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Jody Freeman

  • Democrats Designed the Climate Law to Be a Game Changer. Here’s How.

    August 29, 2022

    When the Supreme Court restricted the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to fight climate change this year, the reason it gave was that Congress…

  • U.S. Supreme Court building, looking up towards the sky from the bottom of the stairs.

    Harvard Law faculty weigh in: The 2021-2022 Supreme Court Term

    June 25, 2022

    Harvard Law School experts weigh in on the Supreme Court’s final decisions.

  • Is Gina McCarthy really a power broker on climate rules?

    May 2, 2022

    President Joe Biden made waves last year when he tapped Gina McCarthy as his climate adviser, prompting concern among Republicans that she would lead an aggressive campaign to regulate emissions. Republican lawmakers who had waged war on past climate rules predicted the former Obama EPA administrator would seize the regulatory reins from Biden’s EPA chief, Michael Regan, and reinstate rules that were scrapped during the Trump administration or tied up in court. ... Jody Freeman, who founded the Harvard program, said McCarthy would know that the air office was “in very capable hands” when it comes to Clean Air Act regulation. Freeman worked with McCarthy as White House counselor on energy and climate issues under Obama, when McCarthy headed EPA. She said McCarthy would be aware of jurisdictional boundaries between the White House and EPA when it comes to regulation, and likely wouldn’t redraw those lines now that she’s on the other side of them. “I would expect they’d be working quite hand-in-glove and quite cooperatively, because they all know each other and they’re deeply experienced with these rules,” she said.

  • A globe of planet earth on the background of blurred lights of a city.

    Inspiring change

    April 22, 2022

    On Earth Day, we highlight some of the work being done by Harvard Law students, scholars, clinics, and programs to address some our most pressing environmental issues.

  • Climate Risk Disclosure Mandate

    April 18, 2022

    Trillions of dollars of financial assets are at risk of losses related to the climate, so the Biden Administration is now moving to require public companies to disclose their climate risk. Host Steve Curwood talks to Jody Freeman, Harvard Law professor and former Obama White House official, about the proposed Securities and Exchange Commission mandate.

  • Starting up University’s new climate, sustainability efforts

    March 3, 2022

    In September, President Larry Bacow announced that Jim Stock had been named the University’s first vice provost for climate and sustainability, charged with guiding and further developing Harvard’s strategies for advancing climate research and its global impact through close collaboration with students, faculty, staff, and academic leadership from across the University. ... The Gazette spoke with Advisory Committee members Jody Freeman, Jim Engell, and Dan Schrag about the timeliness of the new post, Stock’s unique qualifications for the job, and the ways the committee’s initial conversations are starting to help shape the goals of the new office. This interview was edited for clarity and length.

  • Will the Supreme Court Frustrate Efforts to Slow Climate Change?

    February 28, 2022

    An op-ed by Jody Freeman: With Congress doing little on climate change, President Biden must use his executive authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions across the U.S. economy. The Supreme Court appears determined to thwart him. In a case to be argued on Feb. 28, the court seems poised to restrict the Environmental Protection Agency’s legal authority to limit carbon pollution from power plants and, by doing so, frustrate the country’s efforts to slow the pace of climate change.

  • Supreme Court Will Hear Biggest Climate Change Case in a Decade

    February 28, 2022

    In the most important environmental case in more than a decade, the Supreme Court on Monday will hear arguments in a dispute that could restrict or even eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to control the pollution that is heating the planet. ... “If the court were to require the E.P.A. to have very specific, narrow direction to address greenhouse gases, as a practical matter it could be devastating for other agencies’ abilities to enact rules that safeguard the public health and welfare of the nation,” said Richard Lazarus, a professor of environmental law at Harvard. “It would restrict the enactment of regulations under any host of federal statutes — OSHA, the Clean Water Act, hazardous waste regulation. In theory it even could limit the Fed’s authority to set interest rates.” ... “The regulated industry itself is saying that they are not fighting the authority of E.P.A.,” said Jody Freeman, a lawyer at Harvard and former climate official in the Obama White House. “The court will be attentive, I think, to what the industry says,” she said, noting that in a recent case over the Biden administration’s Covid vaccine mandate for large employers, the Supreme Court blocked the mandate except in the case of health care workers, who requested the regulation.

