On June 2, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will announce draft regulations under the Clean Air Act that will set the stage for the 50 states to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from electric power plants.
Vivian Thomson, an associate professor of environmental sciences and politics at the University of Virginia and author of a new book, “Sophisticated Interdependence in Climate Policy: Federalism in the United States, Brazil, and Germany,” is available to discuss the EPA’s decisions. Thomson was a member and vice chair of the State Air Pollution Control Board in Virginia between 2002 and 2010, an appointee of Virginia Govs. Mark Warner and Timothy Kaine, and also has been senior air pollution policy analyst at the EPA.
Thomson’s book offers a framework for climate change policy in the U.S., acknowledging the crucial role of coherent state-federal regulations in a nation of regions with often disparate political, cultural and economic contexts.
“The states have long worked with EPA to control regional or local air pollution under the Clean Air Act, but we are in uncharted waters because of climate change’s global scale and also because some states have forged ahead of the national government in the climate and renewable energy arena,” she says.
In her book, Thomson frames state-national Clean Air Act partnerships so as to intertwine climate protection, energy security, fiscal discipline, renewable energy, environmental justice and energy diversification while integrating the constraints and opportunities faced by the states into the plans approved by the EPA. She also connects domestic actions with those in Germany and Brazil, powerhouse countries that also have federal systems.
“Cross-country comparisons can stimulate new ways of thinking and help foster international collaboration,” she says.
She notes that Germany is a longtime leader in climate change policy and renewable energy.
“These policy choices have gone hand-in-hand with economic growth that outstrips that in the U.S. on a per capita basis,” she says, noting that between 1990 and 2000 Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions per capita dropped by 26 percent, while its GDP per capita expanded by 36 percent. In the same interval, U.S. per capita GDP grew at 31 percent, and greenhouse gas emissions per capita decreased by just 2 percent.