This chapter introduces the main argument of the book: that the decision in RGGI to “reclaim the atmospheric commons” on behalf of the public by auctioning emissions allowances for the first time was possible due to a new normative frame promoted by environmental advocates. This new “public benefit” frame incorporated polluter pays and egalitarian norms to create a new policy design for auctions that paid greater attention to the distribution of the value of those allowances to the public at large. Taken together, this new frame and associated policy design constituted a new “public benefit model” for climate policy stressing the importance not only of making polluters pay, but also of dedicating those revenues to programs that benefit the public directly, such as subsidies for energy efficiency improvements or direct bill rebates. Using this new public benefit frame and policy design, change advocates were able to promote auctions successfully in RGGI in a surprising policy reversal from long-standing practice of giving such allowances away for free to powerful economic interests.
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