, academic,
and industrial laboratories by defunding data collection. Beyond ‘out of
sight, out of mind, the strategy hoped to cancel ideas of decarbon-
ization. It didn't work, but in the next cycle it would be wise to expect
another anti-science initiative to be tried [77].
Combining the cancellation of the Clean Power Plan and increased fuel
efciency standards, the Republican Party walled off two-thirds of CO
sions from national policy-making at least until a Democratic Party candidate
won election as President.
J. Byrne et al.
Energy Research & Social Science 89 (2022) 102551
4.1.4. Policy pre-emption through post-truth politics
In the early 1990s, the Republican Party constructed a narrative of
non-problematicity regarding climate change, effectively dismissing
the value of scientic ndings and delegitimizing climate change as a
major problem within the policy arena [45,50]. Polarizing politicization
of the issue has motivated the inclusion of anti-climate policy rhetoric in
multiple Republican Party platform manifestos, often directly attacking
proposals put forth by the Democratic Party on the argument that the
evidence collected for climate change is insufciently robust to imple-
ment climate policy [44,49,78].
The August 20, 2017 disbandment of the Advisory Committee for the
Sustained National Climate Assessment again recorded the destructive
intent of this Party's policy position [79]. In addition, politicization of
the science raised fears regarding the possibility of political interference
to downplay or destroy principal research ndings [80]. Repeated
rejection of the scientic basis of climate change, public denouncement
of the value of such inquiry, censorship of scientists within federal
agencies [81], and political efforts to inuence or prevent such inves-
tigation further leads to concerns of ‘post-truthpolitics, where issues of
social concern can be readily dismissed and facts are secondary to
populist appeal [82,83]. These efforts support political cultures that
offer no recourse to factual knowledge-development to guide policy
designs and are instead relying on ‘alternative factsto distort public
discourse. During the 20142021 timeframe, it has become clear that
the ‘non-problematicityconstruction is now accompanied by a renewed
hostility toward science in order to protect future Republican Admin-
istrations from having to act on analysis-based climate policy [49].
4.2. National climate policy under a Republican Party-created paradigm
of policy pre-emption and destruction
The Trump Administration took no action to halt, never mind reduce,
GHG emissions by the largest economy in the world. The Republican
Party strategy succeeded: the U.S. systematically cancelled past policy;
unfunded R&D in climate sensitive technology; stopped the collection of
data that would support fact-based assessments of climate risks and
costs; and confronted international climate policy bodies with open
hostility that often took the form of declaring an intent to make things
worse [7,16-18,57,84]. Concurrently, the issue of climate injustice (and,
more broadly, environmental injustice) in both domestic and
international contexts was rejected during the Trump era, with acolytes
going so far as to call assertions of its existence as another ‘hoax
[85,86]. A paradigm of policy cancellation is now installed as the
principal achievement of four cycles of change in U.S. Republican
Presidents from George H.W. Bush to Donald Trump. Climate change is
captive of a Republican paradigm to cancel national policy, while
Democratic Administrations look to negotiation even where it has little
lasting effect in the hope that a policy foothold could create hope for
future policy development. This hope of the Democratic Party has no
empirical basis since these well-established patterns signal that Repub-
lican ideology is winning with successful campaigns to undo, dismantle,
and prevent national climate policy and analysis of any kind.
5. Contesting national cancel politics: subnational policy to
transform the political economy of climate-society relations in
the U.S.
The 2007 Byrne et al. [8] paper presented state and local policy
movements in the U.S. as efforts to contest federal climate policy stale-
mate. In the intervening years, the state and local layer has faced new and
complex challenges as Republicans have controlled the U.S. Senate
turning it into a graveyardfor climate policy initiatives [87,88]. In
response, we document state and local policymaking that 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.
Two wavesof polycentric response are documented here: efforts
from roughly 2001 to 2014 that sought to overcome American policy
stalemate; and a second wave from 2014 to the present evolving to
challenge the American policy destruction program of the leadership of
the Republican Party by building a governance system that effectively
negates national policy cancellation.
Fig. 1. Federal budget requests for U.S. DOE EERE (20152021) for transportation, end-use efciency, and renewable electricity. The transition from the Obama to
the Trump Administration is visible: federal support for DOE EERE sharply declined over 20182021.
Many innovations are taking place in the U.S. that are not discussed in this
paper. As an example, corporate innovations or institutional changes within
incumbent actors in the U.S. energy system are expected to deliver signicant
contributions to the future energy conditions of the U.S. [89]. Likewise, a
separate area of study is the interaction and possible co-existence of innovation
between emerging and incumbent actors [90].
J. Byrne et al.
Energy Research & Social Science 89 (2022) 102551
5.1. The politics of rst-wave subnational energy and climate policy
The rst wave introduced a series of policy frameworks (from roughly
2001 to 2014) at mostly state levels that are now widely regarded as the
anchor of American energy and climate policy. These include renewable
portfolio standards (RPS), energy efciency resource standards (EERS),
and the public benet fund (PBF) [8,23,91], all of which are innovations
of the polycentric layer.
In the wake of U.S. withdrawal from the Kyoto
Protocol in 2001, local governments rapidly diffused RPS, EERS, and PBF
tools. As the American federal government contemplated retreat from an
international policy it had, to an important degree, molded, U.S. states
rebelled and embarked on rapid adoption curves of energy and climate
policy innovation to drive down their populations' greenhouse gas emis-
sions and comply with Kyoto targets (Fig. 2).
The history of this diffusion pattern underscores the importance of
local action. Nearly all American states acted as laboratoriesby
introducing and implementing innovations conceived and driven by
local politics, in contradistinction to federal non-policy, failing to pass
meaningful legislation and regulation (see the red diamonds in Fig. 2 on
the x-axis); and more alarming, failing in the U.S. Senate to even discuss
policy proposals. National-level policy failure reected a political
stalemate engineered by a climate denial ideology embraced by the
Republican Party. Additionally, the false claim that the Kyoto Protocol
would undermine the American lifestyle [6] was supported by a bur-
geoning conservative media able to dene national policy debate as
economic growth versus dubious environmental benets of reductions
in greenhouse emissions [92,93].
