After the controversial decision on abortion rights in the USA, the top judges have now targeted Biden’s climate policy – and are slowing down the president properly.

Defeat for Joe Biden: The US Supreme Court has dealt the US President another serious blow with a decision on climate policy.

The Supreme Court ruled in Washington that far-reaching rules to limit greenhouse gas emissions exceed the powers of the US environmental protection agency EPA. The background to this is a complaint by the coal lobby. After the current decision, it will be very difficult for the USA to achieve its climate goals. Even the United Nations rated the verdict as a “setback in our fight against climate change”.

Biden calls decision “devastating”

About a week ago, the court, with its conservative majority, triggered a political earthquake by overturning the right to an abortion. Biden also called the decision on climate policy “devastating”. You will set the country back. The court is siding with special interests, the US President said. The public health and existential threat posed by the climate crisis will not be ignored. He announced that he would work with states and cities to pass legislation that would address the pressure to act as a result of dramatic global warming.

The case, now decided, began as a dispute over EPA’s authority to force power plants to reduce their pollution. In the meantime, however, it is more a question of how much power federal agencies should and should have, which, like the EPA, are subordinate to the government. So far, Biden has been able to try to regulate environmental pollution through such federal agencies. This is now made more difficult.

As one of his first official acts, Biden ordered the United States to return to the international climate agreement. According to this, the USA should generate electricity without carbon dioxide emissions by 2035 and reduce its CO2 emissions to net zero by 2050 at the latest. He also announced that by 2030 he would like to at least halve the emission of climate-damaging greenhouse gases in the USA compared to 2005. However, the implementation of these goals is a problem.

The climate package is currently on hold

The US Congress has so far dealt little with the issue of climate change and delegated powers to authorities with specialist knowledge. Biden’s big social and climate package was also blocked in the Senate and is on hold. Measures included in the package, including clean energy investments, subsidies for electric cars and energy renovations, should greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help the US meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Tightening the requirements for limiting carbon dioxide emissions so that less coal is burned as a result could be a sensible solution, according to the judgment written by conservative judge John Roberts. But it is not plausible that Congress would have given the environmental agency such authority. “A decision of such scope and consequence rests with Congress itself, or with any agency acting under clear direction from this representative body.”

The three judges, who are considered liberal, voted against the conservative majority. “The court appoints itself – and not Congress or the competent authority – as the decision-maker in climate policy. I can’t think of many things more frightening,” Judge Elena Kagan wrote.

«Coordinated, multi-year strategy»

The current case before the Supreme Court is the “result of a coordinated, multi-year strategy” by Republican attorneys general, conservative legal activists and their financiers to weaken the executive branch’s ability to fight global warming, the “New York Times” had previously said written. The plaintiffs, some of whom have ties to the oil and coal industries, wanted to curb the so-called administrative state.

With the verdict, a memorable session of the Supreme Court comes to an end. The recent decisions, which have repeatedly been in favor of the conservative plaintiffs, are not surprising – the then US President Donald Trump had moved the Supreme Court far to the right with his personnel decisions. The court repeatedly sided with religious plaintiffs or expanded the gun law.

At the end of the current period, at the request of President Biden, Ketanji Brown Jackson became the first black woman in American history to be sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice. She replaces the liberal Stephen Breyer, who is retiring. This does not change anything in terms of the majority in the court.

Far-reaching decisions are expected again from autumn. For example, the court is reviewing an electoral law lawsuit over whether states can make rules that courts have previously ruled unconstitutional. Above all, this applies to so-called gerrymandering – the political practice of the two dominant parties to manipulate the borders of constituencies for their own benefit.