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Date: Apr. 2022
From: Harvard Law Review(Vol. 135, Issue 6)
Publisher: Harvard Law Review Association
Document Type: Article
Length: 9,037 words
Lexile Measure: 2050L

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The months leading up to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow put the climate crisis in stark relief. Heatwaves blanketed the American Northwest, shattering temperature records as mortality rates surged. (1) Wildfires raged across Greece, destroying over 120,000 acres of pine forests. (2) Unexpected monsoons and dry spells disrupted weather patterns in Madagascar, resulting in famine for hundreds of thousands of people. (3) And scarcity in freshwater sources in Asia exacerbated geopolitical tensions, as China's efforts to redirect rivers caused extraterritorial droughts and floods. (4)

During the summer before COP26, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report hailed as "the clearest and most comprehensive summary yet of the physical science of climate change." (5) The IPCC report detailed harsh realities. Human activity has increased global temperatures by around 1.1[degrees]C from preindustrial levels (6) and has emitted enough greenhouse gases (GHGs) that the world will continue to warm for around thirty years, even if drastic measures are taken today. (7) The landmark Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015, established a goal to limit the global temperature increase to "well below 2[degrees]C" with 1.5[degrees]C as a target. (8) The 1.5[degrees]C target aims to sustain critical ecological systems. (9) However, the latest IPCC report left open only a narrow window of hope for this goal. Only the best-case scenario contemplated by the IPCC--featuring aggressive emissions cuts over the upcoming decades--will confine the global temperature increase to around 1.5[degrees]C. (10)

Against this backdrop, some commentators referred to COP26 as "a last-ditch effort" (11)--a dramatic shift in tone from only a few years earlier, when the adoption of the Paris Agreement was celebrated as "a victory for all of the planet and for future generations." (12) At COP26, participating nations made various pledges to reduce emissions. (13) Nonetheless, climate scientists concluded that, while narrow progress occurred at the conference, the world was still far from on track to meet the 1.5[degrees]C target or even to constrain the temperature increase to 2.0[degrees]C. (14) Protests erupted around the globe. (15)

While mainstream coverage of COP26 tended to focus on major nations, (16) the conference also reflected a trend toward the involvement of various levels of government in climate change action. Glasgow featured a record number of U.S. governors, (17) broad coalitions of local governments, (18) and "a historic presence of Indigenous leaders." (19)

This edition of Developments in the Law builds on scholarship that embraces the potential for various levels of government to coexist and collaborate in combating climate change. (20) The five Chapters catalog developing spaces for climate action across various domains of government: local prosecution, American Indian treaty litigation, state preemption of local zoning laws, state public service commissions, and tariffs aimed at foreign emissions. (21) Although the first four Chapters center on efforts within the United States, it is worth noting that the involvement of various levels of government in climate policy is a global phenomenon. (22)

First, this Introduction reviews how climate change has been...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A702381249