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A newly published paper from the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law looks carefully at the 82 legal battles over climate change that got underway during President Trump's first year. Roughly 75% seek to uphold or advance climate policies.

Expand chart
Adapted from Adler, "U.S. Climate Change Litigation In the Age of Trump: Year One"; Note: Lawsuits studied are from 2017; Chart: Axios Visuals

Why it matters: The courts are an important battleground for climate policy, in part because unwinding or freezing a predecessor's policies often requires careful bureaucratic and legal spadework that provides opponents with avenues for litigation.

State of play: Columbia Law School fellow Dena P. Adler explored 82 cases, most of which were filed last year, while a few were prior cases that "pivoted" in response to Trump's deregulatory push. The study breaks down the cases in numerous ways, including a look at the different policy areas the cases address (see chart above).

One level deeper:

  • Overall, nearly three-fourths are what she calls "pro" cases — that is, plaintiffs are seeking to advance or uphold climate policies and safeguards. The balance are "con" cases that she says are designed to "undermine climate protection or support climate policy deregulation."
  • 28% were about integrating climate considerations into environmental reviews and permitting; 17% were aimed at defending Obama administration policies and decisions; 15% were about promoting "transparency and scientific integrity" under Trump; and 13% are aimed at "advancing or enforcing" additional protections.
  • Non-governmental organizations brought over half the cases analyzed, including the bulk of the "pro" lawsuits.
  • The Interior Department and Environmental Protection Agency were the most frequent defendants, together accounting for 35 cases.
  • Of 14 cases directly defending Obama-era policies and decisions, 6 of those focused on delays of policy were able to reach some form of resolution.

What's next: "Though courts have issued a few decisions and litigation has pressured agencies to publish some outstanding rules, the 'stickiness' of these outcomes remains uncertain. Neither of these results preclude an agency from subsequently rolling back the policies at issue through the rulemaking process," she writes.

Go deeper

6 hours ago - World

Top general: U.S. losing time to deter China

Stanley McChrystal. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Stanley McChrystal, a top retired general and Biden adviser, tells Axios that "China's military capacity has risen much faster than people appreciate," and the U.S. is running out of time to counterbalance that in Asia and prevent a scenario such as it seizing Taiwan.

Why it matters: McChrystal, the former commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, recently briefed the president-elect as part of his cabinet of diplomatic and national security advisers. President-elect Joe Biden is considering which Trump- or Obama-era approaches to keep or discard, and what new strategies to pursue.

Progressives shift focus from Biden's Cabinet to his policy agenda

Joe Biden giving remarks in Wilmington, Del., last month. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

Some progressives tell Axios they believe the window for influencing President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet selections has closed, and they’re shifting focus to policy — hoping to shape Biden's agenda even before he’s sworn in.

Why it matters: The left wing of the party often draws attention for its protests, petitions and tweets, but this deliberate move reflects a determination to move beyond some fights they won't win to engage with Biden strategically, and over the long term.

Dave Lawler, author of World
8 hours ago - World

Venezuela's predictable elections herald an uncertain future

The watchful eyes of Hugo Chávez on an election poster in Caracas. Photo: Cristian Hernandez/AFP via Getty

Venezuelans will go to the polls on Sunday, Nicolás Maduro will complete his takeover of the last opposition-held body, and much of the world will refuse to recognize the results.

The big picture: The U.S. and dozens of other countries have backed an opposition boycott of the National Assembly elections on the grounds that — given Maduro's tactics (like tying jobs and welfare benefits to voting), track record, and control of the National Electoral Council — they will be neither free nor fair.