The United States Supreme Court is dealing with a case involving claims by 19 mostly Republican-led states and coal companies, arguing that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not have the legal power to issue comprehensive new policies ruling power plants. The EPA should have limited authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants. The case could mean a setback to the Biden administration’s plans to tackle climate change and how it regulates planet-heating gases from the energy sector.
David Doniger, a climate change expert with the Natural Resources Defence Council, said opponents of the EPA regulations were advancing “horror stories about extreme regulations the EPA may issue in the future”. He argued that “the EPA is writing a new rule on a clean slate.”
It is under consideration whether the EPA may soon have specific authority to make new rules limiting carbon emissions nationwide. Although the Biden administration’s EPA has said it plans to issue a new carbon rule, coal companies and red states called on the Supreme Court to take the unusual step of getting involved before the regulation is finalised.
The case was held on Monday; soon after the publication of a 3,675 page United Nations report urging no delay in global action to combat climate change. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the international group of climate experts put together by the United Nations, issued a stark warning.
Already, many of the effects of climate change are deemed irreversible, with 3.6 billion people, almost half the world’s population, now living in areas vulnerable to climate change. Policy changes are urgently needed for effective action and that can happen only with the sustained public interest in change. Without substantial changes in policy, “It would make it extremely difficult — if not impossible — to achieve the pledges we have made under the Paris Agreement, and that would reduce pressure on China and India to reduce their emissions,” Pat Parenteau, a professor at Vermont Law School argued.
If the EPA’s abilities will get limited, this may weaken the Biden administration’s effort to cut carbon emissions – and by the same token, the United States’ ability to achieve the pledges made under the Paris Climate Agreement. The US risks losing its role as a world leader in climate change. Moreover, other regulatory efforts, such as consumer protections, workplace safety and public health, will get affected too.
A large section of the American public is behind policies to ensure the US adapts and leads in the fight against climate change. The nation’s largest electric utilities, along with prominent businesses including Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Tesla, are supporting the Biden administration’s initiative to come up with a new regulatory proposal.
A decision is expected by late June.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com. — In the Featured Photo: Coal companies. Featured Photo: Flickr.