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Hofstra Law Review

Abstract

The unexpected willingness of local governments to engage in climate change mitigation has occasioned a flurry of reflection and debate about whether local efforts are meaningful, what the implications of local climate change initiatives are for theories of environmental federalism, and how the motivations of local actors can be understood. Additionally, there has been much discussion about the efficacy of local actions and the appropriate role for local governments in addressing the climate change problem.

This Idea does not consider which level of government is best suited to address or attempt to define the optimal role of local governments with respect to climate change (writ large). Instead, this Idea seeks to assess the competence of local governments in implementing one particular climate change mitigation strategy— effecting changes in lifestyle and behaviors that reduce individual GHG emissions. Are local governments uniquely situated to spur lifestyle and behavioral changes that achieve reductions in their citizens’ individual carbon footprints? The answer to this question appears, at least with respect to direct changes to lifestyle and behavior, to be yes. Local governments possess community information helpful for (1) identifying the types of lifestyle and behavior changes feasible for a particular community, and (2) implementing programs to generate those changes. While further study is needed, a preliminary analysis suggests that the community-specific information possessed by local governments could enhance policies aimed at changing GHG-emitting lifestyles and behaviors.

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