Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States

Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States cover
Michael B. Gerrard and John C. Dernbach, Editors
Release Date

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Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States provides a “legal playbook” for deep decarbonization in the United States, identifying well over 1,000 legal options for enabling the United States to address one of the greatest problems facing this country and the rest of humanity.

The book is based on two reports by the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project (DDPP) that explain technical and policy pathways for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. This 80x50 target and similarly aggressive carbon abatement goals are often referred to as deep decarbonization, distinguished because it requires systemic changes to the energy economy.

Legal Pathways explains the DDPP reports and then addresses in detail 35 different topics in as many chapters. These 35 chapters cover energy efficiency, conservation, and fuel switching; electricity decarbonization; fuel decarbonization; carbon capture and negative emissions; non-carbon dioxide climate pollutants; and a variety of cross-cutting issues. The legal options involve federal, state, and local law, as well as private governance. Authors were asked to include all options, even if they do not now seem politically realistic or likely, giving Legal Pathways not just immediate value, but also value over time.

While both the scale and complexity of deep decarbonization are enormous, this book has a simple message: deep decarbonization is achievable in the United States using laws that exist or could be enacted. These legal tools can be used with significant economic, social, environmental, and national security benefits.

A podcast about the book is available at (Season 1, Episode 9).

About the Author

Michael B. Gerrard is the Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice at Columbia Law School, where he teaches courses on environmental and energy law, and founded and directs the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. He is also a member and former Chair of the Faculty of Columbia’s Earth Institute. Since 1986, Professor Gerrard has written an environmental law column for the New York Law Journal. He is author or editor of 13 books, two of which were named Best Law Book of the Year by the Association of American Publishers: Environmental Law Practice Guide (12 volumes, 1992) and Brownfields Law and Practice (four volumes, 1998).

John C. Dernbach is the Commonwealth Professor of Environmental Law and Sustainability at Widener University Commonwealth Law School in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Director of its Environmental Law and Sustainability Center. Professor Dernbach has written on sustainable development, climate change, and other topics in more than 50 articles for law reviews and peer-reviewed journals, and has authored, coauthored, or contributed chapters to more than 20 books.

Book Reviews

“A growing chorus of Americans understand that climate change is the biggest public health, economic, and national security challenge our families have ever faced and they rightly ask, ‘What can anyone do?’ Well, this book makes that answer very clear: we can do a lot as individuals, businesses, communities, cities, states, and the federal government to fight climate change. The legal pathways are many and the barriers are not insurmountable. In short, the time is now to dig deep and decarbonize."
—Gina McCarthy, Former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator

Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States sets forth over 1,000 solutions for federal, state, local, and private actors to tackle climate change. This book also makes the math for Congress clear: with hundreds of policy options and 12 years to stop the worst impacts of climate change, now is the time to find a path forward.”
—Sheldon Whitehouse, U.S. Senator, Rhode Island

“This superb work comes at a critical time in the history of our planet. As we increasingly face the threat and reality of climate change and its inevitable impact on our most vulnerable populations, this book provides the best and most current thinking on viable options for the future to address and ameliorate a vexing, worldwide challenge of extraordinary magnitude. Michael Gerrard and John Dernbach are two of the most distinguished academicians in the country on these issues, and they have assembled leading scholars and practitioners to provide a possible path forward. With 35 chapters and over 1,000 legal options, the book is like a menu of offerings for public consumption, showing that real actions can be taken, now and in the future, to achieve deep decarbonization. I recommend the book highly.”
—John C. Cruden, Past Assistant Attorney General, Environment and Natural Resources Division, U.S. Department of Justice

“This book proves that we already know what to do about climate change, if only we had the will to do it. The path to decarbonization depends as much on removing legal impediments and changing outdated incentive systems as it does on imposing new regulations. There are ideas here for every sector of the economy, for every level of government, and for business and nongovernmental organizations, too, all of which should be on the table for any serious country facing the most serious of challenges. By giving us a sense of the possible, Gerrard and Dernbach and their fine authors seem to be saying two things: (1) do something; and (2) it’s possible. What a timely message, and what a great collection.”
—Jody Freeman, Archibald Cox Professor of Law and Founding Director of the Harvard Law School Environmental and Energy Law Program