Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization: Postscript

20 Pages Posted: 19 Oct 2018 Last revised: 12 Aug 2019

See all articles by John C. Dernbach

John C. Dernbach

Widener University - Commonwealth Law School

Date Written: October 1, 2018


This article is based on the introduction Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States (Environmental Law Institute Press, Michael B. Gerrard & John C. Dernbach eds. 2019). It is entitled a postscript because it was published at the end of a year-long series of chapters from the book that were published as articles in the Environmental Law Reporter.

The book is a playbook of legal pathways for enabling the United States to address what is perhaps the greatest problem facing this country and the rest of humanity. It identifies hundreds of legal options for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. In U.S. football, a playbook is a comprehensive listing of all of the plays that can be employed by a particular team. In any one game, some of these plays will be used, and some will not, depending on the circumstances. But coaches and other decision makers for the team draw from the playbook to employ an appropriate combination of plays in order to win. Similarly, this book attempts to provide a comprehensive description and explanation of legal pathways to decarbonize the U.S. economy. It is likely that not all of them will be used, but public and private decision makers can employ various combinations of these pathways to achieve the needed reductions in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

This article first explains the urgency of climate change and describes the significance of the Paris Agreement. It then summarizes U.S. technical and policy pathways to deep decarbonization, as set out in two reports by the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project (DDPP) and in other studies. It explains why deep decarbonization is in the best interests of the U.S., and describes the value of understanding legal pathways to deep decarbonization.

Keywords: Climate Change, Decarbonization, Zero Carbon, Global Warming, Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project, Paris Agreement, United States, Framework Convention on Climate Change

JEL Classification: K19, K32

Suggested Citation

Dernbach, John C., Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization: Postscript (October 1, 2018). 48 ELR 10875, Widener Law Commonwealth Research Paper No. 18-18, Available at SSRN:

John C. Dernbach (Contact Author)

Widener University - Commonwealth Law School ( email )

3800 Vartan Way
Harrisburg, PA 17110-9380
United States

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