Adaptive governance seeks to address complicated and difficult policy problems. Due to the extreme political upheaval wrought by the Trump administration’s dismantling of federal climate change programs, many state and local governments are considering new policy approaches. Yet by ignoring crucial aspects of politics and intergovernmental relations, the adaptive governance literature provides little guidance for such substantial issues. This paper introduces the concept of strategic adaptive governance, a framework for permitting policymakers to achieve the highest rate of compliance possible under existing conditions and constraints involving state and local policy, despite political upheaval. The strategic adaptive governance model embraces politics, accounts for the role of central authorities, and emphasizes the motivations, resources, and interdependencies of affected parties. We apply the model in an analysis of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32), examining the extent to which it aligns with strategic adaptive governance, and evaluating the potential for the state to utilize the model. We find that AB 32 aligns moderately with strategic adaptive governance, and discuss how the model could help protect and enhance policy gains. More broadly, strategic adaptive governance provides a generic and universal framework for policymakers interested in tactical formulation of any regulatory policy.
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