Authoritarian Environmental Federalism
35 Pages Posted: 24 Apr 2017 Last revised: 19 Nov 2018
Date Written: September 18, 2018
We develop a theory to explain the persistence of tensions between decentralized delegation and centralized control of environmental governance in authoritarian regimes. Benefits of decentralization -- information, competition, and economic efficiency -- conflict with goals of policy harmonization and management of inter-jurisdictional externalities. These persistent tensions between different levels of governance generate a de facto federalism, distinct from traditional models of formally-defined, de jure power-sharing. We test our theory of authoritarian environmental federalism using the case of China's power sector, drawing on evidence from primary source documents, field interviews, and multiple data sources on the development and distribution of generating capacity. We focus on two policy areas -- coal-fired power and wind energy -- that are integral to central government efforts to improve the quality of environmental governance. This research contributes to understanding inter-governmental relations and environmental governance in autocracies.
Keywords: environmental governance, political economy, subnational actors, China, coal, renewable energy, central-local relations
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