Reclaiming the Atmospheric Commons

From American and Comparative Environmental Policy

Reclaiming the Atmospheric Commons

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and a New Model of Emissions Trading

By Leigh Raymond

How the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative created a new paradigm in climate policy by requiring polluters to pay for their emissions for the first time.





How the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative created a new paradigm in climate policy by requiring polluters to pay for their emissions for the first time.

In 2008, a group of states in the northeast United States launched an emissions trading program, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). With RGGI, these states—Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont—achieved what had been considered politically impossible: they forced polluters to pay the public for their emissions. The states accomplished this by conducting auctions of emissions “allowances”; by 2014, they had raised more than $2.2 billion in revenues. In this first in-depth examination of RGGI, Leigh Raymond describes this revolutionary and influential policy model and explains the practical and theoretical implications for climate policy.

Other cap-and-trade schemes had been criticized for providing private profits rather than public benefits, allowing private firms to make money by buying and selling valuable “rights to pollute.” RGGI, by contrast, directed virtually all emissions auction revenues to programs benefiting the public at large. By reframing the issue in terms of public benefits, environmental advocates emphasized the public ownership of the atmospheric commons and private corporations' responsibility to pay for their use of it.

Raymond argues that this kind of “normative reframing” is significant not only for environmental policy making but also for theories of the policy process, helping to explain and predict sudden policy change.


$70.00 X ISBN: 9780262034746 256 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 8 figures


$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262529303 256 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 8 figures


  • Raymond's Reclaiming the Atmospheric Commons is a theoretically innovative and data rich book...a strong contribution to the general policy literature.

    CHOICE connect


  • Polluters should pay and they should pay the public for using its commons. Raymond tells a fascinating story—with many lessons for other policies and places—of how environmental activists achieved a cap-and-auction system in the Northeast by reframing climate action to emphasize current public benefits over diffuse future ones.

    Kathryn Hochstetler

    Balsillie School of International Affairs

  • This important book presents the definitive theoretical and empirical exploration of the power of norms to affect dramatic policy change by way of a deliberate strategy of normative reframing. It is a masterful investigation and comprehensive comparative analysis of the pathbreaking RGGI policy initiative, which pioneered using a public benefit model to justify auctioning emissions allowances. Reclaiming the Atmospheric Commons is also an authoritative primer on cap-and-trade programs generally and an invaluable history of the politics of cap and trade nationally and internationally.

    Robert V. Bartlett

    Gund Professor of the Liberal Arts, Political Science Department, University of Vermont

  • Reclaiming the Atmospheric Commons is a compelling, norms-based account of policy change that should be read by anyone interested in creating effective policy instruments that combat climate change and provide positive benefits for the broader public. By bringing together interviews with leading figures, archival work, and his own expertise in analyzing the conditions under which such change occurs, Dr. Raymond takes us beyond the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to the broader universe of public policy dilemmas.

    Kate O'Neill

    Associate Professor, University of California at Berkeley, author of The Environment and International Relations and Waste Trading among Rich Nations


  • Winner, 2017 Lynton Keith Caldwell Prize, sponsored by the American Political Science Association.