Researchers studying state-level climate policy in the US confirm what high school teachers already know: if you make an assignment voluntary and offer no incentives for completing it, no one’s gonna do it.
In an assessment of 17 climate and energy policies enacted by US states between 1990 and 2014, researchers from Emory University found that mandatory policies usually had a positive effect on emissions reduction while voluntary policies always had negligible or no effect.
What may be more interesting, however, is to look at which policies worked best.
Such an analysis has growing practical implications.
This year, the Trump administration reversed many of the Obama administration’s federal emissions-reducing guidelines, rules, and regulations, meaning states that want to curb emissions are left to their own devices. Legislators who are serious about crafting good environmental policy would do well to look at what has worked for others before making proposals.
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