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Designing the New Green Deal: Where’s the Sweet Spot?

May 2019

Citation: ELR 10428

Author: Robert Sussman

The Donald Trump years have been painful for advocates of a forceful U.S. response to climate change. The White House has pulled out of the 2015 Paris Agreement, tried to revive coal, and moved to scuttle landmark U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations for vehicles and power plants. Despite these setbacks, a heightened sense of urgency and passion has emerged following the Democratic takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives. Progressive climate policy is once again at the top of the national agenda. This Comment examines the factors that have created a unique moment of opportunity for climate policy while underscoring the absence of a broadly accepted paradigm to guide policymakers. To provide historical context, it then steps back from the current policy scene and reviews the long and largely unsuccessful U.S. struggle to find a path forward on climate change and the lessons it offers for finding solutions that are both politically durable and effective in addressing the climate threat. Against the backdrop of recent changes in emissions and technologies, the Comment finally seeks to chart a course for post-2020 policymaking that maximizes emission reductions while acknowledging and working within political and economic realities.

Robert Sussman, an environmental lawyer, was previously U.S. EPA Deputy Administrator under President William Clinton and Senior Policy Counsel to the EPA Administrator under President Barack Obama and has taught at Georgetown Law Center and Yale Law School.

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