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New Book Arms Policymakers, Lawyers, Private Sector With Tools to Combat Climate Change in the United States

December 2018

(Washington, DC): Quietly released on the day after Thanksgiving, the Fourth National Climate Assessment presented a stark picture of the United States’ fate due to climate change. While the forecast is grim, one thing is clear: we need to act now.

In early 2019, ELI Press will release Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States, edited by Michael B. Gerrard and John C. Dernbach. This “playbook” identifies well over 1,000 recommendations that form legal pathways for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. Out of the desire to get the main messages of that book delivered to the broadest possible audience as quickly as possible, ELI Press is releasing Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States: Summary and Key Recommendations. The book is available now in e-book format and will be available in print on December 10.

The legal options identified in Legal Pathways involve federal, state, and local law, as well as private governance. Chapter authors were asked to include all options, even if they do not now seem politically realistic or likely, giving the book not just immediate value, but also value over time.

“While a number of technologies and other methods are available to achieve radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions (most but not all involving energy efficiency, fuel switching, and decarbonized electricity), there are numerous legal impediments to implementing these technologies and methods at the necessary scale and speed,” explains Gerrard. “Both books are aimed at identifying these impediments and devising ways to surmount them.” Added Dernbach, “Our hope is that policymakers and lawyers can pursue the legal pathways identified in these books, choosing the tool or tools that work best for their situation, to allow clean technology and other methods to achieve their full potential.”

The Summary and Key Recommendations volume being released today provides thumbnail summaries and the most critical recommendations—more than 500 of them—from each of the 35 chapters of the larger volume. It also includes an index that organizes the key recommendations by actor (e.g., local governments), allowing readers to see in one place all of the key recommendations for any particular actor, regardless of the chapter in which they originated.

Both books are based on two reports by the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project that explain technical and policy pathways for dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These aggressive carbon abatement goals are often referred to as deep decarbonization, distinguished because it requires systemic changes to the energy economy.

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

For additional information, including the table of contents and list of contributing authors, visit https://www.eli.org/DeepDecarbKeyRecommendations.

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. Three of these books are comprehensive assessments of U.S. progress toward sustainability, including recommendations for future efforts.

Michael B. Gerrard and John C. Dernbach are available for interview.

For more information about ELI Press, the book division of the Environmental Law Institute, please contact Rachel Jean-Baptiste at jean-baptiste@eli.org.