Climate Polycentricity by Subnational U.S. Actors : Three Lenses to Examine Efficacy & Impact




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Over the past several decades the United States has struggled to form a durable, comprehensive federal policy response to manage the climate change risks that come with greenhouse gas emissions. More recently, the country drew international attention with President Trump’s announcement of his intentions to withdraw the nation from the Paris Agreement as soon as the accord allows. Within political science, there is one main theoretical framework advanced to explain why the world’s largest historical greenhouse gas polluter has no unified plan for achieving emissions reductions – the challenge of collective action (Olson, 1965). However, beyond collective action one additional framework that this dissertation will explore is through the lens provided by polycentricity. Advanced in the 1960s by the Ostroms, polycentricity scholars have historically been interested in exploring how decentralized forms of coordination emerged and could compete, learn from, and coexist together and still function as a complex, nested system. They also advanced initial considerations for why such an governance approach could rival unified systems – in terms of efficiency, political representation, and local selfdetermination (Ostrom, 1961). This dissertation applies such a lens to the larger climate change oriented policymaking space within the United States through three chapters explored further below. Chapter 2 provides an examination of key environmental policies (i.e. renewable portfolio standards, regional cap-and-trade agreements, energy efficiency standards, hybrid electric vehicle incentives, etc.) along with historical inventories of state-level environmental policies and roll calls in related U.S. House votes to extend such programs nationally. Initial findings suggest in most scenarios, both Democratic and Republican members of the U.S. House were much more likely, even after controlling for ideology, to vote in favor of increasing environmental regulations if their home state had already enacted a similar policy. These findings are grounds for additional theoretical influences to add to the list of what may contribute to strategic decision-making behind Congressional votes and the implications for interest groups and other state policies are explored. Chapter 3 utilizes the Advocacy Coalition Framework to examine the impact of coalitions and policy entrepreneurs in the policymaking process of originating carbon pricing policy outputs at the state-level in the United States. In an attempt to manage the considerable potential risks, an increasing diversity of state-level governments have adopted climate oriented policy, but there has been limited political economic theory and explanation offered in describing the role that advocacy coalitions and campaign strategies have played within the policymaking process leading to the actual variation seen at the subnational level in the United States (Rabe, 2018). This chapter provides both theoretical and empirical contributions to research on state-level climate change policy initiatives through its longitudinal focus on comparative case studies of U.S. state policy initiatives, including the pursuant policy entrepreneurship and coalition- building, using the Advocacy Coalition Framework (Sabatier, 2013) to assess the impacts of key political, economic, and demographic variables on the design and outcome of these initiatives. Chapter 4 examines the adoption rate for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) projects across the United States. Local governments and developers face variation in the incentives and barriers while implementing LEED-ND projects across four key dimensions – economic, policy, public awareness, and organization and this chapter investigates the drivers of variation using a mixed-methods approach including a two-stage Heckman model, a survey of Texas subdivision developers and interviews with local planning officials. Results indicate that initial public funding may lead to more LEED-ND projects being completed, but with a diminishing return as these projects become established within the region. Support for local programs including tax abatement, public-private partnerships, and other incentives were also demonstrated to help facilitate LEED-ND project adoption. Overall this chapter underscores the important role, especially early on, the public sector and local governments play in initiating local LEED-ND projects to inform and motivate the land development industry.



Legal polycentricity, Environmental policy, Coalitions, Policy sciences