Fig. 2 reports the actions of American states and the District of
Columbia who have adopted several policy innovations that originated
at the polycentric layer. These include: forty states who have passed net
metering laws in which renewable energy system owners are able to
offset their billed use by monthly metered additions supplied to the grid
by their renewable energy system; thirty-eight states who have adopted
renewable portfolio standards (RPS); thirty-two states who have
adopted energy efciency resource standards (EERS); and twenty-two
states who have put in place public benets funds to support usually
residential customers who purchase qualifying renewable energy
Fig. 2 also reports the scope of each tool's reach in terms of U.S.
population affected, geographic coverage of greenhouse gas emissions,
and proportion of the U.S. economy inuenced by obligations to invest
in renewables and energy efciency as sources of utility generation.
Together, these tools require utilities to purchase renewable energy
generation according to a yearly schedule set in advance by legislation;
to pay for such generation at a price comparable to the amount charged
customers for retail service; and to reduce electricity sales through the
diffusion of energy efciency strategies. State-created public benet
funds (PBF) offer customers access to renewable energy and energy ef-
ciency technology by covering a share of their cost through such funds
The diffusion of these tools observed in the rst wave includes
policy stacking, where many states deployed a combination of inno-
vative energy and climate initiatives (Fig. 2, right). Combining policies
in this manner unlocks multiplicative benets [91,94,95]. Together,
‘rst wavepolicies geographically cover nearly 90% of U.S emissions,
population, and gross domestic product (GDP). Almost half of the U.S.
population resides in states that implemented all four of these ‘rst
wavepolicies as part of their state-wide energy and climate policy
portfolio. None of the policies and efforts listed in Fig. 2 have been
reproduced at the national level despite several attempts [96].
First-wave policies have achieved a signicant climate policy
outcome despite the national failure to act. Local invention and diffusion
of renewable portfolio standards, according to the National Renewable
Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Lawrence Berkeley National Labo-
ratory (LBNL) delivered lifecycle greenhouse gas emission reductions of
59 million metric tons of CO
-eq. in 2013, generating $2.2 billion in
benets (assuming a median $37/metric ton value) [97]. After ac-
counting for contributions such as lower national emissions of sulfur
dioxide (SO
), nitrogen oxides (NO
) and particulate matter 2.5 (PM-
Fig. 2. First wave of U.S. state level energy and climate policy (19802020). The diffusion curve of NEM, RPS, EERS, and PBF policy frameworks by U.S. states is
illustrated on the left in terms of policy coverage of U.S. national CO
emissions. The number of states with these policies in place is given in parentheses in the
legend. On the right, the combined adoption of these policy platforms, or ‘policy stack, is reviewed for the total U.S. nationwide coverage of emissions, population,
gross domestic product (GDP) and number of states. (For interpretation of the references to color in this gure, the reader is referred to the web version of
this article.)
Despite a 20-year record of successful local use, none of these policies has
yet been adopted at the federal level.
J. Byrne et al.
Energy Research & Social Science 89 (2022) 102551
2.5), an estimated additional $5.2 billion in national health and envi-
ronmental benets also resulted from successful state RPS policies [97].
A forward-looking, scenario-based analysis was conducted by NREL
and LBNL research teams. One study projects a cumulative (20152050)
greenhouse gas emission reduction of 23% in the ‘High RPSscenario.
The projected reduction is equivalent to $599 billion of global benets
when calculated using $37/metric ton as the social cost of carbon [98].
Additional benets resulting from cumulative (20152050) reductions
in SO
, NO
, and PM-2.5 equal $558 billion for the High RPS scenario
[98]. Barbose [99] notes that roughly half of all growth in U.S. renew-
able electricity generation and capacity since 2000 can be traced to state
RPS mandates.
Analysis of another key rst-wave invention energy efciency
resource standards (EERS) - found that states with an EERS policy saved
more than three times as much energy as states without such a policy
framework [100]. A second study found that over 80% of energy savings
in the U.S. took place in states with EERS policies [101]. An analysis of
the aggregate performance of energy efciency policies in the U.S. West
forecasted a reduction in annual energy requirements of about 10% and
a reduction in aggregate non-coincident peak demand of 12% by 2021
[102]. Measuring EERS performance against counterfactual energy use
leads to an estimated 12.7% reduction in electrical load and an 11.5%
reduction in overall state load (i.e. including natural gas) compared to
business-as-usual [103]. Another analysis estimated an 815% energy
consumption reduction by 2020 due to the spread of EERS and, for a
sense of scale, this estimate is equivalent to a 46% reduction of nation-
wide electricity use in 2020 [104].
Finally, Byrne et al. [8] estimated a 65% lower emission rate by 2020
attributable to the suite of state-level renewable energy, energy ef-
ciency and PBF policies compared to a business-as-usual trajectory of
growing emission without these policies.
In sum, rst-wave policy inventions achieved national scale impacts
without a national policy and are affecting the U.S. energy future even
while American policy conict prevented a national policy from being
adopted. Conservative media and Republican Party politics tried but
were repeatedly rebuffed in their efforts to cancel RPS, EERS, and other
local initiatives [105108].
5.2. The political economy of second-wave polycentric innovation:
relocating climate policy governance
A second wave of polycentric innovation can be detected in the face
of American climate policy conict. Battling anti-science, anti-analysis,
and anti-evidence politics, this second wave forced important change in
the focus of policy and strategy. Whereas the rst wave was dedicated to
the introduction and diffusion of policy oversight and incentivizing
market transformation, the second wave is distinguished by its con-
centration on governance tools formed at the local and regional levels.
