University of Michigan Gateway Ford School

The Durability of Carbon Cap‐and‐Trade Policy

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April 2015

Barry G. Rabe, University of Michigan


The surge of American states’ adoption of policies to mitigate climate change in the late 1990s and 2000s appeared to constitute a first wave of expanding use of market-based policy tools such as carbon cap-and-trade in the absence of binding federal constraints. Instead, a substantial number of states have rescinded earlier policy commitments, as have Canadian provincial partners, while others have remained engaged or even expanded their policies. This article examines the durability of the three regional cap-and-trade zones that were established with comparable structure and intent but met very different fates. The analysis of these regional entities places particular emphasis on their political resilience across election cycles, their ability to be flexible and adapt administratively through midcourse adjustments, and their capacity to build constituency support through benefit-allocation to offset opposition linked to cost-imposition.

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Keywords: Economy and Economic Development, Environment

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