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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Friday named former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as his "special envoy for climate ambition and solutions."

Why it matters: The appointment comes in the run-up to a pivotal UN climate summit in Scotland late this year aimed at strengthening nations' efforts under the Paris Agreement.

Driving the news: The UN said Bloomberg would work with "governments, companies, cities and financial institutions" to secure new pledges to cut emissions steeply in the years and decades ahead.

  • The aim is to work with high-emitting nations and industries to "vastly" speed up the transition to climate-friendly energy and more quickly phase out coal.
  • Bloomberg will also be "global ambassador" for a pair of related efforts called the "Race to Zero" and the "Race to Resilience" campaigns.

Threat level: Global emissions are nowhere near on track for the sustained deep cuts consistent with the 2015 deal's goal of holding temperature rise under 2°C above preindustrial levels (let alone the pact's even harder ambition of 1.5°C).

Catch up fast: It's the latest in a long line of climate advocacy roles for Bloomberg, the billionaire philanthropist who ran a failed bid for the Democratic presidential nomination last year.

  • He's long funded environmentalists' efforts to shut down U.S. coal plants, an initiative that expanded into the wider "Beyond Carbon" initiative in 2019.
  • Bloomberg has also long worked with cities to boost climate efforts, and in the financial space, he chairs the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures.
  • It's not even his first UN special envoy role on climate change — he was named to prior positions in 2018, and a city-focused role in 2014.

What they're saying: Friday's announcement says Bloomberg's work will be designed to help advance recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that does not just "reset" the global economy, but will "transform" it via "new investment in clean infrastructure, new jobs, and a resilient future free from dirty fossil fuels."

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Feb 4, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Biden's Commerce pick keeps cards close on potential carbon tariffs

Photo: Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The Biden administration's nominee to run the Commerce Department isn't ruling out the use of existing powers to impose climate-related trade restrictions.

Driving the news: GOP Sen. Ted Cruz asked Gina Raimondo about imposing "carbon tariffs" under existing law.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Feb 3, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Pandemic temporarily warmed the climate

The I-5 freeway in Los Angeles is all but empty during an initial coronavirus lockdown in April 2020. Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

A recently released study finds that curtailed societal activity during the early stages of the pandemic also reduced emissions of pollutants that usually act to cool the climate.

The big picture: Coronavirus measures helped lead to a sharp, if temporary, reduction in greenhouse gases, but some other pollutants actually act to cool the climate — and with emissions of those significantly reduced as well, the climate warmed for a few months.

Updated Feb 2, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on corporate America's climate impact

On Tuesday, February 2, Axios' Mike Allen, Ben Geman, and Aja Whitaker-Moore hosted a conversation on corporate America’s climate impact following the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda, featuring Microsoft's Chief Environmental Officer Lucas Joppa and The Rockefeller Foundation President Rajiv Shah.

Rajiv Shah discussed increasing global inequities as a result of the pandemic, and how these economic divides can be crossed with respect to energy and climate change policies.

  • On the growing gap between the world's wealthy and poor: "COVID-19 is an accelerant of that [economic] divergence. We're now living through the greatest divergence we've seen since World War II and the living standards of people and inequality and inequity as a result of that."
  • On how corporate America has stepped up their commitment to climate change initiatives: "It is going to take much more than a series of corporate commitments to get to net neutrality by 2050. And in fact, I'm optimistic because I've seen companies since [the beginning of 2020] do more."

Lucas Joppa unpacked climate change commitments within the private sector, and how companies have the potential to collectively create change.

  • On the progress Microsoft has made around reducing carbon emissions: "A year ago we committed that by 2030, we'd reduce our emissions by half or more and remove the rest. Over the past calendar year...if we keep on track, we'll see us meeting or achieving our commitments."
  • On setting an example as a large company and modeling scalable solutions: "It's incumbent upon [Microsoft] to do more, but it's also incumbent that we do more in a way that makes it easier for everybody to follow. We know with carbon reduction and carbon removal there's a lot of market maturation and a lot of other societal scale changes that need to happen [around it]."

Thank you Bank of America for sponsoring this event.

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