Skip to main content

Cultivating a Green Political Landscape: Lessons for Climate Change Policy from the Defeat of California’s Proposition 23

Posted by on Thursday, March 28, 2013 in Articles, Volume 66, Volume 66, Number 2, Volumes.

Around the same time as federal climate change legislation died in the U.S. Senate, California voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot initiative to repeal the state’s climate change regulatory system. The opposition to Proposition 23 was so successful in part because no major business interests within the state were willing to support the Proposition. That support was lacking partially because many of those interests had already adjusted to, or benefited from, California’s long history of legislation on energy efficiency and renewable energy. The campaign over Proposition 23 suggests the long-term importance of thinking strategically about how environmental law and policy can create interest groups that will resist repealing environmental laws and support expanding them. Thus, the most important factor in selecting environmental policy options may not be whether those options are the most economically efficient or the most likely to pass today, but whether they will encourage future progress on the policy question. This conclusion stands in sharp contrast with the current emphasis in the existing climate change policy literature on efficiency and short-term politics. It is also in tension with a significant legal and policy literature that is sharply critical of compromise with powerful vested interests in environmental law.