WASHINGTON-The Supreme Court of the United States on Thursday imposed limits on the federal government’s authority to issue sweeping regulations to reduce carbon emissions from power plants in a ruling that undermines President Joe Biden’s plans to tackle climate change and could constrain various agencies on other issues.

The court’s 6-3 ruling constrained the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal- and gas-fired power plants under the landmark Clean Air Act antipollution law. Biden’s administration is currently working on new regulations.

The court’s six conservatives were in the majority in the decision authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, with the three liberals dissenting.

Biden called the ruling “another devastating decision that aims to take our country backward”.

“While this decision risks damaging our nation’s ability to keep our air clean and combat climate change, I will not relent in using my lawful authorities to protect public health and tackle the climate crisis,”Biden said in a statement.

The president said he directed his legal team to work with the Justice Department and affected agencies to review the ruling and find ways under federal law to protect against pollution, including emissions that cause climate change.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Friday that the US must meet its international obligations on climate change and do more than “shout slogans”.

Zhao told reporters that the court’s ruling had been criticized by the international community, adding that “it is not enough to just shout slogans to tackle climate change”.

“We urge developed countries, including the US, to… face up to their historical responsibilities and show greater ambition and action,” he added.

Thursday’s ruling was based on what is called the “major questions” legal doctrine that requires explicit congressional authorization for action on issues of broad importance and societal impact. The justices in January appeared to embrace that theory when it blocked the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-test policy for larger businesses, a key element of its plan to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

The court’s invocation of this doctrine sends a signal that the justices will be a major obstacle to federal agencies seeking to implement broad policies of national importance.

The decision will constrain the EPA’s ability to issue any regulations on power plants that push for an ambitious national shift in energy policy toward renewable sources. As such, it will hamstring the administration’s ability to curb the power sector’s emissions-about a quarter of US greenhouse gases.

And this year, in a development as dangerous for Biden’s early climate hopes as the Supreme Court ruling, a global oil and gas supply crunch has sent gas prices pinging off record highs. It has fueled inflation and voter anger against Biden, and potentially other Democrats.

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