The governance focus is exemplied by the shift in attention to trans-
formative policy design and institution-building as evidenced by the
reshaping of rst-wave policy instruments, like RPS, toward trans-
formation [109,110], regional collaborations for carbon pricing [111],
the emergence of new local and regional ‘green banks [112,113] to
nance decarbonization transitions, the proliferation of sustainable
energy authorities (including ‘green municipal utilities and co-
operatives) [11,114], and the rising ambition and performance of cities,
expressed in ordinances throughout the U.S. [115].
5.2.1. Emergence of transformative policy designs
As an outgrowth of these new policy models, rst-wave platforms
experienced growing public support and were able to strengthen their
targets. Upward revision of policy targets has become a common expe-
rience across the RPS and EERS platforms [101,108,116]. Evaluation of
this acceleration nds that roughly half of all RPS states have raised
their overall RPS targets or carve-outs since initial RPS adoption” –
states now commonly have targets equal to at least 50% of retail sales no
later than 2050 [108].
Competition between American states to decarbonize electricity
generation has led to cycles of policy review that are driving an accel-
eration in the adoption of higher targets. As a case in point, California
and New York have been locked in a 20-year competition for the most
aggressive renewable energy target: as California raised its target in
2015 and again in 2018, New York followed with higher targets in 2016
and 2020 (Fig. 3). Most recently, under an expanded Clean Energy
Standard, New York revised its objective to 70% renewable energy by
2030, a level above California's 60% mandate. These increases have
sustainability consequences: a 1% increase in RPS targets could increase
renewable energy's share in the national energy mix (including states
without RPS requirements) by approximately 3.8% [117]. This multi-
plier underscores the national implications of state policy invention in
the case of the U.S.
Several jurisdictions have embarked on paths that change the
mission of their electricity sectors and the governance structures that
oversee them. As to the rst, plans for zerocarbon transformation are
quickly being adopted that require a full shift to renewable energy and
energy conservation. Twenty states have set 100% renewables obliga-
tions for their electricity sectors, with explicit, no-exceptions climate-
driven targets [109,110]. Planning the end to carbon use in the elec-
tricity sector is advancing at the local and regional level where a politics
of climate action routinely overcomes climate denial an infection that,
so far, is limited to the U.S. federal government.
Fig. 3. Second-wave policy competition: examples of RPS policy changes in
two U.S. states. RPS policy design changes often include revised renewable
energy targets (y-axis) against new target years (x-axis). Year of implemented
policy revision appear in the blue boxes. (For interpretation of the references to
color in this gure legend, the reader is referred to the web version of
this article.)
This analysis did not separately measure state and local policy impacts.
Instead, RPS targets were hypothesized and their effects were estimated. Below
(Fig. 6) we examine the effects of actual RPS policies of states and estimate their
future impacts according to the specic schedules enacted in state law (see [15]
for a more detailed discussion of the model we used).
By contrast, federal efforts to erase the climate denial infection have failed.
A new effort has been launched by the administration of U.S. President Biden
but it is far from clear that federal action will realize zero-carbon achievements
earlier than the polycentric layer.
J. Byrne et al.
Energy Research & Social Science 89 (2022) 102551
5.2.2. Rising ambition and performance of cities
In the second wave, cities compete with U.S. states in setting ambi-
tious climate-electricity policy objectives. Policymaking by American
cities represents a key component of the polycentric paradigm
[21,22,34]. A wide variety of climate change mitigation and adaptation
strategies can be observed in U.S. cities [22,118]. As a case in point,
there are currently 444 U.S. Climate Mayors that uphold Paris
Agreement goals at the municipal level. In addition, American cities
have assumed a new position of authority by banding together in
transnational networks like the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate
& Energy, registering commitments for 179 U.S. cities and over 10,000
cities from 138 countries together representing over 864 million people
[119]. A similar network of city leadership has emerged that captures
climate commitments in a ‘Carbonn registry co-sponsored by the Car-
bon Disclosure Projects (CDP) and Local Governments for Sustainability
(ICLEI). It currently inventories the plans and actions of 766 U.S. cities
[120]. Globally, the registry records 26.8 billion tons of CO
reductions by 2050 and covers over 820 million people [120]. Through
these networks, urban leaders are held to account by their own citizenry
but also through peer pressure from other cities that compete and
collaborate [121,122].
Evidence of on-the-ground performance suggests city and local
commitments are accompanied by substantial greenhouse gas re-
ductions [30,123,124]. For example, the 25 largest U.S. cities are esti-
mated to reduce between 95 and 125 MtCO
eq of greenhouse gas
emissions by 2030 against a 360 MtCO
eq business-as-usual level a
reduction of about 26%35% and beyond the national commitment
[125]. Another assessment of 54 U.S. cities estimates emission reduction
of 70 MtCO
eq below their business-as-usual estimate by 2025
equivalent to a 22% reduction against 2015 emissions of these cities;
again, faster than is expected at the national level [115]. Indeed, several
U.S. municipalities have already achieved their 100% renewable energy
objective [126]. One measure of the ambition and performance among
U.S. cities compared to national results is presented in Fig. 4. Through
the Paris Agreement, the United States (before it left the treaty) agreed
to a 2628% reduction by 2025 in greenhouse gas emissions relative to
2005. The 51 cities illustrated in Fig. 4 each have proposed commit-
ments that exceed this national commitment 29 cities have committed
themselves to 40% reductions by 2025. Municipal greenhouse gas
inventories show that, for the 12 cities where multi-year data are
available, their achieved emission reductions are far greater and
occurring at a faster pace than the U.S. as a whole. In this vein, cities
have climbed to the leadership position in the American policy system,
setting much higher standards for their communities, in shorter periods
of time. And they are achieving or exceeding their standards.
