A changing climate: Congress moves on climate change, Barry Rabe questions how far

February 18, 2019

After the Trump administration’s 2017 decision to back out of the Paris Agreement, a UN effort to mitigate harmful effects of greenhouse-gas-emissions, some members of congress began forming a bipartisan coalition to adopt the goals on a state-by-state basis. The newly elected Democratic house has meant more mainstream coverage of such endeavors through the recent Green New Deal announcement, but many states have decided to take action even earlier. Paulina Firozi of The Washington Post details the old and new efforts in her February 12, 2019, piece “The Energy 202: ‘There’s no reason for us to wait.' Four more Dem governors join alliance to uphold Paris climate goals,” including skepticism from Professor Barry Rabe on the substance of the alliance.

The U.S. Climate Alliance is a bipartisan coalition that started with primarily coastal states and has grown to include 21 state governors committed to the goals set forth by the Paris Agreement, including recently joining midwestern states. The inclusion of non-coastal/liberal states symbolizes the severity of the issue, argues Julie Cerqueira, executive director of the alliance. “These states are joining the coalition as scientists increasingly point to how climate change will affect the interior of the country, not just the coasts,” Firozi writes.

But Professor Rabe cautions people from feeling too reassured by the alliance. “It doesn’t commit or obligate these states to anything,” he says, continuing, “they don’t force any formal decision or commitment, and so I think for a newly elected governor they are relatively easy steps to take that are symbolic.” Rabe, who serves as the Arthur Thurnau Professor of Environmental Policy, writing extensively on intergovernmental climate policy development, wants more tangible measures. “It’s not a carbon tax, it’s not a renewable energy mandate; there’s some real limits to this.”

Read more about the alliance here.

Barry Rabe is the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Professor of Public Policy and the director of the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) at the Ford School. He is also the Arthur Thurnau Professor of Environmental Policy and holds courtesy appointments in the Program in the Environment, the Department of Political Science, and the School for Environment and Sustainability.