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date: 15 October 2019

Summary and Keywords

Managing the risks of climate change partly involves setting and implementing regulatory standards that help to diminish the causes of climate change. This means setting regulatory standards that require businesses to emit fewer pollutants, most notably carbon dioxide. In large federalist systems like the United States and the European Union, this regulation is produced by a variety of institutional structures and policy instruments as well. In the United States, federal regulations often encompass stricter standards with less flexibility; these standards have direct impacts on the relevant regulated interests, but they also influence the content and structure of non-governmental regulations, such as those promulgated by NGOs or industry trade associations. This influential “shadow of hierarchy” can be witnessed in both the U.S. and E.U.

However, at a more local level, businesses and governments do not solely operate within the confines of strict, hierarchical regulation. Both sets of organizations join together horizontally to form compacts and regulatory networks that are often characterized more by guidance, soft law and collaborative efforts. While such institutions can be a welcome and effective complement to stricter, hierarchical regulation, such networks require high levels of trust and goal congruence to overcome the potential collective action problems that are inherently possible in such networks. Finally, the conditions under which networks and hierarchies both develop to construct environmental regulatory policies will depend on the dynamics of the policy process as well. Under ordinary circumstances, diverging preferences and collective action problems may create the foundation for more incremental and weaker regulatory standards, whereas an environmental disaster might create a groundswell of support for strict, judicially binding legislation. In this way, policy processes affect the structure of hierarchies and networks and ultimately the shape of regulations designed to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Keywords: environmental policy, regulation, climate change, multilevel governance, European Union, United States, regulatory federalism, hierarchies, networks, policy process

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