  • Congress’ climate inaction puts spotlight on the courts

    January 3, 2022

    Courts in the United States and abroad served as flashpoints on climate change this year as governments struggled to address the growing threat. U.S. climate litigation is expected to gain velocity in 2022, following a pair of unrelated Supreme Court actions concerning EPA’s carbon rules for power plants and local governments’ climate liability lawsuits. The legal battles have attracted heightened attention as the Biden administration fights to enact an ambitious climate change agenda amid congressional wrangling. “At the moment, this litigation is a sign of being stuck with second and third best options,“ said Jody Freeman, director of Harvard Law School’s Environmental and Energy Law Program and a former Obama White House adviser. “It’s a sign of the times: It’s a grind even with an administration that is doing its best, that cares about the issue. It’s a grind because Congress is only prepared to spend some money but not impose any kind of regulations or standards.”

  • General Motors Goes Electric

    November 16, 2021

    In January 2021, one of America’s most iconic automobile companies announced it was undergoing a huge transformation. General Motors said it would stop selling vehicles with internal combustion engines, and would go all electric by 2035. GM’s Zero Emissions plan is an enormous commitment that has the potential to impact the environment and the entire auto industry. But can GM pull it off? In this episode of Reinvent, hosts Geoff Colvin and Beth Kowitt ... talk to Harvard Law Professor Jody Freeman and Bank of America’s Lead Auto Analyst John Murphy to weigh the plan’s chances for success and what it may mean for our planet.

  • Reining in Methane

    November 8, 2021

    The U.S. oil and gas industry leaks millions of tons of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere every year. New Environmental Protection Agency rules propose to strengthen requirements for industry to prevent, identify, and repair methane leaks, as science says methane emission reductions will quickly help put the brakes on planetary warming. Harvard Law Professor Jody Freeman joins Host Steve Curwood to discuss the rules and why tackling methane emissions can make an immediate difference. ... Freeman: Well, it's a big deal, because methane is responsible for about 30% of the global warming we're experiencing. And cutting methane is the single fastest, most effective opportunity to reduce climate change risks in the near term. Unlike carbon dioxide, its warming power doesn't come from a gradual build up over time. It's almost entirely from recent emissions. So by reducing methane, now, we can reduce warming that would happen in the near term; it has almost an immediate beneficial impact.

  • Harvard names vice provost for climate and sustainability

    September 8, 2021

    James H. Stock, a Harvard professor and economist known for his expertise on energy and environmental policy, has been named the University’s inaugural vice provost for climate and sustainability, Provost Alan M. Garber announced today. ... “Jim has been deeply committed in his own research to developing solutions to climate change and is uniquely positioned to build collaborations across the university,” said Jody Freeman, Archibald Cox Professor of Law, director of the Environmental and Energy Law Program, and co-chair of the Presidential Committee on Sustainability.

  • Focus on health and equity to meet 2026 climate goal, advises Sustainability Committee

    September 8, 2021

    Ahead of its self-imposed deadline to become fossil fuel-neutral by 2026, the University has engaged its researchers and industry climate leaders to identify and invest in projects that demonstrate how to credibly reduce emissions while also benefiting human health, social equity, and the planet, such as large-scale solar or wind renewable energy, according to the Harvard Presidential Committee on Sustainability. ... The Presidential Committee on Sustainability was co-chaired by Professor John Holdren and Professor Rebecca Henderson, the Harvard Business School John and Natty McArthur University Professor, and Katie Lapp, Harvard University Executive Vice President since its inception through academic year 2021. This academic year the faculty co-chairs have been succeeded by Professors Mike Toffel and Jody Freeman, the Harvard Law School Archibald Cox Professor of Law.

  • A demonstrator holding a sign the reads, System Change, Not Climate Change, with a drawing of the Earth.

    A focus on the environment

    April 22, 2021

    In recognition of Earth Day, we highlight some recent work and perspectives of Harvard Law's students and scholars committed to environmental change.

  • Biden speaking at a podium

    Freeman, Lazarus discuss Biden administration’s reversal of Trump’s environmental legacy

    April 22, 2021

    At a recent event, Harvard Law School Jody Freeman and Richard Lazarus gave an account of the environmental policy swing underway in the Biden administration.

  • Wendy Jacobs

    Wendy Jacobs: 1956-2021

    February 10, 2021

    Wendy Jacobs, one of the nation’s most highly celebrated environmental law experts, was the founding director of the first-ever environmental law and policy clinic at Harvard Law School.

  • Biden’s Pen and the Climate

    February 8, 2021

    President Biden has signed more executive orders in his first weeks than any president since Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s, and many of those orders focus on protecting the environment and fighting against climate change. Jody Freeman, professor at Harvard Law School and former Counselor for Energy and Climate Change in the Obama White House, joins Host Bobby Bascomb to dive deeper into how these actions lay the groundwork for strong climate policy and green investment.

