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It’s been more than a week since the United States Supreme Court handed down its decision in West Virginia v. EPA. While the climate community is still calculating the full impact of the decision on the administration’s pledge to half US emissions by 2030, it is clear that this ruling will have a significant effect on the pace of action needed to meet this goal. The Supreme Court ruling slows down US climate action at a time when we need to be accelerating. It damages US credibility as a world leader on climate, providing excuses to other high emitting countries to slow the pace of their implementation.
The upshot of the Supreme Court’s decision is that the EPA doesn’t have the authority without a specific mandate from Congress, to issue rules by shifting to different sources of fuel to generate power. It means that the Administration will not be able to set the kind of policies we need to halve emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. The decision may also open the door to limiting other areas of environmental regulation such as CAFE rules which set gas mileage standards in cars or the recent SEC ruling which requires public corporations to disclose their risk to climate change.
There is no question that the decision sets us back at a time when we desperately need to move forward. The latest assessments from the IPCC are clear – the planet has already warmed more than 1.1 degrees Celsius, and we are well on our way to exceed the 1.5 threshold considered to be manageable and warm the planet in excess of three degrees, a scenario which science tells us creates irretrievable and inescapable climate consequences.
To get moving on this task, Congress must provide a pathway for utilities and companies to switch to cleaner forms of energy by expanding the investment and production tax credits, incentivize consumers to purchase electric vehicles through an extension of existing tax credits and help home owners make their houses more energy efficient. This is money well spent. We all can see that climate impacts are getting worse – more extreme heatwaves, stronger storms, more frequent flooding. We also see the costs mounting, with twenty separate climate related natural disaster events costing more than a billion dollars in 2021 alone! The message could not be clearer – we need to accelerate congressional action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is the moment when our elected officials need to step in to make change happen so we don’t end up paying a price that future generations can’t afford.
Make no mistake, even with climate legislation, the task ahead of us is still daunting. We also need the business community actively engaged to address carbon emissions in every sector of our economy. Many businesses are already committed to the effort, but to halve our emissions in seven years, we need so many more to up their game. In addition, state and local governments, cultural and religious institutions and individuals across America all need to pull in the same direction and demand that Congress act now to keep us safe from the escalating costs and damage of climate change.
If you’re an individual, use our action center to tell your Congressional representatives you want meaningful climate legislation now. If you are a business, make your commitment to reduce your emissions today. If you’re a subnational institution of any kind, go All In on climate. Only we can make it happen, and we have to act now.
Marcene Mitchell is WWF's Senior Vice President, Climate Change