Photo: Kena Betancur/VIEWpress/Corbis via Getty Images

A reminder of how hard it will be to steeply cut global greenhouse gas emissions in the years ahead arrived this morning via a report this morning from several international agencies along with with other new analyses.

Why it matters: Despite big gains and cost reductions in renewables deployment as well as the expansion of carbon pricing, wringing CO2 out of the global economy on a large scale is not happening nearly fast enough to prevent highly dangerous levels of warming.

In fact, emissions ticked up slightly last year after a three-year plateau.

Out today: A new report from the International Energy Agency, the U.N., the World Bank and others that takes stock of the various energy portions — such as electricity access, use of clean cooking fuels, and renewables growth — of wider U.N. sustainable development goals for 2030.

A few takeaways from the renewables part:

  • "Global energy scenarios reflecting current and planned policies show that the world is far from being on track to achieve the targets of SDG 7," notes the report, referring to sustainable development goal 7, which is the energy portion.
  • "Although renewable power generation is progressing rapidly, supportive policies for renewable transport and heat remain limited, preventing greater overall renewables penetration," it states.
  • "Based on current policies, the renewable share [of total final energy consumption] is expected to reach just 21% by 2030, with modern renewables growing to 15%, falling short of the substantial increase demanded by the SDG7 target," a summary notes.

A starker warning: An in-depth analysis in the journal Nature last week (and hat tip to this Vox summary) finds that "the world is on track for more than 3 °C of warming by the end of the century."

  • The goal of the Paris agreement is limiting the temperature rise to under 2 °C, a benchmark scientists say will help avoid some of the most dangerous effects.
  • "The good news is that clean-energy technology is at last making substantial strides. The bad news is that the pace isn’t nearly quick enough," writes Nature's Jeff Tollefson.

The state of CO2 pricing: Yesterday the Center for Strategic and International Studies held an event on the progression and challenges of carbon pricing in the U.S. and worldwide. You can watch the whole thing here.

  • One takeaway, via Thomas Kerr of the International Finance Corp. (which is part of the World Bank Group) is that while CO2 pricing is growing and generating significant revenues, it still covers just 15% of global emissions.
  • In the U.S., the Rhodium Group consultancy's John Larsen looked at California's sweeping cap-and-trade program and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which is a more modest cap-and-trade effort among northeastern states on power plant emissions specifically.
  • Even when that program expands to add Virginia and New Jersey's participation, CO2 pricing in California, combined with RGGI, will cover just 7% of total U.S. emissions, he said.
  • Why this matters: Many analysts view pricing CO2, either through trading programs or taxes, as a vital way to help limit emissions.

Go deeper

The apocalypse scenario

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democratic lawyers are preparing to challenge any effort by President Trump to swap electors chosen by voters with electors selected by Republican-controlled legislatures. One state of particular concern: Pennsylvania, where the GOP controls the state house.

Why it matters: Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, together with a widely circulated article in The Atlantic about how bad the worst-case scenarios could get, is drawing new attention to the brutal fights that could jeopardize a final outcome.

Federal judge rules Trump administration can't end census early

Census workers outside Lincoln Center in New York. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled late Thursday that the Trump administration could not end the 2020 census a month early.

Why it matters: The decision states that an early end — on Sept. 30, instead of Oct. 31 — would likely produce inaccuracies and thus impact political representation and government funding around the country.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
1 hour ago - Health

Where bringing students back to school is most risky

Data: Coders Against COVID; Note: Rhode Island and Puerto Rico did not meet minimum testing thresholds for analysis. Values may not add to 100% due to rounding; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Schools in Southern and Midwestern states are most at risk of coronavirus transmission, according to an analysis by Coders Against COVID that uses risk indicators developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The big picture: Thankfully, schools have not yet become coronavirus hotspots, the Washington Post reported this week, and rates of infection are lower than in the surrounding communities. But that doesn't mean schools are in the clear, especially heading into winter.

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