5.2.3. Rapid adoption and diffusion of local community clean energy choice
A distinguishing feature of the second wave is the massive shift in
polycentric governance. The reported ambition and performance of the
U.S. polycentric layer in rule-making is not simply a measure of ‘ex-
perimentsthat might, someday, be taken up by the federal government
in the U.S. In an era of U.S. federal efforts, led by the country's Repub-
lican Party to eliminate climate policy infrastructure from direct policy
obstruction, to penalties for climate nance, and abandonment of
climate sensitive public R&D [7,127] the swift rise of polycentric
governance deserves research and policy attention (e.g. [128]). It is not
federalism at work, but evidence of an explicit ambition to govern
climate-energy-society relations.
A 100-year old regulatory compact in the U.S. is in the process of
fundamental change. The original compact codied (often ‘above-mar-
ket) guaranteed rates of return for investments in supply by American
utilities with service territories protected from competition [129,130].
This compact was created by national policy and tax incentives as a
leading prong of federal government efforts to ensure the nationwide
spread of electricity service. After World War II, federal policy dened
electrication as an essential service for national security and under-
wrote investments in nuclear power, grid development, opening of na-
tional lands to fossil fuel development, etc. The utility industry promised
in return cheap electricity via a centralized system of ever bigger plants,
higher voltage transmission lines, and very large corporate systems that
spanned well beyond the boundaries of several states.
Governance was
Fig. 4. U.S. city ambition (left) and performance (right) compared to the U.S. national perspective. Ambition levels for U.S. federal government from Nationally
Determined Contribution (NDC) and for cities from city-level action plans and public disclosure databases. Performance achievements from national and city-level
greenhouse gas inventories.
Again, many are hopeful that a Biden Administration might help the
country to catch upwith polycentric leadership. The latter have incubated
new political economies that their citizens have sustained for 10 or more years.
However, the federal layer has failed to pass new policies in 20 years and, in
some cases, existing national policies have been undermined by amendment or
executive order.
In fact, one company Exelon condently notes that it operates in 48
American states and the District of Columbia (as well as several Canadian
provinces); serves three-fourths of the Fortune 100; and has 1012 million
billed electricity customers. See; and
J. Byrne et al.
Energy Research & Social Science 89 (2022) 102551
furnished by national and state regulators whose obligation was to
ensure nancial viability of utilities so long as they fullled the goal of
cheap electricity everywhere [131,132].
The social and environmental tolls taken on the livelihoods of com-
munities near polluting and high-risk power generation facilities were
not considered in this governance equation. With the nationwide
establishment of these investor-owned power networks, the health and
safety risks associated with the use of unsustainable energy technologies
were placed on the shoulders of vulnerable populations [133]. This
energy-rooted climate injustice is a concomitant result of utility and
national policy decisions made to promote ‘cheapand ‘abundant energy
services for growth without end[134136].
Every aspect of this governance structure is now being challenged at
the polycentric layer. Local governments are creating forms of electricity
choice that are either not subject to traditional regulation or fall within a
regulatory compact whose purpose is to ensure that initiatives of local
governments, in partnerships with an array of local community and
business groups, are protected from traditional utility interference [137].
The new governors serve citizens rather than shareholders and enable
‘prosumers(electricity consumers that produce part of their electricity
needs) who can aggregate conservation and renewable energy services
that release them from several of the constraints of the old order.
An example is the surge in community clean energy choice in Cali-
fornia which epitomizes the emerging paradigm shift. The 23
community-level authorities active in California collectively serve 200+
communities and over 11 million people in 2020 [138]. For example,
Marin Clean Energy (MCE) has over - 540,000 customer accounts and
over one million residents and businesses in 37 cities and four counties,
delivering over 5.2 billion kWh of clean energy in 2020 [139,140].
Through a joint powers agreement, these agencies of local government
exercise the new governance mission with explicit climate objectives in
the provision of local clean energy service. Collective solar electricity
procurement by community-level authorities like MCE active in Pacic
Gas & Electric (PG&E) territory now exceed PG&E's own solar electricity
purchasing levels [137,141]. CCEs commonly cite climate change,
environmental benets, local control over energy choices, and lower
prices as primary motivations to start the community-based initiative
Driven by cheaper, greener and local control motivations and an
ability to respond to community interests and needs [142,144], this
strategy has spread well beyond California with rapid growth especially
since 2015 [11,137,145147]. Ten states now enable what we have
termed community clean energy (CCE) authorities,
relying on cities
and counties to anchor a transformation [137]. A recent overview of the
market identied over 1892 municipalities that have joined or formed a
CCE, covering a population of more than 36 million people [147]. For
instance, New York enabled the state's rst CCE on April 21, 2016. We
now identify at least 105 communities in New York that are pursuing
CCE implementation or have already put initiatives in place. These 105
communities represent at least 126,826 accounts [148150]. Similar
growth is occurring in Massachusetts which is now home to 169 mu-
nicipalities that participate in CCE initiatives, serving about 600,000
customer accounts or about 1.5 million people in 2019 [137]. Embedded
in local communities and operated by local governments under public
scrutiny and input, these CCEs have much more quickly advanced social
and environmental justice ideals than investor-owned utilities or private
developers hired by them [144].
There is no expectation that the growth pattern will slow: CCE efforts
in California are projected by the California Public Utilities Commission
(CPUC) to take over 85% of the incumbent utility load by the mid-2020s,
drawing in a citizen-prosumer
base of 15 to 20 million net-zero as-
pirants [151]. Over 300 of the 482 cities in California are a part of an
operational CCE or are at some stage in the CCE-creation process [152].
As a case in point, San Diego recently launched its CCE effort which is
expected to usurp most of San Diego Gas & Electric's customer base
[153,154]. New York has a short list of 594 ‘clean energy communities
that are candidates for CCE governance [155,156]. New York City is
actively exploring a CCE authority for the country's largest city [157].
