Posted on May 5, 2021 by Seth Jaffe
Late last month, the Washington Legislature passed the “Climate Commitment Act”, a piece of sweeping climate legislation that includes, among other provisions, an economy-wide cap-and-trade system. Washington was not far behind Massachusetts, which enacted its “next generation roadmap” bill in late March. This friendly competition among states to move towards net zero economies as aggressively as possible is certainly a good thing.
It does make me wonder, though. What is the world of climate regulation going to look like when the states and the federal government have all the key policies in place? It’s one thing for states to be laboratories of democracy. It’s quite another to try to address climate change with a patchwork of different approaches. Some state; some federal. Some market-based; some not. Some states collaborating; some not.
Personally, I don’t pretend to know what our regulatory framework is going to look like in 2030, let along 2050. I also don’t pretend to know whether a comprehensive system would be superior to the patchwork (though I will confess to a lingering preference for the elegance of federal tax-and-dividend or tax-and-invest legislation).
I do think it would be a good idea if those with authority would address this issue with forethought and intentionality, rather than simply taking each policy opportunity as it arises.
Democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.