Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization: Lessons from California and Germany

56 Pages Posted: 20 Jul 2016 Last revised: 23 Jun 2017

See all articles by John C. Dernbach

John C. Dernbach

Widener University - Commonwealth Law School

Date Written: July 19, 2016


To achieve deep decarbonization, developed countries need to reduce their net greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050. As ambitious and even unachievable as that goal may seem, some developed country jurisdictions have already made considerable progress in conceptualizing and even adopting legal approaches for achieving decarbonization. This article describes the approaches being taken in two major developed country jurisdictions — California and Germany — and suggest lessons from that experience that could be useful to the United States. These lessons are no less important—and may even be more important—after President Trump’s decisions to withdraw the U.S. from active engagement on climate change.

Keywords: Climate Change, Decarbonization, Zero Carbon, Global Warming, Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project, Paris Agreement, California, Germany

JEL Classification: K19, K32

Suggested Citation

Dernbach, John C., Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization: Lessons from California and Germany (July 19, 2016). 82 Brooklyn Law Review 825, Widener Law Commonwealth Research Paper No. 15-40, Available at SSRN: or

John C. Dernbach (Contact Author)

Widener University - Commonwealth Law School ( email )

3800 Vartan Way
Harrisburg, PA 17110-9380
United States

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