And Boston, Massachusetts' largest city, launched their CCE effort in
early 2021 [158]. Recent collaborative efforts between CCEs in Cali-
fornia further substantiate the expected future contribution: the Cali-
fornia Community Choice Financing Authority (CCCFA) in December
2021 issued two separate bond offerings, valued at over $2 billion for
thirty-year terms, to support the clean electricity procurement of three
CCEs in the state serving over 2.5 million residents [159]. California's
CCE programs have gained substantial prominence challenging the role
of long-established investor-owned utilities. Importantly, CCEs typically
offer a larger share of renewable energy compared to their counterpart
investor-owned utilities. For example, Marin Clean Energy offers pro-
grams with 100% renewable energy and even 100% solar energy
sourced locally [11,137,160]. Similarly, 38 of the 105 New York CCE
communities offer 100% renewable energy as their default product
[149,150]. Renewable energy procurement by Marin Clean Energy and
other CCEs pursue innovative approaches toward solar photovoltaic and
other markets [11,161], delivering electricity at lower rates - one study
found rst-year program benets with electricity rates as much as 24%
lower [137,162]. Indeed, CCEs in California alone provide double the
share of solar-sourced electricity that utility and private developer
subscription-based solar programs combined achieve annually in 35
states [137].
5.2.4. Proliferation of institutions to nance decarbonization transitions
The proliferation of green nance institutions at city, state and
regional levels is another example of governance innovation. In this
case, markets are provided tools to shift from brown power to clean
energy using locally incubated nancing initiatives. While the U.S.
federal government under Republican Party leadership actually sought
to penalize investment in green energy by withholding a portion of the
2018 federal tax cut [163], second-wave polycentric governance is
inventing tools to make Republican cancel politics impotent. So-called
‘green banksare now operating in 7 states [112] and three sustain-
able energy nance authorities have been in operation for more than
nine years - the Pennsylvania Sustainable Energy Finance program or
PennSEF; the Delaware Sustainable Energy Utility or DE SEU; and the
SEU in DC [11,114,134]. Sustainable energy investment levels now
regularly exceed about $500 million per year and cumulative invest-
ment through December 2018 stood at $3.67 billion [112] (see Fig. 5).
Investment levels for single sustainable energy projects to cover $100
million or more in all-in costs with guaranteed bill savings have been
delivered through the SEU mechanism. A recent street lighting retrot
program encompassed 35 municipalities around Philadelphia, PA
Cumulative auction proceeds from California and RGGI cap-and-
trade systems, state-enabled Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE),
state and local green nance institutions, and green bank efforts
together invested over $60 billion during 20082020 in clean energy
[112,165167] (see Fig. 5).
Community choice aggregation (CCA), municipal aggregation, government
energy aggregation and other terms have been introduced to describe the au-
thorities used by local governments to make community-wide energy decisions.
As these efforts have matured and evolved, additional tools to build clean en-
ergy, including solar plants, and to target clean energy investment for energy
justice purposes have become part of the mission of many of these authorities.
We propose the CCE terminology to capture this evolution.
Citizens of CCE jurisdictions simultaneously produce and consume not only
energy through local renewable energy generation but, in addition, participate,
communicate, and interact with the CCE agency in order to support and direct
CCE program development and to oversee climate justice-complaint efforts.
J. Byrne et al.
Energy Research & Social Science 89 (2022) 102551
Regional collaboration for climate-driven policy transformation is an
important example of second-wave governance proving that socio-
spatial scaling can be addressed. For instance, emissions from power
plants in the states subject to the regional greenhouse gas initiative
(RGGI), which includes nine states and Washington, D.C., have dropped
by over 50% since its 2009 launch [111]. Collectively, according to one
econometric study, the nine RGGI states would have seen 24% higher
emissions if RGGI had not been created [168]. RGGI will continue to
lower the emissions cap annually by about 3%, resulting in a 30% lower
emission level in 2030 compared to 2020. Public health benets of RGGI
are estimated to be $3.0$8.3 billion (central estimate: $5.7 billion) due
to RGGI-induced improved air quality [169]. Another evaluation esti-
mates a 38% reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions attributable to RGGI
[170]. Over 100 million short tons of annual power sector carbon
pollution reductions have taken place under the program since 2005 - a
reduction of over 50% in the power sector even as the regional economy
grew by about 12% [171]. RGGI delivers public health co-benets to
children in the U.S., ranging from $191 to $350 million [172]. Impor-
tantly, the RGGI states have sold approximately 80% of their budgeted
emission allowances, raising $3.2 billion in funds which states have used
to support other climate- and energy-focused objectives [173].
The California cap-and-trade system covers about 85% of emissions
in the state. California's system has set itself the goal to reduce the state's
greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. An
investigation of electricity price behavior nds that the California cap-
and-trade system effectively internalizes the price of carbon to the
point where day-ahead prices come with a carbon premium roughly
equivalent to in-state natural gas-red generation's marginal cost of CO
emissions [174]. Others similarly conclude the California system rep-
resents an effective climate mitigation measure as it inuences energy
prices [175].
The value of these institutions extends beyond nance. Critically,
these institutions represent community objectives and act as conveners
and voices for a new idea of commonwealth that is anchored in principles
of environmental stewardship [11,112,114,134].
5.3. Polycentric emission reductions: 20002030
Bolstered by a second wave of polycentric innovation from local,
state, and regional climate change action, the national emission trajec-
tory is again being altered. Fig. 6 updates the savings estimates from
state policies originally calculated by Byrne et al. [8] and extends the
original business-as-usual scenario to 2030. Regional and local policy
initiatives are not represented in Fig. 6 due to concerns regarding the
additionality of these efforts relative to the state strategies.
The assessment indicates that American polycentric layer policies
play a substantial role in realizing emission reductions (Fig. 6).
Without subnational energy and climate policies, we estimate annual
nationwide emissions would be more than 3.55 billion metric tons
higher in 2030. Including only these subnational policy tools, we esti-
mate that, U.S. CO
emissions from the electric power sector will be 77%
below the country's business-as-usual scenario. In particular, second
wave state-level policy contributions improve and expand subnational
capabilities to deliver transformative change.
