The president committed the United States to the negotiated emissions reduction goals  enshrined in the agreements coming out of the global climate conference in Paris last year.  A lot of the American obligations were contained in an Obama administration policy called the Clean Power Plan. When the administration announced the plan, the electric power industry and 29 states sprang into action, starting a legal challenge, saying the president had overstepped his authority. Many of the current justices were members of the Court when a majority opinion cleared the way for federal government regulation of carbon dioxide, one of the gasses produced as a by-product of burning fossil fuels, and one of the gasses taking the blame for climate change. To be clear, what the court has done is not a ruling in the matter, it’s freezing the game in place until the case can make it’s way up the federal appellate ladder. For now, the United States can’t move ahead with the assurances it made other big emitters in Paris, and that could unravel the hard won consensus reached there, which heavily depends on a core idea in diplomacy- I’ll do a hard thing, if I can be sure you’re going to do a hard thing, too.

Watch the interview on Al Jazeera’s website.

Janet Redman directs the Climate Policy Program at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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