Poster Paper: Evaluating National Responses to Climate Change Policy: Does Federal Structure Matter?

Thursday, November 8, 2018
Exhibit Hall C - Exhibit Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Muhammad Muinul Islam, University of Missouri, Columbia

Does federal structure of a country inhibit climate change adaptation? The tension between the federal government and the state government on climate change policy is no more a hidden affair. The two major polluters of the world, the United States and Canada show a blithe performance in reducing carbon emission. Some scholars point to the federalism as being a deterring agent in reducing the level of CO2 emission (Litfin, 2000; Meyer, 2018; Rabe, 2004). The experience of a few other countries who have a federal systems also demonstrate the same evidence (Niedertscheider, Haas, & Görg, 2018). While there are conspicuous successes and progress on climate change in terms of policy adoption and implementation at the state level in many instances and in many unitary form of government, the federal government as a central body of administration remain paralyzed in these two major North American countries and many other countries with federal systems.

Since the early 1990s, the federal front of both the U.S. and Canada show a lackluster performance in responding to climate change concerns. Canadian stand on climate change often mirrors the U.S. policy strategy. In the face of economic globalization and the related effects of NAFTA, provincial actors and “local” industries in Canada have come to see themselves as global actors. Thus, they believe that the federal government should not be an international leader in reducing GHG emissions, but rather should “provide a competitive infrastructure to attract investment” (Hyndman et al., 1996, quoted in (Litfin, 2000). Furthermore, there is a constitutionally grounded conflict between the federal government and the provinces in Canada. In the context of the U.S., Rabe (2004) in his study shows that several states have been making surprising progress in addressing climate change problems while federal government remain ineffective. In his words, “…federal debate over greenhouse gas reduction has largely been characterized by a blend of hyperbole and inertia”. To Rabe, “the federal government has proved largely incapable of action on greenhouse gas reduction (p.147).” In the case of Austria, federalism is deemed responsible for the relative lack of responsibility and strong measures introduced along with the Climate Strategy 2002. (Niedertscheider et al., 2018; Steurer & Clar, 2015). In brief, the major reasons for this federal inefficiency and inaction are the multi-level governance of federal structure, constitutional autonomy of state apparatus and fragmented political ideology.

All these evidences and observations suggest that federal structure as a body of central administration of the country is not as active as it is evident in many state jurisdictions and other unitary form of government in addressing climate change policy. There are about 30 countries of the world considered as having ‘federating’ units. Based on an empirical model, the proposed study would focus on identifying variations in responses to carbon emissions in the countries with federal structure vis-à-vis its unitary counterparts. The study would also investigate major hindrances of federal inaction to climate policy to compare national responses to carbon emission relative to unitary form of government.