Chicago Journal of International Law


Climate change is a global problem that will ultimately require a concerted global response. Policy analysts, however, are divided about whether individual jurisdictions and groups of jurisdictions should take the initiative in the meantime. This Article argues in favor of subglobal efforts, both for their direct effects on emissions and their role as steps toward global cooperation. Some analysts argue that subglobal efforts are futile because of the problem of carbon leakage. More careful analyses, however, have shown that leakage is unlikely to pose a severe threat to the effectiveness of well-designed subglobal mitigation efforts. Policy design can manage leakage levels and prevent them from frustrating mitigation efforts. Moreover, mitigation efforts in one set of jurisdictions seem more likely to increase rather than decrease the likelihood of mitigation elsewhere. By building confidence among the key actors, subglobal actions can help pave the way for broader international cooperation. Indeed, without prior subglobal efforts, it is difficult to imagine a successful global agreement. Subglobal efforts are needed as confidence-building measures, providing a basis for mutual cooperation. Subglobal efforts are also needed to experiment with and improve policy instruments that can then be launched at the global level. In short, subglobal efforts are not only desirable but indispensable.