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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Local Government Adoption of Effective Climate Change Policies

  • Author(s): Armstrong, John H.
  • Advisor(s): Kamieniecki, Sheldon
  • et al.

In the face of federal inaction on climate change, local governments have emerged as policy leaders. Yet evidence indicates that many of the policies enacted do not significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This dissertation investigates the adoption of effective local government climate policies, focusing on Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) in California. The policy promises climate and community benefits, but its effects have not been explored. With a mixed-methods approach, including an assessment of quantitative variables and qualitative analysis based on interviews and news media analysis, the study examines the effects of CCA and why local governments enact it.

The investigation makes significant contributions about what types of governments can adopt effective policies, the underlying policymaking processes and stakeholders, and the role of local control. The study finds that local governments that adopt CCA significantly reduce GHG emissions. Although liberal, environmental areas are the first to enact the policy, a diversity of areas can follow and adopt effective climate policies.

Contrary to prior research, the investigation finds that bottom-up policymaking is crucial and has driven CCA adoption, led by an interconnected effort of local elected officials and grassroots groups. They were concerned about climate change along with other issues, especially local control. Despite prevailing expectations, local control helped communities overcome free-rider problems by allowing governments to shape policies to their unique priorities and benefit.

The dissertation also examines the ecosystem implications of urban renewable energy development, which is increasing in part because of local government climate policies. The study assesses how ground-mounted solar arrays in parking lots affect arthropods, which serve critical roles in urban ecosystems. The analysis finds substantial arthropod abundance under solar arrays and that integrating vegetation with the arrays significantly increases overall arthropod abundance, abundance of parasitoids and detritivores, and arthropod family richness.

The concluding chapter discusses the dissertation’s contributions to the literature and future research directions. The findings underscore the need to examine more cases of effective climate policy adoption, analyze the transition from modest to effective policies, and reconsider the role and effects of local control for environmental issues.

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