6. Conclusion: US and international lessons from the hothouse
of cancel politics and polycentric rebellion
The deteriorating national climate policy environment in the U.S. is
fueled by ideological opposition on the issue. Conict since Byrne et al.
[8] has evolved from national-level policy stalemate to national-level
policy destruction. Republican Party-led hostility to any climate policy
has resulted in cancellation of even modest improvements such as the
Obama Administration's executive order to pursue a Clean Power Plan
(one-third of the country's population had already complied with the
executive order on the date of its implementation [64]). The record of
four cycles of Republican cancel politics suggest that the Biden
Administration will be challenged on any proposals to install a national
policy. Destructive tendencies are pervasive in American national poli-
tics where anti-science, anti-analysis, anti-evidence, and anti-policy
voices control the Republican Party and, by using U.S. Senate rules on
libustering debate [176]. Despite widespread public support in polls on
the need to adopt major climate policies and ambitious goals for
decarbonization [177], the country has so far been unable to counter the
cancel politics that dene national Republican Party ‘post-truthpolicy.
In contrast, the formulation and roll-out of community-level action re-
veals a substantial contribution that is not only redirecting policy and
constructing a new governance system, but is also expected to contest
injustice in the national political economy [136,178,179]. Polycentric
political economy architectures rely on community governance of en-
ergy and climate futures, moving away from the established regulatory
Fig. 5. Investments caused by second-wave polycentric innovation. Cumulative
nance ows in billions show a growing resource ow. Fig. 6. Estimated electric power sector (excl. transportation) emission re-
ductions from state policy initiatives (20022030). Subnational energy and
climate policies lower the net new fossil fuel emissions. See [15] for more
The Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) is developed by U.S. Energy Information
Administration (EIA) researchers and is commonly used in baseline studies and
consumption projections by research institutions and businesses throughout the
J. Byrne et al.
Energy Research & Social Science 89 (2022) 102551
compact and toward local initiatives implementing sustainable energy
for all. These local initiatives are now of a scale and scope that eclipse
utility contributions to decarbonization (see Section 5.2) and represent a
transformation that cements community interests and goals as the
guiding principles of change [137].
In the second wave, transformative change in the midst of the climate
crisis is no longer the exclusive province of national political economy.
Our investigation of the polycentric layer in American climate policy
and politics raises the possibility that national policy failure may not
preclude societal success in building a viable political economy of deep
decarbonization. When the national layer fails society, a vigorous
resistance can sometimes be mounted at the polycenter, where social
movements are often born. It appears that the American polycentric
layer has found ways over the last 20 or more years to repeatedly beat a
national political party's cancel politics. Additionally, it appears the
polycentric political economy has built climate policy with considerable
national scale impact that can contest the country's carbon regime. And
its effort to build a ‘sustainable energy for all (well-established term
from United Nations programming emphasizing the need for inclusive
energy outcomes) politics of community inclusion and pursues systemic
strategies to address systemic injustice [136,179] offers further promise
for a substantially different climate-energy-society relation from the one
that has ruled for a century and more. More time is needed to build and
assess the possibility, but the process of replacement appears to be
This prospect offers hope for systemic change that rejects hollow
promises of technology revolution without transformative social change
[134]. The evidence in the 15 years since the 2007 paper decisively
points to a source of serious, lasting change in U.S. energy-climate-
society relations arising from polycentric political economy. National
policy and politics has yet to earn a seat at the table of meaningful social
response to climate change in the U.S. case. But mounting pressures from
the polycenter might change this.
What might be implications of this analysis for international energy
and climate strategy? The U.S. is seeking once more to convince nations
that it can be treated as a trusted partner on the international stage. Its
record of slow and, frequently, no action, and its 30-years of uneven
commitment from one national administration to the next, cause many
in the international communities to wonder if the society really can be
trusted. Some go further and doubt the efcacy of U.S. national lead-
ership. Countries and communities most vulnerable to the mounting
destruction from the global climate emergency see policy failure among
the bloc of wealthy countries, but especially the U.S., as calculated to
harm others rather than risking their own ‘lifestyles(compare, for
example the early diagnosis by Agarwal and Narain [180] and current
indictments such as McKinnon's in UNESCO's Courier [181]).
With this backdrop in mind, we briey remark on the implications of
this research for analysis of spreading movements of polycentric resis-
tance internationally. These movements operate in some cases in simi-
larly divisive national political climates where post-truth political
parties deny our problem and seek to destroy climate-minded action of
any kind [176]. Polycentric movements cutting across national bound-
aries are nding ways to implement and sustain for decades social and
economic strategies of inclusion, innovation and collaboration sup-
ported by transnational peer networks [20,30,37,182]. Of course, na-
tional policy and international agreements should continue to receive
critical attention, but research aimed at movement-supported new
practices of political economy challenging the nihilism of some national
governments promise that we may learn what we all must: [t]here is no
rehearsalthe time is [n]ow…” [183]. Emerging polycentric move-
ments in and beyond the US, with all the problems/doubts they may
raise, nonetheless could be the most viable focus to contest intentional
policy destruction and cancel politics in the hothouse.
Declaration of competing interest
The authors declare that they have no known competing nancial
interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to inuence
the work reported in this paper.
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... A growing body of literature has assessed the proliferation of DERs, grid-connected devices, and grid modernization with the aim of improving market structure, business model innovation, and policy design. These studies have focused on improving system efficiency, competitiveness, and installed generating capacity Example from the extant literature includes hybrid NG-RE-powered generating systems (e.g., Xu et al., 2017), analysis of efficiency and distributional effects of electricity rate designs and grid support services under high DERs penetration (Byrne et al., 2022;Zhang & Giannakis, 2016), regulatory policy innovations (e.g., Carley et al., 2018), and diversified utility customer choice and generation mix (Stewart, 2020;e.g., Nyangon & Byrne, 2018). Similar studies include expanding rooftop solar PV development (e.g., Byrne & Taminiau, 2018), investigating sociotechnical dynamics of energy transitions (e.g., Choi et al., 2020;Jenkins et al., 2018;Sovacool, 2017;Turnheim & Sovacool, 2020), and promoting integrated coordination of electric and NG power systems (Jiang et al., 2018;e.g., Brandstätt et al., 2017). ...
