SPURRING G20 ACTION ON VEHICLE FUEL ECONOMY

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As depicted in John Kingdon's seminal work, Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policy, a policy entrepreneur is someone who looks for the right political and bureaucratic conditions to press his or her pet proposal. In this case of entrepreneurship, I started with an idea for something G20 leaders could do to cut greenhouse gases: commit themselves collectively to boost the fuel economy of motor vehicles. After I laid the ground through coalition-building and meetings with senior officials in Washington and other capitals, it was gratifying when the November 2014 Brisbane G20 Summit commissioned a new task group on fuel economy—to be coordinated by the United States and with my coalition partners serving as expert resources. 

Within the broader framework of policy advocacy, this is a case of advocacy aimed at affecting high-level diplomacy. Just like Kingdon's policy entrepreneur, an advocate must couch his proposals as solutions to the problems policymakers feel responsible for solving. For a diplomatic  process such as the G20, it's  a question of the sort of measures (or, " deliverables") the heads of government want to announce at their summit—either pledging on behalf of their nations individually or giving a mandate for ongoing cooperation. 

When I looked at the G20 role on climate change, I saw a high-profile global forum under-performing on the great global challenge of our time. Not only did the group have the means to do more, I also expected G20 leaders would feel a mounting sense of responsibility to produce meaningful outcomes on climate. At the outset, my idea was based on two premises: 1) the most significant climate action of President Obama's first term was to raise fuel economy standards and 2) these kinds of regulations could be a fruitful area for the world's major economies to take collective action.

 "And following the steps we’ve taken in the United States, many of the G20 countries agreed to work to improve the efficiency of heavy-duty vehicles, which would be another major step in reducing emissions."

​Remarks by President Obama at G20 Press Conference | November 16, 2014

    © European Union

​The G20's process for consulting with think tank experts was a perfect setting to start crystallizing the potential steps G20 leaders could take. As part of the Think20 process for Brisbane, I worked with colleagues from the Global Fuel Economy Initiative (GFEI) and International Council for Clean Transportation (ICCT) on a menu of options for G20 action. READ MORE

THE ROAD TO BRISBANE

With underwriting from GFEI, Climate Advisers joined with Center for American Progress (CAP) to publish a report on"Accelerating Global Vehicle Efficiency," offering a much more detailed analysis of prospects for international cooperation on fuel economy. One of the CAP coauthors was Peter Ogden; back when Pete worked on climate policy in the Obama White House, he was among the first people with whom I broached my idea.   READ MORE

​In the G20 Energy Efficiency Action Plan issued at the Brisbane summit, fuel economy was one of three areas identified as involving "new G20-led work in which participating countries will address an emerging challenge or a gap in existing international collaboration." Echoing our earlier menu of options memo, the plan discussed heavy-duty as well as passenger vehicles, clean fuels, tailpipe emissions, and green freight programs. It also singled out my coalition partners GFEI and ICCT as key sources for the new IPEEC Transport Task Group to draw from.   READ MORE