California's Foreign Climate Policy

California's Foreign Climate Policy
Global Summitry 3(1): 1-26 (2017), doi.org/10.1093/global/gux007

California has been at the forefront of environmental policy for decades, relying on its unique legal authorities and economic scale to influence out-of-state actors and drive technological innovation in multiple sectors. In the early 2000s, the state developed a comprehensive climate policy framework and has since emphasized its external leadership role under two successive governors. With the U.S. federal government withdrawing from international climate policy, California’s place on the national and global stage has never been more prominent. Even though the U.S. Constitution formally prohibits states from having a foreign policy, when it comes to climate, California has one in all but name. Drawing on California’s rich history of environmental policy, this article evaluates past and current efforts to build multilateral climate policy cooperation at the state level. California is at once a proactive outlier—a subnational government with the political will and regulatory capacity to rival even the European Union’s policy regime—as well as a microcosm of the broader climate mitigation puzzle, where the problem of implementing aggressive targets looms large. In order to build on the state’s successful legacy, California policymakers should pursue strategies to: increase transparency in domestic policy and between the state’s partners abroad, increase cooperation within the state government, and minimize the legal risk of foreign policy preemption challenges.