Dhe Supreme Court has now ruled that the powers of the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are curtailed. It must not set any far-reaching reduction targets for electricity production without the blessing of Congress. The Environment Agency is part of the government headed by President Joe Biden. So the decision could be seen as another defeat for a president who seems to have lost all fortune anyway.
However, the decision primarily aims to strengthen the principle of the separation of powers. In its pure form, authorities are limited to the role of enforcing the majority will of the elected parliament. The judges say that major political decisions must have the blessing of Congress; under no circumstances should they be made against the political will of the majority. The abandonment of coal-fired power plants, enforced by the official reduction targets, belongs in this category. The decision is understandable, but that is no consolation.
Biden had hoped to reactivate the Clean Power Plan, which had already been shelved by the courts, in order to achieve the ambitious climate goals he had promised his voters and the rest of the world. The United States aims to reduce its greenhouse gases by half of 2005 levels by 2030. In order to achieve this goal, according to most experts, they not only have to pass new laws, but also regulate the biggest emitters: traffic, power plants and the production of oil and gas.
The Republican attitude is difficult to understand
Stricter regulation will become more difficult after the verdict. Unfortunately, no remedy can be expected from the American Congress with the heavy weight of Republican politicians. Biden hasn’t even managed to bring breakaway Democratic senators back into line. After the midterm elections, the political situation is likely to become even more difficult.
A fundamental problem lies in the fact that the necessary international efforts to at least slow down global warming will largely fall flat if the United States does not act. The world doesn’t just need America’s quantitative contribution. It also needs the exemplary example that climate policy can work without ruining prosperity. Instead, it only gets John Kerry, the Biden administration’s jetting climate ambassador, who in capital cities claims America’s leadership on climate action without feeling silly. The major emitter America would have the best conditions, because no other country has a comparable technological potential and comparable financial power.
The Republican stance on this conflict is authoritative, difficult to understand and even more difficult to condone. Certainly, they would have good reasons to oppose Biden’s climate policy. This is grotesquely expensive, for example, because the President does not want to suppress his protectionist impulses. Tariffs are being imposed on solar panels instead of thanking China for dumping prices to encourage their spread. The plans for wind turbines in the sea are suffering from a 100-year-old transport law that requires companies to build their own bizarrely expensive special ship in an American shipyard in order to be able to ship wind turbines to their installation site at all.
But if the Republicans were bothered by it, the law could have been overturned. They’ve had the opportunity to do that long enough. They have also advocated tariffs on solar imports. If the Republicans really want to block overregulation and state encroachment, why don’t they promote free-market solutions like a CO2price or an emissions trading scheme across the country? Republicans prefer to focus on blaming Joe Biden for high gas prices.
Meanwhile, in core Republican countries like Kansas, crops are withering, water reservoirs in the Midwest are drying up, America’s forests are burning more frequently and longer. Odessa, Texas, was recently without drinking water from the tap for five days while outside temperatures exceeded 38 degrees Celsius. What has to happen before Republicans finally present their constructive contribution to curbing the consequences of climate change? The world is waiting.