Climate change and climate policy are among the major global issues of our time. As one of the countries with the largest consumption and production of petroleum resources, the United States belongs to those with the greatest responsibility for the enormous emissions of greenhouse gases – both historically and today. What the US does or does not do in the climate field has a decisive effect on solving the climate problems . US presidents, presidential candidates and other politicians have spoken in very climate-friendly terms without this having had an impact on practical politics. What are the obstacles? (HHD 2013: 8)
- What interests are particularly active in American climate policy?
- What climate policy room does Obama have?
- What does the United States mean for global climate policy?
Change – Change – the Obama campaign’s top slogan in the presidential election in 2008. One area that was ripe for change, according to the Obama campaign, the US climate policy. The United States was to become an international climate policy leader. An important measure to achieve such a position was to pass a federal climate law. New legislation was needed as the United States’ degrees of freedom in international negotiations are usually heavily dependent on national policies.
It started well. Just four months after his inauguration, the House of Representatives passed a federal climate law. But the law quickly got stuck in the Senate . It was not even put to the vote there. Today we can state that an ambitious American climate policy is still a distant dream. What happened? In our response, we emphasize that states’ positions and behavior in international politics are largely governed by interests and institutions at the national level. The United States, a country located in North America according to ehotelat, is perhaps the foremost example that in order to understand a country’s foreign policy position, one must understand the domestic policy decision – making processes and priorities.
In this article, we focus in particular on three issues:
- Traditional lines of conflict in US climate policy and coalition building in Congress in 2009 and 2010.
- Important events outside Congress. During the period when the climate law was debated in Congress, there were three important external events that affected the actors’ positions: the establishment of the right-wing conservative “Tea Party” movement, the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 and the financial crisis with rising unemployment and general economic uncertainty. and beyond.
- US and international climate negotiations.
3: Traditional lines of conflict
Climate change has been part of American policy since the early 1990s, when climate negotiations under the auspices of the UN began. Since then, opposition to federal regulation of energy-related emissions has been strong. In 1993, a Democrat-controlled Senate rejected President Bill Clinton’s proposal for an energy tax . Subsequently, proposals for a new federal climate law were rejected in 2003 and 2005 (by a Republican-controlled Senate). In 2008, a Democratic-controlled Senate rejected a climate law. In 2009, a federal climate law was passed by a democratically-controlled House of Representatives (the House), but the proposal was never voted on in the (democratically-controlled) Senate. In the course of more than 20 years, we thus see a persistent resistance against a more ambitious federal climate policy among U.S. lawmakers, despite changing political majorities in Congress.
There are two factors in particular that determine the legislators ‘position on the climate issue: party affiliation (ideology) and the natural resource basis in the legislators’ home state . In general, Democrats are more positive about environmental regulations than Republicans, including in climate policy. The votes in 2003, 2005 and 2008 also document a strong ideological polarization in this issue. Taken as a whole, 88.6% of Republican senators voted against climate legislation, while 82% of Democratic senators voted in favor.
The clear difference between Democrats and Republicans in environmental policy is linked to an ideological divide in the view of the role of the state. Traditionally, Republicans are more skeptical of state interference than Democrats. Environmental policy is often associated with increased government regulation, which can also be seen as restricting the freedom of (polluting) industry and business. Both make such policies less attractive to Republicans. Republicans are also more skeptical that man-made climate change is actually taking place.
Despite the fact that the ideological line of conflict is strong in American climate policy, the natural resource base in the legislators’ home state constitutes an important intersecting line of conflict. Legislators from states with high fossil dependence (large coal and / or oil resources) are more often negative about climate legislation (regardless of ideological affiliation) than legislators from states that are less economically dependent on fossil resources . Fossil dependence is perhaps most strongly expressed in the fact that many states are dependent on coal for their electricity production. In climate votes in the Senate in the 2000s, an average of 58.2% of electricity production was coal-based in the home states of senators who voted no. Among the yes senators, an average of 36% of electricity production in their home states was coal-based.
4: Coalition building in Congress 2009–2010
What role did ideology and fossil dependence play in voting in the House’s climate vote in 2009 and 2010? There is a clear connection between the legislator’s ideological profile, fossil dependence in the legislator’s home state and the legislator’s voting. The stronger the Republican ideology the legislature had, the higher the share of coal-based electricity production and the greater the share of the state’s revenue coming from carbon-intensive sectors, the more likely it was that the legislature would vote no to a new climate law.
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate pass laws by a simple majority. In the Senate, however, a ” filibuster mechanism ” means that in practice most bills must achieve a qualified majority of senators (60 out of 100) in order to be passed. The filibuster mechanism is a rule of debate which means that a senator cannot be interrupted, but may continue to speak as long as he or she is physically fit. The mechanism is therefore a frequently used tool for obstruction tactics in the Senate; its use has increased significantly since the 1960s. There are no corresponding debate rules in the House of Representatives, where laws are passed by a simple majority. Consequently, it is more difficult to get laws passed in the Senate because it requires greater support than what is needed in the House.. The outcome of a debate on the same issue may therefore be different in the two chambers, even though the distribution of interests is the same. Coalition building is important in both chambers in order for a proposal to be adopted. A winning coalition is a temporary alliance between the supporters of a bill that is large enough for the bill to achieve the necessary majority to be passed. To build winning coalitions, political leaders can attach benefits to the proposal so that it becomes more attractive to lawmakers.
An important focus for political leaders trying to build a winning coalition in Congress is to make coalition building as cheap as possible . It is e.g. no reason to waste time and resources on persuading legislators who will probably support the proposal anyway, but also on legislators who are very far from the proposal and whose support will be difficult to obtain and also very expensive.
In the debate in 2009–2010, the democratic coalition builders in both chambers oriented themselves first towards their own party colleagues with moderate to high fossil dependence, and then towards moderate Republicans with low to moderate fossil dependence. With a decision rule on a simple majority, the coalition builders could direct the compromise proposals primarily towards party colleagues (the Democrats had over 58% majority). Even if some Democrats were to drop out, there was still a real opportunity to get the proposal passed in the House . In the Senate , the requirement was stricter. The filibuster mechanism meant that the coalition builders there had to secure a qualified majority – a larger proportion of the votes (60 out of 100). Even with the support of everyone Democrats, the proposal still had to be supported by at least one Republican to be passed.