Newswise — Stacy VanDeveer, associate professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire, is available to discuss the complexities and contradictions regarding climate policy in North America, and the politics of U.S.-EU energy and environmental policymaking.

VanDeveer is the editor of two recent books:

• “Changing Climates in North American Politics: Institutions, Policymaking, and Multilevel Governance,” (MIT Press, 2009) investigates North American climate change policy at levels ranging from continental to municipal, from Mexico to Toronto to Portland, Maine.

• “Transatlantic Environment and Energy Politics,” (Ashgate, 2009) which analyzes climate change, product standards, chemical regulations, renewable energy policies, food safety, and genetically-modified organisms to examine areas of conflict and cooperation in the transatlantic relationship.

North American Climate Change PolicyContradictions in North American climate change policy are numerous and significant, according to VanDeveer. For example, the U.S. federal government rejected the Kyoto Protocol and mandatory greenhouse gas (GHG) restrictions, but California developed some of the world's most comprehensive climate change law and regulation. Canada's federal government ratified the Kyoto Protocol, but Canadian GHG emissions increased even faster than those of the United States. Mexico's state-owned oil company addressed climate change issues in the 1990s, in stark contrast to leading U.S. and Canadian energy firms.

“Although national climate policies vary widely, we found even greater policy conflict at the state, regional, and local levels. When states, provinces, cities, large corporations, NAFTA bodies, universities, NGOs, and private firms develop different and separate policy initiatives, it limits the effectiveness of coordinated multilevel climate change governance. And in North America, unlike much of Europe, climate change governance has been largely bottom-up rather than top-down,” VanDeveer says.

U.S.-EU Environment and Energy PoliticsAlthough the United States and European Union face common environmental and energy challenges, they often have taken different approaches to solving them, according to VanDeveer.

“The EU and the U.S. face many common environmental and energy challenges, such as the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce toxics emissions and exposure, regulate electronic waste, develop policies on genetically modified organisms, and food and agricultural safety issues,” VanDeveer says. “But in recent years they have often taken very different approaches to regulating them – at different levels of government. Where the United States was the usual global leader on environmental and consumer safety regulation, the EU has now caught up and often taken the lead with more stringent regulation.”

VanDeveer says this means the European Union increasingly influences global standards more than does the United States, and the EU regulations increasingly force U.S. companies operating in Europe to abide by EU rules.

To improve the transatlantic relationship regarding environmental and energy policies, the book suggests that policy makers on each side of the Atlantic pay more attention to environmental and trade politics at multiple levels of government.

“In other words, while Washington and Brussels may have persistent differences, environmental leaders and some private sector organizations often have substantial agreements, and they are often in frequent contact,” VanDeveer says.

The European Union and the United States are the world’s two largest economies. With approximately 12 percent of global population in 2008, the United States and European Union together account for nearly half of global economic activity. As a result, they have significant influence on international decision making in economic, social, energy, resource and environmental outcomes around the globe. The policy positions adopted by the EU and the United States affect policy opportunities and choices in other parts of the world.

“The Obama administration has increased agreement around broad goals related to climate change, though there are many differences in terms of details. Also, both sides have moved closer together on issues such as agricultural safety and combating livestock diseases, and they tend to learn a great deal from one another around renewable energy issues and some waste and toxics standards. If the U.S. Congress and the Obama administration prove more willing to actually ratify treaties that the U.S. signs, it might also improve cooperation,” VanDeveer says.

Stacy VanDeveer is an associate professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire. His research interests include international environmental policymaking and its domestic impacts, the connections between environmental and security issues, and the role expertise in policy making. He has authored and co-authored numerous articles, book chapters, and working papers and reports. He has co-edited four books: “Changing Climates in North American Politics: Institutions, Policymaking, and Multilevel Governance,” (MIT Press, 2009), “Transatlantic Environment and Energy Politics,” (Ashgate, 2009), “EU Enlargement and the Environment: Institutional Change and Environmental Policy in Central and Eastern Europe” (Routledge, 2005), and “Saving the Seas: Values, Scientists, and International Governance,” (Maryland Sea Grant College, 1997).

The University of New Hampshire, founded in 1866, is a world-class public research university with the feel of a New England liberal arts college. A land, sea, and space-grant university, UNH is the state's flagship public institution, enrolling 11,800 undergraduate and 2,400 graduate students.

PHOTOStacy VanDeveer, associate professor of political science at UNH