... We follow Xu et al. (2017)'s definition of hybrid power plants as a "combination of different power generation methods within the same system to provide stable, reliable electrical energy." Our vision is to provide tangible evidence for electric power authorities and the climate policy community regarding the importance of joint engagement of NG and distributed solar PV markets toward a "goldilocks range" that facilitates continued development of carbon-free energy economy (Byrne et al., 2022;Nyangon et al., 2017) that accelerate energy transitions over the next decade and beyond. While some recent work provides empirical evidence of synergies of gas and solar PV systems, for example, Pless et al. (2016), most studies focus on anecdotal accounts. ...
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Expansion of distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) and natural gas‐fired generation capacity in the United States has put a renewed spotlight on methods and tools for power system planning and grid modernization. This article investigates the impact of increasing natural gas‐fired electricity generation assets on installed distributed solar PV systems in the Pennsylvania–New Jersey–Maryland (PJM) Interconnection in the United States over the period 2008–2018. We developed an empirical dynamic panel data model using the system‐generalized method of moments (system‐GMM) estimation approach. The model accounts for the impact of past and current technical, market and policy changes over time, forecasting errors, and business cycles by controlling for PJM jurisdictions‐level effects and year fixed effects. Using an instrumental variable to control for endogeneity, we concluded that natural gas does not crowd out renewables like solar PV in the PJM capacity market; however, we also found considerable heterogeneity. Such heterogeneity was displayed in the relationship between solar PV systems and electricity prices. More interestingly, we found no evidence suggesting any relationship between distributed solar PV development and nuclear, coal, hydro, or electricity consumption. In addition, considering policy effects of state renewable portfolio standards, net energy metering, differences in the PJM market structure, and other demand and cost‐related factors proved important in assessing their impacts on solar PV generation capacity, including energy storage as a non‐wire alternative policy technique. This article is categorized under: Photovoltaics > Economics and Policy Fossil Fuels > Climate and Environment Energy Systems Economics > Economics and Policy
As an important field, energy trade significantly impacts China and the United States. Energy and climate policies in the U.S. impact China’s energy industry differently. Climate and energy policies have also changed in tandem with changes in the U.S. regime. By comparing the energy policies of the Biden and Trump administrations, the impact of different U.S. energy and climate policies on China’s energy industry was discussed, and the industry's development status was analyzed. In addition, corresponding strategies for China's energy industry's rapid and stable development are proposed. The current research results show that: (i) China has become an importer of traditional fossil energy in the United States since the Trump period, and U.S. energy and climate policies have had different impacts on China’s energy industry; (ii) China's natural gas imports from United States in China rose from 2.19 million tons (Trump period) to 8.98 million tons (Biden period); however, China's oil imports from United States continued to decline, from a maximum of 8.427 million tons (Trump period) to 1.147 million tons (Biden period); (iii) China’s photovoltaic solar cell exports under Biden period increased by 43.7% compared to the Trump period (2020). In addition, United States energy and climate policies will lead to increased demand for photovoltaic solar cells in the global market, which has a positive impact on China's new energy industry represented by solar photovoltaics.
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This policy history describes how community choice aggregation was created in Massachusetts by a small group of advocates and subsequently spread across the US. Twenty-one interviews with key participants, primary materials from government and personal archives, and newspaper articles were used to attribute and corroborate these events. A new finding is that community choice aggregation was created as part of electric sector restructuring efforts in Massachusetts in 1997, but that this new policy was barely perceived by many stakeholders in the larger restructuring process, and was included by legislators in response to advocates who organized local governments through direct democracy strategies. Kingdon’s multiple streams approach provides a useful framework to understand how organizing by advocates led to successful passage of legislation in Massachusetts. The spread of community choice aggregation to other states occurred through organizing that combined advocacy with policy learning and emulation. CCA has since been adopted by more than 1800 local governments that represent more than 36 million people in six states. This article concludes by discussing the early outcomes, current status, and some prospective implications of community choice aggregation.
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To assess market development, and governance and equity implications in detail, the research team investigates programs in California, Massachusetts, and New York. The analysis yields insight into the current and future operation of Community Clean Energy authorities (CCEs) in these three states. We estimate that the CCEs in operation in the three states in question now represent over 15 million people. In particular, we identify 471 cities, towns, and counties that have embarked on the community solar choice and CCE authority trajectory. For each state, we assess market conditions by evaluating solar sales, contracts, CCE coverage, and CCE market scale. We find that 55%+ of the Massachusetts population now resides in jurisdictions with active CCE efforts and the same is true for ~41% of the California population. Rapid growth of the CCE model is expected to continue in all three states. We find that CCEs spur substantial solar energy deployment. For example, we were able to examine 85 solar energy transactions by California CCEs that together exceed 3.8 GWp of solar capacity. Our analysis of governance and equity considerations finds that operational CCEs can be classified into two main types: a) a City/County model where individual municipalities embark on community-wide energy decision-making; and b) a joint powers agency (JPA) model where municipalities engage in a collaborative framework to make joint decisions affecting their energy futures. We find both models in all three states. We observe a tendency for JPA strategies to emerge after City/County models have been in operation in the state. We further find that larger, more mature CCE efforts typically emphasize a more sophisticated level of community inputs. CCEs are realizing lower solar-generated electricity prices compared to incumbent utility offerings. The benefits are often explicitly shared with low- and moderate- income families that receive, for instance, temporary relief due to emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic and permanent discounts on their electricity bills through bill offsets and shared savings. CCEs in California, Massachusetts, and New York are earmarking solar energy deployment that directly serves LMI households through discounted electricity offerings. The solar energy programs and projects initiated by CCEs in the three states are managed and overseen by local governments. While the extent and depth of local government participation varies, we see evidence in all three states that local government oversight produces benefits for the community as a whole that would otherwise be unavailable in utility or private developer-based subscriber programs. CCE authorities provided rights and consumer protection not often found in utility and private developer-based subscriber models. This governance benefit leverages community-wide interests and power. The observed CCEs are engaged in a process of innovation where more and more services and functions are initiated in service to the community. No longer is it the case that these entities are solely motivated to deliver lower electricity prices for their community.
