State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Court Ruling on Clean Power Plan a Setback, But…

Big Bend Power Station, a coal-fired plant, near Apollo Beach, Fla. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Big Bend Power Station, a coal-fired plant, near Apollo Beach, Fla. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Supreme Court this week put a hold on one of the key programs in the United States’ efforts to control CO2 emissions and combat global warming. The decision puts aside new regulations to control emissions from power plants until a challenge from more than two dozen states is resolved in federal appeals court.

The court’s 5-4 decision to postpone implementation of the Clean Power Plan represents a clear setback for the Obama administration’s efforts to combat climate change; but the damage to the U.S. ability to meet pledges it made at the Paris climate summit in December “is less than it might seem,” says Michael Gerrard in a commentary posted on the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law’s website.

“That is not because the Clean Power Plan wasn’t important; it is because the plan didn’t do nearly enough,” says Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center.

Gerrard notes that the plan’s emissions reductions won’t begin until 2022, meaning they won’t play a role in meeting the nation’s stated goal of reducing carbon emissions by 17 percent by 2020. Even beyond that date, the plan alone won’t be enough to meet the goal of reducing emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025. That, and future reductions, will depend on many other measures. Those would include higher efficiency standards for buildings and appliances and greater efforts to reduce energy consumption in the industrial and transportation sectors.

“In sum,” Gerrard writes, “while the Clean Power Plan is the biggest game in town in terms of achieving the Paris goals, it is by no means the only game in town. While we express our justifiable fury over the Supreme Court’s action, we need to bear in mind that there are many other things that the U.S. must do in the next several years to control greenhouse gas emissions.”

You can read the full commentary at the Sabin Center’s website.

For more on the court’s ruling:

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