Climate change has seen considerable policy debate and innovation at the state and local level recently. This is a change, as environmental policy had largely fallen under the purview of the federal government until the past decade or so. However, in the wake of the Bush administration’s opposition to serious energy use restrictions and large-scale weather events, many state and local leaders began to chart their own courses. Of course, not all states are convinced that promoting renewable energy sources or curbing carbon emissions is necessary, and there are plenty of critics who charge that most of the policies pursued at the state and local levels have been largely symbolic.
But many states and cities have taken real action to curb their own energy use and to promote conservation and renewable energy sources throughout their economies. They have done this in spite of years of inaction at the national level and in spite of the difficulties in coordinating policy responses that are inherent in the federal system. Despite the challenges, having gotten into this game, many state and local governments clearly intend to stay, and furthermore, some have become quite vocal, calling for national and international movement on these issues.
There are specific environmental policy challenges facing the states and localities. Topics from the regulation of tailpipe emissions to renewable energy are proving to be salient even as the federal government is fragmented regarding the path they should take in these areas. Comprehensive action seems tenuous at best, considering the skepticism and economic variables involved with these policies; however, many states seem to be taking cues from one another, making serious leaps forward in the area of environmental policy.