Supreme Court blocks Obama's climate change plan to regulate carbon emissions

Implementing the plan is considered essential to the US meeting emissions targets outlined in UN climate negotiations

The US Supreme Court has agreed to stall President Barack Obama’s sweeping plans to address climate change.

The court ruled on Tuesday the president’s Clean Power Plan could not go ahead until legal challenges had been resolved.

The Obama administration’s plan aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions at existing power plants by around one-third by 2030.

Implementing the plan is considered essential to the US meeting emissions-reduction targets outlined during the UN climate negotiations held in Paris in December.

Introduced in August, the plan set carbon-reduction goals for each state, with states asked to create proposals to meet those goals themselves.

The temporary freeze is a victory for a coalition of 27, mostly Republican-led, states and industry opponents that call the regulations “an unprecedented power grab” and a violation of states’ rights.

A federal appeals court in Washington refused to put the plan on hold last month, but the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to halt the plan, while litigation continues.  

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement: “We disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision to stay the Clean Power Plan while litigation proceeds.”

He said the administration’s plan “is based on a strong legal and technical foundation, and gives states the time and flexibility they need to develop cost-effective plans to reduce their emissions.”

He added the administration will continue to “take aggressive steps to make forward progress to reduce carbon emissions.”  

The ruling could have a significant impact on the president’s attempt to cut down carbon emissions. Under the plan individual states were due to submit their proposals in how to meet the CO2 restrictions by September, but this will be missed.

The lower court is not likely to issue a ruling on the legality of the plan until months after it hears oral arguments begin on 2 June.

Any decision will likely be appealed to the Supreme Court, meaning resolution of the legal fight is not likely to happen until after Obama leaves office.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia, whose coal-dependent state is helping to lead the legal fight, welcomed the court’s decision.

“We are thrilled that the Supreme Court realised the rule’s immediate impact and froze its implementation, protecting workers and saving countless dollars as our fight against its legality continues.”

Additional reporting by Associated Press