Amanda Voeller


The consequences of climate change seriously and immediately threaten the American way of life, but proposed federal legislation like the Green New Deal is overly broad, unrealistic, and inefficient. The most effective way for the United States to combat climate change is not with a one-size-fits-all plan like the Green New Deal, but with federal legislation that incentivizes states and cities to enact and enforce individualized, local climate legislation. Different states and cities have different climates, available energy sources, and transportation needs, so the federal government should use financial incentives to encourage states and cities to pass tailor-made bills and ordinances that work for each_locality.

he idea for this incentive statute comes from the 1984 National Minimum Drinking Age Amendment, a federal statute in which Congress withheld 5% of federal highway funding from states that did not set their minimum drinking ages to 21. The statute was very effective, leading to all 50 states increasing their drinking ages to 21 within four years. A bipartisan Supreme Court upheld the statute as a constitutional use of Congress’s spending power. This Article proposes more complex and nuanced legislation, but the general idea is the same: Congress may use its spending power to incentivize states to enact statutes in line with federal policy goals. An incentive statute like the one proposed in this Article would succeed because it would afford states the flexibility to decide which types of climate legislation would work best in their states while also holding those states accountable to environmental benchmarks.