States have been widely criticized for failing to advance the international climate regime. Many observers now believe that a "new" climate governance is emerging through transnational and/or local forms of action that will eventually plug the resulting governance gaps. Yet states, which remain oddly absent from most discussions of the "new" governance, will remain key players as governance becomes more polycentric. This paper introduces a special issue that explores the ability of states to rise to these interconnected challenges through the analytical prism of policy innovation. It reveals that policy innovation is much more multi-dimensional than is often thought; it encompasses three vital activities: invention (centering on the 'source' of new policy elements), diffusion (that produces different 'patterns' of policy adoption), and the evaluation of the 'effects' that such innovations create in reality. The papers, which range from qualitative case studies to large '. n' quantitative studies, offer new insights into the varied roles that states play in relation to all three. They show, for instance that: the policy activity of states has risen dramatically in the past decade; that state innovation is affected to similar degrees by internal and external factors; and that policies that offer flexibility to target groups on how to meet policy goals are most effective but that voluntary reporting requirements are ineffective. This paper draws upon these and many other insights to offer a much more nuanced reflection on the future of climate governance; one that deservedly puts states at the front and center of analysis.