The Obama Administration’s plan to combat climate change was put in jeopardy after the United States Supreme Court decision on Tuesday to issue a hold on Obama’s forthcoming regulation of greenhouse gases. But despite the temporary halt that prevent the regulations from taking effect, the White House says that it is still committed to upholding the agreement made this year at COP 21.
The White House promised to press on in its work to fulfill the commitments made by the United States in last year’s UN Climate Conference in Paris. The willingness of the United States to pursue measurable, meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions has been credited as a key component of success in Paris. Already, concerns are being raised that this decision might signal the beginning of the end. “If the American clean energy plan is overturned, we’ll need to reassess whether the United States can meet its commitments,” said Zou Ji, deputy director general of National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation in Beijing. “If the U.S. Supreme Court actually declares the coal power plant rules stillborn, the chances of nurturing trust between countries would all but vanish,” says Navroz K. Dubash, senior fellow at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi.
Despite the concerns, the White House is confident that it will be able to meet the goals set in place earlier this year. The White House has framed the regulations as only part of a broader plan, which includes financial support for renewable energy. “The inclusion of those tax credits is going to have more impact over the short term than the Clean Power Plan,” says White House spokesman Eric Schultz.
It is ironic that the fate of the Obama Administration’s greenhouse gas regulations may be stymied by the Supreme Court. In the 5-4 decision of the 2007 case Massachusetts v. EPA, the Supreme Court recognized the duty of the federal government to use its powers granted by the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases as harmful pollutants. The recent delay guarantees that the future of climate policy in the United States will not be decided by President Obama, but by whomever voters decide to elect next.