New report raises social cost of carbon estimates, surpassing previous estimates by more than 250%.

By Joshua Bledsoe, Kevin Homrighausen, and John Detrich

On December 2, 2023, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a final report that substantially increases estimates of the social cost of greenhouse gases (GHG), including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide (collectively, SC-GHG). The report describes SC-GHG as “the monetary value of the net harm to society from emitting one metric ton of that GHG into the atmosphere in a given year.”[1] The new estimates are intended to serve as a tool for decision-makers, aiding in the cost-benefit analysis of actions that would reduce or increase GHG emissions. Indeed, federal agencies are expected to use the estimates in future rule-makings and in the environmental review of forthcoming projects.

The agency’s two recent actions introduce enhanced restrictions on hydrofluorocarbons and provide a series of compliance dates for industry stakeholders.

By Stacey VanBelleghem and Jennifer Garlock

On October 5, 2023, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued two rules, one final and one proposed, to phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under the bipartisan American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 (AIM Act). The agency’s recent actions represent major steps in the Biden administration’s goal to significantly reduce HFCs over the next decade.

HFCs are a group of chemical refrigerants and potent greenhouse gasses (GHGs), commonly used in foam products, cooling systems, aerosols, and fire suppressants. International focus on managing these compounds sharpened in the 1980s, when countries agreed in the Montreal Protocol to shift global markets away from the ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) — the then dominant strain of refrigerant and aerosol chemicals — toward HFCs. Although HFCs are less damaging to the ozone layer than CFCs, they have global warming potential (GWP) values (a figure that allows comparison of relative climate impact of a GHG) hundreds or thousands times higher than carbon dioxide (CO2), which has a GWP equal to 1. In 2016, nearly 200 countries adopted the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol agreeing to a global phasedown of production and use of HFCs. The US ratified that amendment on October 31, 2022.

The outcome of the review may signal what climate-related laws and policies to expect in the UK in the coming years.

By Paul A. DaviesMichael D. Green, and James Bee

On 8 September 2022, newly appointed UK Prime Minister Liz Truss announced that Chris Skidmore MP, a Member of Parliament and former minister of energy and clean growth, would lead a review into the UK’s net zero commitment.

The previous administration established a UK target in 2019 to bring all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to a net zero level by 2050, in response to a recommendation from the Committee on Climate Change (the UK’s independent climate advisory body). The new Prime Minister, who during her leadership campaign had stated that she will “double down” on the UK’s attempts to meet its 2050 target, appointed Skidmore with the mandate to find the “fastest and most efficient way” to reach the target.

Skidmore, who as energy and clean growth minister signed the UK’s net zero target into law in 2019, has been given until the end of 2022 to report back with his findings.

The court argued that the German government’s 2014 decision on climate protection goals for 2020 was not legally binding.

By Jörn Kassow

On 31 October 2019, the Administrative Court of Berlin dismissed a climate lawsuit brought by German citizens against the government. The plaintiffs had alleged that the government was violating their rights by missing certain climate protection targets.

In 2014, the German government adopted its climate protection goals for 2020, which aimed at a reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40% (compared to 1990). However, the government now estimates that Germany will only be able to reduce emissions by 32%. Furthermore, Germany will probably not achieve the 14% reduction of GHGs which are not covered by the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), as required under the so-called Effort Sharing Decision, without credits from emission-reduction projects in third countries.

California Natural Resources Agency adopts final amendments to CEQA Guidelines, providing additional clarifying revisions to GHG impacts, baseline, and deferral of mitigation amendments.

By Marc Campopiano, Winston Stromberg, and Samantha Seikkula

The California Office of Administrative Law recently approved a suite of amendments to the CEQA Guidelines, which are now in effect. Latham wrote about these amendments last year, when the Natural Resources Agency began the rulemaking process under the Administrative Procedures Act. During this rulemaking process,

By Joshua BledsoeSara Orr, and Bobbi-Jo Dobush

Major investors with collective control of more than US$26.3 trillion are continuing to push for an increase in public companies’ governance, oversight, and disclosure of climate-related risk. Unveiled on December 12, 2017 at the One Planet Summit in Paris, the Climate Action 100+ is designed to promote the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement provides a global action plan to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius.

A group of 225 investors, led by California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and other major investors, have signed on to the Climate Action 100+ since the invitation to join was issued in September 2017. The signatories will be led by five coordinating partners including Asia Investor Group on Climate Change (AIGCC), Ceres; Investor Group on Climate Change (IGCC), Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC), and Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI).

By Claudia O’Brien, Bob Wyman, Joel Beauvais, Stacey VanBelleghem, Bridget Reineking, and Kimberly Leefatt

On March 28, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order (EO) directing executive departments and agencies to review regulations that potentially burden the development or use of domestically-produced energy resources. This EO sets the stage for what could become a series of sweeping reversals of the Obama Administration’s greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction and climate change polices. In particular, the order lays the groundwork for reform of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) and the new source pollution standards for new, modified and reconstructed power plants (NSPS).

The issuance of this EO kicks off a long and complex process for EPA to review both the CPP and NSPS, draft and publish proposals to revise or rescind the rules, accept notice and comment on the proposals, address comments on the proposals, and then issue final rules. Regardless of whether EPA proposes to suspend, revise, or rescind the rules, legal challenges are sure to follow. The outcome of these rulemakings and subsequent litigation will be consequential for the future of federal regulation of GHGs under the Clean Air Act (CAA).

By Joshua T. Bledsoe and Stacey L. VanBelleghem

On December 18, 2014, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released revised draft guidance on the consideration of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change in National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review.[1]  The CEQ previously issued this guidance in draft form in February 2010.[2]  Rather than finalize that draft, the CEQ opted to issue significantly revised draft guidance and open a 60-day public comment period, which closes on