America’s climate change policy: Federalism in action

Daniel C. Esty

Cite this article:

APA: Esty, D. (2023). America’s climate change policy: Federalism in action. FYPL, Issue 1.

MLA: Daniel C. Esty. 'America’s climate change policy: Federalism in action.' FYPL Issue 1 (2023).

CHICAGO: Esty, Daniel C., 'America’s climate change policy: Federalism in action,' FYPL Issue 1 (2023).

HARVARD: Esty, D. (2023). 'America’s climate change policy: Federalism in action', FYPL, Issue 1



This article provides a survey of the diverse approaches adopted by various states and municipalities in the United States to address climate change, highlighting their role in driving progress despite federal gridlock. It also examines the challenges that arise due to the absence of national leadership, particularly the potential for regulatory competition among subnational jurisdictions to undermine the competitiveness of climate change leaders.

Part I outlines the American policymaking landscape, emphasizing the decentralized nature of the political system that empowers governors and mayors as climate change leaders and innovators. Part II catalogs the array of climate change policy tools employed by state and municipal governments, including greenhouse gas reduction targets, renewable energy standards, regional greenhouse gas pricing initiatives, public utility regulation, and state-level clean energy incentives. Part III delves into the political strategies underpinning these policymaking efforts, such as interstate agreements, private litigation, and state constitutional amendments. Part IV raises concerns about the potential for multi-layer governance to impede policy progress, particularly in the context of deep national divisions on climate change. Part V offers reflections on the advantages and disadvantages of the U.S. federalism model in addressing climate change, providing valuable insights into the intricate landscape of climate governance in the United States.

Issue 1, 2023