  • G.M.’s Bold Move on the Climate

    February 2, 2021

    An op-ed by Jody FreemanGeneral Motors’ announcement last week that it will stop making gas-powered cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles by 2035 and become carbon neutral by 2040 is even bolder than it sounds: The repercussions will ripple broadly across the economy, accelerating the transition to a broader electric future powered by renewable energy. The pledge by the nation’s largest automaker to phase out internal combustion engines puts pressure on other auto companies, like Ford and Toyota, to make equally ambitious public commitments. It follows an earlier announcement by G.M. that it would invest $27 billion in electric vehicles over the next five years. While every major auto company is investing in zero- and low-emission vehicles, amounting to $257 billion worldwide through 2030, until now none had been willing to say when they would end production of gas-powered cars. Wall Street rewarded G.M.’s clarity by bumping its stock. Now investors will expect the rest of the industry to explain how their electric vehicle strategies measure up. G.M.’s decision is a sea change. For decades, the company and other automakers resisted pollution rules. As recently as last year, G.M. supported the Trump administration’s relaxation of fuel efficiency standards, only to make an about-face after the November election. When one of the most recalcitrant and iconic American companies so markedly changes its tune and embraces the clean-energy transition, something big is happening. Pressure will undoubtedly mount on oil and gas companies, among others, to produce credible energy transition plans of their own.

  • Clean Air Act gets boost as court dumps Trump carbon rule

    January 21, 2021

    Opponents of President Trump's climate rule rollbacks rejoiced yesterday after a federal appeals court gave the Biden administration a clean slate to craft a new rule to control greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. A three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit tossed out the Trump EPA's Affordable Clean Energy rule and sent it back to the agency. The court found EPA had too narrowly interpreted its authority to regulate emissions. The court not only gave the green light for President-elect Joe Biden to draft stronger power plant regulations, but also broadly affirmed EPA's authority to craft climate regulations for a range of emissions sources...Asked for a comment on yesterday's court decision, Joseph Goffman, who played a key role in crafting the Clean Power Plan and is part of the EPA transition team for the incoming Biden administration, sent E+E News a link to a recording by the Royal Choral Society of the "Hallelujah" chorus from George Frideric Handel's "Messiah." "Feel free to quote me," he said...EPA took that more challenging legal approach by arguing that the statute was unambiguous in supporting its position. The agency could have instead said it was using its discretion to interpret the law, said Jody Freeman, director of the Environmental and Energy Law Program at Harvard University. Looking from the outside, it seemed like the best explanation for why Trump's EPA took that position was so that it could block future administrations from "doing anything meaningful" on climate regulation, Freeman said. "It seems like a deep ideological commitment but not the best legal strategy," she said.

  • Court Voids a ‘Tortured’ Trump Climate Rollback

    January 20, 2021

    A federal appeals court on Tuesday struck down the Trump administration’s plan to relax restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, paving the way for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. to enact new and stronger restrictions on power plants...Environmental groups and legal experts saw the decision as a vindication of the argument that the government does have the authority to tackle climate change. “It’s a massive win,” said Jody Freeman, a professor of environmental law at Harvard University who served as a legal counsel in the Obama administration. A core promise of the Biden campaign was to eliminate fossil fuel emissions from the power sector by 2035. With Tuesday’s ruling, the Biden administration will not have to wait for the legal fight over the Trump rule to play out before deciding whether or how to use regulation to tackle climate change, Ms. Freeman said. Instead, she said, the Biden E.P.A. can “go on the offense” immediately. “The real win here is that the Trump administration failed to tie the Biden team’s hands,” Ms. Freeman said. “They wanted to lock in a narrow legal interpretation and make it impossible for a new administration to set ambitious standards for power plants. That was their whole strategy. And it went down to spectacular defeat.”

  • ‘The lost years’: Climate damage that occurred on Trump’s watch will endure long after he is gone

    January 19, 2021

    For four years, President Donald Trump has careened from one crisis to the next, many of his own making. Still, through the Mueller investigation, two impeachments, the deadliest pandemic in a century, and even a failed and dangerous attempt to overturn his own election defeat, Trump and his administration remained steadfast in at least one quest: to weaken many of the country's bedrock climate and environmental guardrails. Considered in the course of humanity -- or the 4.5-billion-year history of this planet -- a single presidential term is barely a blink of an eye. But in just four years, Trump has cemented a legacy -- particularly on climate change -- that will be felt by generations to come...President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to rejoin the Paris Agreement on Day One of his presidency, but experts say repairing the damage to the country's international standing that was done by Trump abandoning the accord will not be easy. "In one sense, it's easy for President Biden to announce on the first day he's in office that the US will rejoin," said Jody Freeman, a Harvard law professor who served as counselor for energy and climate change in the White House under President Barack Obama. "The hard part is to put together an ambitious, credible pledge for what the US is prepared to do to meet their Paris Agreement commitments."