• Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • Policy and Regulation
  • Emissions Reductions

Overrule, Dissent, and Object on Court Climate Intervention to Meet this Moment

Matthew Banks
Aug 01, 2022

Guidehouse Insights

On June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not have the authority to broadly regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from power plants, a major contributor to warming the Earth’s atmosphere. This ruling is a significant setback to the progress made by all involved stakeholders in addressing climate change, particularly for the business community, which has been leading the charge. 

For two decades, the private sector has recognized that urgent action is needed in every sector to reduce GHG emissions. It has broadly embraced the need for consistent standards and regulations across the country and the globe. With or without the court’s support, now is the time for companies to continue the leadership role begun in the late 1990s. In fact, there is much that companies can do without government or high courts.

In 2021, President Biden announced that the US will cut emissions in half by 2030. That pledge came close to matching the ambition of the European Union. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court ruling makes it harder to put the country and the world on track to meet climate goals. The ruling in the case West Virginia vs. EPA said that EPA has no authority to shift power generation to cleaner sources. However, it stopped short of the worst-case scenario: taking away the EPA’s ability to regulate GHGs altogether. 

What’s important to appreciate is that, according to a 2020 Pew survey, more than two-thirds of Americans want the country to do more on climate. Equally high levels of public support and media attention in the UK were essential to the passage of the UK Climate Change Act. The UK law established 5-year emissions budgets, capping the amount of emissions allowed for each period. The Act also created the Climate Change Committee, an independent watchdog to annually evaluate progress toward the goals.

The results of such action are clear. Among the major global economies, the UK has experienced the largest decline in emissions since 1990, and the trend in reductions have sped up since 2008. The Act has inspired dozens of countries to set national-level climate targets, including France, Sweden, and New Zealand.

So where do Americans working to curb climate change go from here? Follow cool Britannia. Set annual emissions targets, evaluate performance, and establish a plan to address climate comprehensively. As 2030 looms, the following six-point climate code keeps the momentum:

  • Paris targets: Pursue science-based GHG targets by 2030, compliant with the Science-Based Targets Initiative
  • Zero x 50: Aspire to zero emissions by 2050, as prescribed by Race to Zero
  • School suppliers: Influence suppliers and partners to join in collective climate action, by joining Supplier LoCT to build capabilities
  • Power of clean: Invest in renewable energy via utility-scale purchases
  • Advocate: Support local, regional, state, national, and international climate policy efforts
  • Climate equity: Advance climate justice, with an emphasis on resilience, just transition, human rights, and equitable energy access

Moving the needle, making change happen, and rescuing the planet will only happen with bold, steadfast devotion to these six priorities. With 2025 just around the corner, and increasing signs that climate change has devastating impacts, neither the Supreme Court nor any other distraction should deter real and meaningful progress. Otherwise, we stand to miss important milestones that could help turn a corner on protecting climate stability and the planet and keeping emissions in check across the private sector. Now is the time for industry to use its voice to engage stakeholders and suppliers, enacting the bold commitments that will create a stable climate future for our industries and safeguarding the products that we love for generations to come.