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Climate Policy Buffers

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The Trump administration wreaked havoc on U.S. climate policy by withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, undoing climate regulations, and undermining the foundation of future regulatory efforts. The Biden administration has begun to reverse the Trump administration’s climate rollbacks, but Democrats have struggled to enact legislation that would directly limit carbon emissions. Because federal climate policy remains rooted in agency rules and policies, the election of the next Republican president may herald further policy whiplash. Swings in climate policy waste limited government resources, foster uncertainty, weaken trust in federal climate policy, undermine climate mitigation efforts, and make future responses to climate change even more difficult. Understanding how to safeguard administrative climate policy from future rollbacks is essential.

This Article contends that a suite of factors—including features of administrative law, subsidies for renewables, state climate policies and lawsuits, nongovernmental climate initiatives, incompetence, and happenstance—have all played important roles in buffering federal climate policy from more extensive damage. The Article then considers how to bolster these factors to protect federal climate policies from future efforts to undo them.

This Symposium issue is made possible in part by our Platinum Symposium Sponsor Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.

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