Research Handbook on Climate Change Mitigation Law
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Research Handbook on Climate Change Mitigation Law

Edited by Geert Van Calster, Wim Vandenberghe and Leonie Reins

Governments around the world have been trying to find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for decades. This detailed Handbook considers the spectrum of legal and market-based instruments as well as strategies and policies adopted around the world and suggests more effective, comprehensive and responsive ways of managing climate change mitigation.
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Chapter 27: Climate change litigation in the United States

Michael B. Gerrard


The United States Congress has adopted no comprehensive statute on climate change, but the Supreme Court has held that the Clean Air Act of 1970 applies to greenhouse gases. Considerable administrative activity and litigation have ensued concerning the application of that law and several others to climate change. Several states and one regional grouping have also adopted GHG controls. Attempts to apply the common law doctrine of public nuisance to GHG emissions have failed, with the courts holding that any GHG standards should be set by the Environmental Protection Agency, not by the judiciary. The United States is a hotbed of climate change litigation. Indeed, more climate change-related lawsuits have been decided in the United States than in all the other countries of the world combined. There are two major kinds of litigation about climate change in the US – administrative litigation, in which the action or inaction of a government agency is challenged; and common law litigation, in which courts are asked to formulate rules about liabilities and obligations.

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