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Climate policy and action ‘underneath’ Kyoto and Copenhagen: China and the United States

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This contribution focuses on the role and promise of municipal‐government climate‐stabilization policies in the world's two largest greenhouse gases (GHG)‐emitting nations. The article compares emission‐mitigation authority, drivers, barriers, and activities at the city level in China and the United States. Recent municipal policy initiatives are analyzed within a policy context of climate‐driven and climate‐incidental municipal framings. For the most part, United States and Chinese cities have not yet adopted policy strategies that are intended to address GHG emissions directly and have not provided normative leadership in the interest of ecological justice. In both countries, however, increasingly independent and networked municipal governments are linking a diverse set of activities that focus on air‐quality, health‐promotion, and economic security to emissions reduction. These climate‐incidental municipal policies establish commitments that are beginning to exert an important global environmental impact. Although noteworthy and exemplary in a political context of national resistance to emission mandates, in the absence of a coordinated and strategically framed commitment among cities across both countries and/or policies and targets agreed upon at national and international levels that generate and reinforce local government initiatives, fragmented, uneven, and incomplete municipal‐government actions will continue to exert limited measurable and normative impact on global GHG emissions. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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