Ecology Law Currents is the online-only publication of Ecology Law Quarterly, one of the nation’s most respected and widely read environmental law journals. Currents features short-form commentary and analysis on timely environmental law and policy issues.
While much attention is shed upon the climate crisis, intimately intertwined—and arguably a bigger threat to human stability—is the biodiversity crisis. In particular, current industrial agricultural systems accelerate biodiversity loss and amplify climate change, which in turn intensifies widespread food insecurity and has left over 800 million people without adequate nutrition. To combat these intertwining crises, global scale policy is imperative to encourage agricultural practices that sustain the earth’s fragile ecosystem and equitably support communities that depend on it.
Subnational governments, working with non-governmental advocates, drove climate action during the Trump administration while rebuffing federal rollbacks. Under the Biden administration, focus may initially shift towards the federal government, but the subnational network is critical to continued progress on climate change. I use the term “networked federalism” to describe how a horizontal, interconnected, and polycentric collection of states, local governments, Tribes, and advocates provides the resilient frame needed to buttress national action. Indeed, this structure mirrors the successful structure of the Paris Agreement —in which international action depends on subsidiary national contributions. A networked, federalist system of subnational climate action will be critical to continuing success, and should be nurtured and expanded. In this article, I discuss barriers to federal climate action under the Biden administration, trace the important role of subnationals in the climate movement, and lay out a policy agenda for strengthening subnational networks over the next four years.
As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency turns 50, the federal government remains a laggard on environmental justice. We offer three forward-facing remedies to provide more just outcomes for environmental justice communities through the legal system: refocusing criminal enforcement efforts to prioritize environmental justice communities, further conceptualizing environmental justice communities as victims of crime in the legal system, and expanding the use of crime victim compensation targeted at environmental justice communities. These remedies will ensure that environmental justice communities are better protected from harm and will provide opportunities to better compensate victims.
There are various public policy approaches to addressing passenger vehicle carbon emissions. In this article I review three possible approaches: raising emissions standards; alternative fuel vehicle subsidies; and congestion charging zones. I propose a set of criteria for evaluating these different policies, and apply those criteria to the three policies. I conclude that a combination of increased passenger vehicle emissions standards and subsidies for alternative fuel vehicles represents the best policy approach.