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Community choice aggregation—an emerging electricity supply model allowing residents and businesses to purchase electricity from local governments instead of utilities—is projected to account for 60% of Californian customers currently served by investor-owned utilities by 2020.Community choice aggregation advocates claim that the model is an effective means of meeting California’s renewable energy policy objectives in a way that is more democratic and socially just than the prevailing utility-based model of electricity governance. We interrogate these claims through a focus on three issues: community choice aggregation governance and access to capital, electricity procurement, and customer rates and retention. We find that community choice aggregators have been able to address concerns regarding access to capital while balancing competing objectives around renewable energy and affordability. However, local benefits—particularly in terms of local economic development driven by the expansion of distributed generation—are yet to be fully realized. In addition, ongoing policy uncertainty regarding cost allocation between utility and community choice aggregation customers may limit the ability of community choice aggregators to offer competitive rates, which may threaten the model’s long-term viability. We conclude by arguing that meeting California’s future renewable energy requires a reconfiguration of the regulatory framework that leverages the respective strengths of both community choice aggregators and investor-owned utilities in the context of the state’s energy transition.
Given the gaps between EU ambitions regarding energy community development and the current reality of clean energy communities in Europe, we explore a research framework enabling viable multi- and interdisciplinary research into new clean energy communities. We offer a definition of new clean energy communities, discuss their potential for wider dissemination and identify four factors that contribute to the current mismatch between ambitions and reality in energy community development. As a broader framework for interdisciplinary research into the field of new clean energy communities, we propose polycentric governance theory, considering the fact that the area of community energy systems is essentially multi-scalar, and that the rules of engagement in such systems are of great significance. This opens up four avenues for research on energy communities, which we outline in terms of enabling institutional contexts, potential for learning and transferability, business models and value propositions, and evaluation of outcomes and processes.
The electric industry has no standard practice for forecasting customer enrollment with Community Choice Aggregations (CCAs). We propose an analytical approach that treats potential CCA formations and dissolutions in specific communities as a diagnosis relying on expert opinions, rather than as a pure statistical exercise characteristic of traditional load forecasting. Our approach relies on an investigation into customer needs and preferences, systematically gathered insights from community experts, and a relatively simple application of Bayesian economics.
The use of increasingly large and diverse data sets to guide urban climate action has implications for how, and by whom, local governments are held accountable. This review focuses on emerging dynamics of accountability in data-driven urban climate change governance to provide insight and direction for research and practice. We examine current understandings of the implications for accountability based on three common rationales for prioritizing data-driven decision-making: standardization, transparency, and capacity-building. While data-driven climate governance has the potential to enhance accountability through each of these dimensions, it is also shifting who city governments are accountable to and whether and how they are being held to account. We conclude that the trend toward data-driven urban climate governance can incentivize city governments to prioritize narrowed metrics and external interests, inhibiting the broader transformations required to realize climate change goals. We offer priorities for research at the intersection of data-driven climate governance and the accountability of city governments.
United States withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, which follows well-known principles of common pool resource management, poses a serious challenge, but it could provide a golden opportunity to cement and advance the efficacy and legitimacy of the Agreement. The Agreement encourages subnational units to participate in a polycentric, multistakeholder governance structure. As many as two dozen states have policies that could put them in compliance. These states represents over 40% of U.S. emissions, making them the 4th or 5th largest emitter. Subnational compliance would give the Agreement a major boost particularly if they seek observer status and are exempted from sanction. Even without such rewards, the states have strong reasons to follow this path. As non-fossil fuel producing states, they have clear interests in developing local resources as the basis for their electricity sector. As a large group, they gain economies of scale and network effects. As part of the American Federalist system, they would be defending their right of independent action. At COP 23, the U.S. subnational entities played a prominent role and the treaty participants reacted strongly against the Trump administration position, while embracing the activities of U.S. subnational entities. The U.S. presence was limited and isolated.
Background: While various policies have been implemented globally to mitigate climate change and reduce exposure to toxic air pollutants, policy assessments have considered few if any of the benefits to children. Objective: To comprehensively assess the co-benefits of climate change mitigation to children, we expanded the suite of adverse health outcomes in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Benefits Mapping and Analysis Program (BenMAP) to include additional outcomes associated with prenatal and childhood exposure to ambient fine particulate matter ( PM 2.5 ). We applied this newly expanded program to an assessment of the U.S. Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the United States' first regional market-based regulatory program designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the electric power sector within the Northeast. Methods: We used calculated changes in ambient PM 2.5 concentrations for the period 2009-2014, with newly incorporated concentration-response (C-R) functions to quantify changes in the incidence of preterm birth (PTB), term low birth weight (TLBW), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and asthma. These outcomes are causally or likely to be causally related to PM 2.5 exposure. Cost per case estimates were incorporated to monetize those changes in incidence. Results: The estimated avoided cases of adverse child health outcomes included 537 asthma cases, 112 preterm births, 98 cases of ASD, and 56 cases of TLBW, with an associated avoided cost estimate ranging from $191 to $350 million. In a previous analysis of health benefits of RGGI, the only benefits accruing to children were limited to prevented cases of infant mortality and respiratory illnesses, with a monetized impact of $8.1 million-only 2-4% of the new results attributable to RGGI. Conclusion: The results of this innovative analysis indicate that RGGI has provided substantial child health benefits beyond those initially considered. Moreover, those health benefits had significant estimated economic value.