Budgeting for Climate Change: Obstacles and Opportunities at the US State Level

Elisabeth Gilmore and Travis St.Clair
Climate Policy, 18:6 (2018), pp. 729-741.

State governments in the United States are well placed to identify opportunities for mitigation and the needs for adaptation to climate change. However, the cost of these efforts can have important implications for budgets that already face pressures from diverse areas such as unfunded pensions and growing health care costs. This paper evaluates the current level of spending on climate-related activities at the state level and provides policy recommendations aimed at improving financial management practices as they relate to climate risk. An examination of state budgets reveals that climate mitigation and adaptation activities represent less than 1% of spending in most states. However, state governments are not clearly demarcating climate expenditures, hindering the identification of climate-related budgetary risks. In the absence of guidelines, these longer-term fiscal outlays may remain chronically underfunded in favor of more near-term spending priorities.

Wagner Faculty