Partisan climate change politics, paired with a legislative branch that is often deeply divided between two parties, has led to congressional gridlock in the United States. Numerous efforts at passing comprehensive climate change legislation have failed, and little prospect exists for such legislation in the foreseeable future. As a result, executive action under existing federal environmental statutes—often in interaction with litigation—has become the primary mechanism for national-level regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles and power plants.

Although many observers critique this state of affairs and wish for a legislature more able to act, this essay argues that more unified government paired with partisanship is also problematic. Using the Australian experience of climate change regulation as an example of an alternative pathway, it demonstrates the ways in which a deeply divided country with a parliamentary system of government can have unstable policy that changes more significantly with each administration. It considers the benefits and limitations of each approach, and explores possibilities for a better way forward.