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Surfers ride waves in front of an oil rig off. Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images

The news that Exxon and Chevron are joining a global industry partnership called the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative could signal a broader pivot under two rather new CEOs, ExxonMobil's Darren Woods and Chevron's Michael Wirth.

The big picture: "I think it's clear that this shift reflects the leadership changes at both Chevron and Exxon," a source familiar with the companies' thinking tells Axios. Occidental Petroleum, another large U.S. player, also joined. The arrivals add heft to the 4-year-old group, which already includes BP, Shell, Saudi Aramco and roughly a half-dozen others.

Where it stands: It's actually the second climate group Exxon has signed onto under Woods. In mid-2017 they joined three Europe-based global majors as founding corporate members of the Climate Leadership Council, a U.S. group pushing a carbon tax proposal.

  • "Exxon has...tended to shy away from joining group efforts, so between joining OGCI and the Climate Leadership Council there appears to be a cultural shift underway under Woods. This is still Exxon, though, so any shift is likely to be both slow and gradual," the source said.

Flashback: Exxon also announced in July that it's abandoning the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group that disputes mainstream climate science.

The intrigue: These moves come at a time when the White House is going in the other direction on climate by scuttling or paring back a suite of Obama-era policies.

  • However, the DOE has actually encouraged U.S. companies to consider joining OGCI during meetings with them in the past year, an administration official said.

What they're saying: One source who works directly with the energy industry called the decisions consistent with Exxon's and Chevron's approach and OGCI's absence of policy positions.

  • "OGCI is squarely focused on technology. Both [Exxon] and [Chevron] are long on innovation and technology," the source said in an email exchange.
  • Exxon and Chevron initially declined to join the group when it formed in 2014.
  • But as Axios' Amy Harder noted when she broke the news yesterday, these decisions are a sign of how pressure from investorsand lawsuits are pushing oil companies to do more.

Reality check: It will hardly halt criticism from climate advocates that oil-and-gas companies should be taking much stronger steps.

  • For instance, look for continued pressure on Big Oil to take more aggressive stances, such as setting binding emissions targets and abandoning trade groups — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — that support the rollback of U.S. regulations.

Go deeper

CDC director warns "now is not the time" to lift COVID restrictions

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky warned states on Monday that "now is not the time" to lift public health restrictions, as the recent dramatic declines in coronavirus cases and deaths "appear to be stalling."

Why it matters: While the average of 70,000 new infections and 2,000 daily deaths is nowhere near the extremely high levels recorded at the start of 2021, the figures are still a poor baseline to "stop a potential fourth surge" — especially with the threat posed by more contagious new variants, Walensky warned.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduces "ultra-millionaire" wealth tax bill

Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Monday introduced a bill in the Senate that would impose a new tax on the assets of America's wealthiest individuals.

Why it matters: The plan, which Warren introduced along with Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) is similar to a proposal that was the centerpiece of Warren's campaign for the presidency in 2020.

2 hours ago - World

Former French President Sarkozy sentenced to jail for corruption

Nicolas Sarkozy, 2011. Photo: XINHUA/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

A court in Paris on Monday sentenced former French President Nicolas Sarkozy to one year in prison and a two-year suspended sentence after he was found guilty of trying to bribe a magistrate, AP reports.

Driving the news: Sarkozy, who was president from 2007 to 2012, is the first president in France’s modern history to have gone on trial for corruption, per AP. He was charged with corruption and influence-peddling.