A Framework for Assessing Private Climate Governance

Mike Vandenbergh and I have a new paper out, in the journal Energy Research & Social Science, on our three-part framework for assessing the impacts of private climate governance.

We discussed our three-part framework in previous writing, such as “Accounting for Political Feasibility”, “Beyond Gridlock”, and Beyond Politics. Here, we discuss some practical steps toward applying the framework to assessing the prospects and potential impacts of private climate governance and some of the research needs and priorities for using our framework more broadly.

In this article, we emphasize the valuable and pioneering work Angel Hsu and her colleagues have done to identify and recommend best practices for assessing non-state initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to allocate impacts when multiple actors (e.g., state and local governments, or governments and private actors) contribute to joint or overlapping initiatives.

We conclude that the potential for private climate governance is even greater than we estimated in our book, Beyond Politics, and that methods and data exist to make reasonable estimates of this potential today. However, many research challenges remain both for developing more sophisticated approaches for treating initiative feasibility (the prospect for a proposed public or private policy initiative to be enacted and implemented) and for producing systematic data on what the business sector is currently doing to cut its emissions and for calculating the technical potential for future initiatives.

One particularly hopeful result that we report in this paper is that we estimate that the adoption of energy-efficient light bulbs by U.S. homes has reduced greenhouse gas emissions in the residential sector by almost 130 million metric tons per year of CO2 equivalent.

Until Feb. 11, 2020 you can read the paper for free. After that date, you can access the published version at the journal’s web site or read the preprint here.

The details of our calculations of the impact of select private governance initiatives are available on GitHub