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The Politics of Decarbonization and the Catalytic Impact of Subnational Climate Experiments

Bernstein, Steven, Matthew Hoffmann. 2018. The Politics of Decarbonization and the Catalytic Impact of Subnational Climate Experiments. Policy Sciences. 51 (2): 189-211

Abstract

The Paris Agreement of 2015 marks a formal shift in global climate change governance from an international legal regime that distributes state commitments to solve a collective action problem to a catalytic mechanism to promote and facilitate transformative pathways to decarbonization. It does so through a system of nationally determined contributions, monitoring and ratcheting up of commitments, and recognition that the practice of climate governance already involved an array of actors and institutions at multiple scales. In this article, we develop a framework that focuses on the politics of decarbonization to explore policy pathways and mechanisms that can disrupt carbon lock-in through these diverse, decentralized responses. It identifies political mechanisms—normalization, capacity building, and coalition building—that contribute to the scaling and entrenchment of discrete decarbonization initiatives within or across jurisdictions, markets, and practices. The role for subnational (municipal, state/provincial) climate governance experiments in this new context is especially profound. Drawing on such cases, we illustrate the framework, demonstrate its utility, and show how its political analysis can provide insight into the relationship between climate governance experiments and the formal global response as well as the broader challenge of decarbonization.

Keywords: Climate governance experiments, Climate policy, Global climate regime, Decarbonization, Subnational climate politics

The article is available here.

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