Localizing Climate Change Action, 14 Minn. J.L. Sci. & Tech. 603

Waiting for national- and supranational-level actors to reach a broadly based and substantively effective agreement on climate change mitigation is like waiting for Godot – unlikely to happen, at least at a substantively early enough point in time. The December 2012 negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) umbrella yet again demonstrated the problem in seeking widely accepted action from close to two hundred nations with widely divergent interests in climate change and the related underlying issues. This article adds new value to existing scholarship by conducting original research into select climate initiatives at the sub-national, sub-state level in order to find out whether it is worth pursuing climate change action at this level instead. The article posits that in times with little or severely delayed climate change action by national and supranational actors, it is worth pursuing climate change action at the local – but not the purely private – level.

After identifying what “success” means in the climate change arena, the article analyzes the potential for both substantive and procedural success presented by select local initiatives. Some of these feature traditional adversarial enforcement methods, some feature modern collaborative-style enforcement, some feature no enforcement at all, and one is a reporting program with mandatory implications. This article demonstrates how action at the scaled-down level can be effective whether traditional adversarial, or more collaborative goal enforcement methods are applied, and perhaps even if no enforcement methods are applied at all.

The article builds on the author’s parallel project, An Unstoppable Tide: Creating Environmental and Human Rights Law from the Bottom Up. This article analyzes bottom-up, polycentric developments within national and international environmental and human rights law in general. It argues that bottom-up, polycentric action presents viable alternatives to traditional top-down action within these areas and presents a set of guidelines for the development and enforcement of law that apply to action within climate change and thus to this article as well.