State Innovation on Climate Change: Reducing Emissions from Key Sectors While Preparing for a “New Normal” (GCC)

From the Georgetown Climate Center (GCC), this Harvard Law and Policy Review article describes innovative actions being taken by states to encourage mitigation and adaptation. The paper explains that some states have taken on a leadership role in adaptation and mitigation in the absence of federal drivers. The adaptation section of the paper (beginning on page 415), provides an overview of the state’s role in encouraging adaptation at the local level and in taking steps to integrate adaptation in state planning, programs, and asset management. This section also explores the opportunity for the federal government to learn from state examples, and collaborate with state actors to remove barriers to adaptation and catalyze adaptation action. 

 The adaptation section reviews a recent analysis from GCC on the progress that states are making in implementing their adaptation plans, along with an overview of adaptation planning at the state level. The article describes  how many states are finding techniques to break agency silos and work across sectors and even jurisdictional boundaries. 

While the paper discusses state progress, it also argues that without federal regulations or incentives, state planning will only happen in places where there is political will or local climate champions. In crafting nation-wide incentives, the federal government can use examples of successful state planning and collaborative approaches as models for policy.

Beyond planning, the paper discusses efforts states are making to address adaptation through regulations and strategic investments. Taking these steps allows states to make lasting and effective changes that reduce climate vulnerability. For example, New Jersey passed a law following Hurricane Sandy that will create short-term and long-term financing for water infrastructure improvements. In turn, the resilient infrastructure will reduce natural disaster related risks,and the law creates a permanent emergency funding stream.  States can also encourage smart adaptation through the support and guidance they offer local governments-in the form of funding, technical support, or regulations requiring adaptation considerations. According to GCC, states are making progress here, but for the widespread changes needed in the nation much more will need to be done.

Publication Date: July 2016

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  • Academic research paper
  • Policy analysis/recommendations

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