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Taking control to do more: how local governments and communities can enact ambitious climate mitigation policies

Pages 160-174 | Received 04 Nov 2019, Accepted 07 Oct 2021, Published online: 20 Oct 2021


While local governments have emerged as policy leaders on climate change, evidence indicates that many of the policies enacted do not significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This study focuses on ambitious climate policymaking, examining the stakeholders involved and their concerns, including the role of local control. The study analyzes Community Choice Aggregation in California, an impactful climate policy that local governments have pursued throughout the state over the past decade. A qualitative-driven approach is used, including interviews with policymakers and stakeholders in five areas of the state that adopted the policy and two areas that voted against it. An interconnected effort of local elected officials and grassroots groups led the policymaking process, driven by concern about climate change and a desire for local control. Grassroots engagement can be critical in building support and coalitions for ambitious climate policies. Stakeholders and governments embraced local control to shape policies to match their priorities and achieve a variety of co-benefits.


My thanks to the 42 interviewees for their time and thoughtful participation. Thanks to Dr. Sheldon Kamieniecki, Dr. Adam Millard-Ball, and Dr. Elizabeth Beaumont for their insights and comments in undertaking the study, and to the anonymous reviewers for their comments.

Disclosure statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author(s).


1 Following this study's completion, San Diego County policymakers voted in October 2019 to move forward with CCA after the city of San Diego and other governments in the area did. Implementation was paused until April 2021, when county policymakers voted to start discussions about joining one of two regional CCA programs.

2 The University of California, Santa Cruz's Office of Research Compliance Administration reviewed this study's human subjects component and granted an exemption.

Additional information

Notes on contributors

John H. Armstrong

John H. Armstrong Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies in the College of Arts & Sciences at Seattle University.

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