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Aligning subnational climate actions for the new post-Paris climate regime


The Paris Agreement solidified the participation of subnational governments in global mitigation efforts, continuing the shift towards a polycentric landscape of climate action. Many scholars have suggested that the success of this emergent regime will depend, at least in part, on its ability to integrate climate action from non-state and subnational entities. Vertical alignment, the linking and coordination of policies between different levels of government, and horizontal alignment, the connection of peer cities and regions through networks of transnational climate governance, can help facilitate needed coherence. But, how do multiple actors link or interact at multiple scales and domains? In this article, we develop an analytical framework for examining different modes of vertical and horizontal alignment that subnational actors have employed to address climate change mitigation. We identify key elements in nine case studies of subnational climate action to examine the intersectionalities of alignment mechanisms that catalyze subnational climate actions. The paper concludes with a discussion about how vertical and horizontal alignment pathways overlap, intersect, and exhibit trade-offs.

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Fig. 1


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  3. Oberthür and Gehring (2006) examined 163 cases of interactions between international agreements and EU legal instruments and found no cases of disruptive interaction effects in the environmental domain.


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We thank the following: David Albertani, Christophe Nuttall, Kristina Haddad, Qiuping Li, Terry Tamminen, and Denise Welch, R20; Felipe Bittencourt, WayCarbon; Ana Caetano and Weber Coutinho, City of Belo Horizonte; Kathryn Harrison, University of British Columbia; Naomi Swickard, VCS; William Dean and Mark Wenzel, CalEPA; Nesamani Kalandiyur, California Air Resources Board; Bing Han, Yin Lin, and Lavender Luo, China Emission Exchange; Aromar Revi, Indian Institute for Human Settlements; Sarang Shidore, University of Texas; Kartikeya Singh, CSIS; Steve Thorne, Energy Transformations cc/SouthSouthNorth; Sarah Ward, City of Cape Town; and Xiliang Zhang of Tsinghua University. We would also like to thank Sander Chan, German Development Institute, and Oscar Widerberg, University of Amsterdam, for their valuable insights; Stefanie Wnuck, who contributed to this research in an earlier version of this paper; Yale F&ES masters students Allison Khoe and Isabelle Rui; Ryan Thomas for interview assistance; Carlin Rosengarten for editing assistance; and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

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Correspondence to Angel Hsu.

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Hsu, A., Weinfurter, A.J. & Xu, K. Aligning subnational climate actions for the new post-Paris climate regime. Climatic Change 142, 419–432 (2017).

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  • Climate Policy
  • British Columbia
  • Emission Trading Scheme
  • Climate Action
  • Vertical Alignment