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A new Midwest climate initiative? Professor Barry Rabe discusses the potential promise and pitfalls

January 11, 2019

With Democratic governors taking office in the Midwest, there is the potential for a reinvigorated regional cap-and-trade agreement that aims to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change. Like the 2007 Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord, such an initiative requires polluters to pay for permits while simultaneously setting reductions for such pollution. In Jim Malewitz’s January 9, 2019 Bridge magazine article, Ford School Professor and author of Can We Price Carbon?  Barry Rabe reflects on the past challenges and future obstacles to successfully crafting, launching, and entrenching a Midwest cap-and-trade agreement.

According to Professor Rabe, partisanship remains one of the greatest challenges to establishing a new Midwest climate accord. The 2007 regional climate agreement collapsed as “the governorships in most Midwest states shifted from Democratic to Republican.” Moreover, Rabe says, “[once] it became clear that Congress wasn’t going to adopt a cap and trade system, there was real pushback.” Without the support of state legislatures, the agreement crumbled entirely.

With Democrats once more occupying Midwestern governorships while Republicans retain control of state legislatures, Professor Rabe cautions that accomplishing such a feat is “Politically…hard to do” and reminding us “that the governor-only strategy was tried once and fell apart.”

Putting the politics aside, Professor Rabe also notes the different models such climate agreements can take. “There’s no one model for how states do this” he says. While the 2007 agreement targeted the electricity sector, Professor Rabe suggest that “the states might want to look at limiting emissions from other sectors – including vehicles or methane from landfills.”

Regardless of the form such an agreement may take, the content will undoubtedly experience a Republican onslaught. Will Democratic governors and Republican legislators learn from the failure of the 2007 Accord? We, along with Professor Rabe, can only wait and see.

To read the full article click 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. His research examines climate and energy politics and his newest book, Can We Price Carbon? (MIT Press) was released in spring 2018.