The ‘toolkit’ and the West Coast climate action plan

I received today the kind of e-mail every professor dreams of receiving. It began:

In September 2003 you promised us a PMP toolkit that would enable us to succeed in any circumstance. You didn’t tell us it could help us change the world.

The former student, Tanya,* is referring to my Policy-Making Processes course, which I teach every year to our candidates for the professional Master of Pacific International Affairs degree. I am not sure I promised that PMP would get them through any circumstance, but I do tell them I will give them a set of tools to allow them to determine who makes a given policy, how the policy-maker is held accountable, and who holds the policy-maker accountable. With the basic set of skills grounded in the logics of collective action, delegation, and political institutions, I tell them they are ready to go off and understand policy and how to influence it.

Tanya continues:

Last summer, I was hired by British Columbia’s Office of the Premier to write a strategy paper on how the Province of BC could strengthen its relationship with the State of California.

She developed a paper for the Premier based on her analysis of the electoral incentives of the actors and produced a California Strategy Paper which envisioned collaboration on climate change and even connecting BC and CA’s “hydrogen highways” and cooperation on transportation.

As of yesterday, this cooperation is now official policy. From the Vancouver Sun, 16 March,** I will quote the first and last two paragraphs of a news account:

It’s a political plot nobody saw coming: the West Coast’s inveterate policy wonk Gordon Campbell [the BC premier] and Hollywood’s Terminator-turned-“governator” Arnold Schwarzenegger teaming up as the West Coast’s climate-action heroes. […]

That “climate action plan” will include such things as more precise details of how B.C. can introduce California’s emission standards for automobiles, take part in a regional market for trading greenhouse gas emissions and build a “hydrogen highway” for fuel-cell automobiles to travel from Whistler to California.

Campbell said he found Schwarzenegger supportive of B.C.’s plans, as well as of a strategy to create “green ports” up and down the West Coast that set environmental standards to protect the oceans and air quality.

Tanya indicates that she helped bring this process about by beginning with

the premise that any high-level dialogue between the Premier and the Governor would need to provide significant short-term political benefits to the Governor to even be considered given the upcoming election, hence opportunities to showcase the Governor’s platform initiatives must be highlighted.

(In the midst of the campaign for reelection, Schwarzenegger pushed for and signed major legislation to implement greenhouse-gas emissions reductions in the state, and since his reelection, he has issued regulations to implement the law that have not always been well received by his own nominal party.)

Tanya’s initial research–just as PMP teaches–was to determine which agencies in California were directly accountable to the Governor. Then from press releases, she found out what the Governor was personally invested in. Regarding the prospects for cooperation between California and British Columbia:

Both are traditionally liberal constituencies that place a high value on quality of life. Both had relatively conservative leaders that had found a win with environmental issues. The Governor and the Premier both demonstrated an interest in taking a leadership role in the context of sub-national cooperation.

Tanya “recommended creating opportunities for the respective leaders to showcase their roles in leading North America in advancing regional climate change initiatives, pioneering the adoption of clean energy and transportation technologies and championing health and wellness initiatives.” She also identified several global issues affecting the West Coast that could be included in the dialog.

And, before we knew it, the Governor and the Premier were announcing big steps to move beyond what their respective federal governments have been willing to do in fighting climate change.

Congratulations, Tanya! And thanks for putting PMP to work! And for making my day with your e-mail.

* Of course, I am quoting her with her permission.

** Sorry, I do not have the link.

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