Amy Harder
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Trump administration backs Obama-led climate effort

Obama and Trump meet at the White House after Trump's election. Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

A career State Department official speaking at a conference Thursday on behalf of the Trump administration backed a climate policy then-President Obama pursued shortly before he left office.

The policy phases down powerful greenhouse gases found in a range of everyday appliances. This is the most explicit and public the Trump administration has been about supporting it.

The big picture: The conference, held this week in Montreal, is about a recent amendment to the Montreal Protocol, a global treaty created 30 years ago to fix the hole in the Earth's ozone layer, which is now it's achieving its goal. World leaders, led by the Obama administration, agreed in October 2016 to the Kigali amendment, which would phase down emissions of powerful greenhouse gases in refrigerants called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). HFCs are used in many appliances from air conditioners to refrigerators.

Quoted: "The United States believes the Kigali Amendment represents a pragmatic and balanced approach to phasing down the production and consumption of HFCs, and therefore we support the goals and approach of the Amendment," said Judith Garber, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the State Department's Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

What's next: Rhetorical backing for the amendment is one thing, but to have it actually take effect, the administration needs to send it over to the Senate so it can vote on its official ratification, as the Senate has done on other amendments and the original treaty 30 years ago. "There is no timeline currently determined for these steps, but we have initiated the process to consider U.S. ratification of the Amendment," Garber said.

Fast facts: The Montreal Protocol is a treaty about the ozone layer, but this latest amendment from Kigali represents an evolution to concerns about climate change. The 2015 Paris climate deal, which is a non-binding treaty that didn't require congressional input, is mostly about cutting other greenhouse gases from energy and land use. It's wholly separate from the Montreal Protocol.

Bottom line: Process matters a lot here. One of the biggest complaints of Trump administration officials about the Paris deal is that Obama circumvented Congress (because he knew he wouldn't get support from the GOP-controlled Senate). The Kigali amendment backers, which include chemical makers like Honeywell and Chemours, are emphasizing how this is a collaborative process with Congress and is about the Montreal Protocol, not climate change per se.

My thought bubble: If/when you see this process unfold further, don't expect congressional Republicans and the administration to focus at all about the climate change angle. It'll be all about collaboration and protecting the environment and creating business opportunities for industry.


Go deeper:

  • Read my two Harder Line columns on this topic: Why industry is backing the policy, and how your air conditioner is caught up in all this.
  • The amendment is set to go into force (for those that have officially signed onto it) in January 2019, thanks to Sweden just recently signing on and meeting the ratification threshold, per the NYT.
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California governor, oil exec huddle on offshore wind

California Gov. Jerry Brown at the Bonn climate conference. Photo: Martin Meissner / AP

California Gov. Jerry Brown met earlier this month with top executives at Norway-based Statoil to discuss the company's pursuit of wind power off the Golden State's coastlines.

Why it matters: It's a glimpse into the future: Statoil is among the most aggressive oil companies pursuing green investments to hedge against a lower-carbon economy, and California is the most aggressive state pursuing actions to cut carbon emissions. Just one offshore wind farm exists in the U.S., off Rhode Island.

Quoted: "It's great, all that wind blowing, if we can get it, if the price is right, if the technology is there, if we can get through appropriate analysis," Brown told me on the sidelines of a climate conference in Bonn, Germany, last week. "I think it may have real potential, but there's lots of issues there."

Gritty details: Brown met with Bjørn Otto Sverdrup, Statoil's top sustainability officer, in Oslo, Norway, on Nov. 9 en route to the Bonn climate conference, where Brown spoke out several times urging U.S. action on climate despite President Trump's retreat on the issue.

"Bjørn shared our work on climate and they discussed opportunities for offshore wind in North America, including California," a spokeswoman for Statoil said in an email.

Go deeper:

  • The Interior Department is in the early stages of leasing for wind development off California's coast.
  • The San Diego Tribune did a good rundown of California's wind industry, including potential for offshore.
  • Floating wind turbines will likely be needed if California is going to get into this space.
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Garber to lead delegation to Montreal Protocol talks

Judith Garber (on right) at a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing in July 2016. Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

Judith Garber, a career diplomat in an acting position at the State Department, is set to lead the Trump administration's delegation to a meeting this week in Montreal discussing an amendment to the 30-year-old treaty protecting the Earth's ozone layer, according to an administration official.

Why it matters: By not sending a higher level official, it shows the continued low priority the administration places on environmental and climate change issues. Garber, a 30-year career diplomat, also led the administration's delegation to the recent climate talks in Bonn, Germany, after a higher level official bowed out at the last-minute due to a family emergency.

The big picture: The meetings this week in Montreal are about a recent amendment to the Montreal Protocol, a global treaty created 30 years ago to fix the hole in the Earth's ozone layer (and now it's achieving its goal).

World leaders, led by the Obama administration, agreed in October 2016 to the Kigali amendment, which would phase down emissions of powerful greenhouse gases in refrigerants called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). HFCs are used in many appliances from air conditioners to refrigerators.

What's next: The Trump administration needs to send over to the Senate for official ratification the treaty before the U.S. can be an official party to the amendment. Backers of the effort, which includes chemical companies that make new climate-friendly refrigerants, aren't rushing the effort, given the polarized politics of climate change and the timing so close to the Bonn talks.

Go deeper:

  • Read my two Harder Line columns on this topic: Why industry is backing the policy, and how your air conditioner is caught up in all this.
  • The Montreal treaty doesn't suffer from the same procedural issues as the Paris climate deal does, which increases the chances of it ultimately sticking despite the administration's aversion to climate issues.
  • The amendment is set to go into force (for those that have officially signed onto it) in January 2019, thanks to Sweden just recently signing on and meeting the ratification threshold, per the NYT.
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Nuclear power's climate snubs

Nuclear power provides 30% of the world's zero-carbon emitting electricity and the United Nations has concluded it's just as important as renewables to combating climate change.

Bottom line: Worries about nuclear safety and the storage of radioactive waste, in addition to economic challenges and the plummeting prices of wind and solar has much of the world looking past nuclear energy as a solution to climate change. Having recently returned from global climate meetings in Bonn, Germany, I dug (electronically speaking) through my notes to recount three stark examples showing this.

The three examples:

Money: The United Nations Environment Program initially accepted but ultimately reneged on accepting a request by the World Nuclear Association to sponsor an event on sustainable investing. The U.N. program's executive director, Erik Solheim, told Axios in an email the organization is "nuclear neutral," instead focusing on "the rapid developments of renewable energies like solar, wind, geothermal, hydro and others."

Culture: Generation Atomic, a U.S.-based environmental group advocating nuclear power founded a year ago, tried but failed to get a German movie theater to show a documentary on the topic. According to Eric Meyer, founder of the group, a representative of one theater said screening a pro-nuclear documentary would be "incompatible with our conscience." Germany is phasing out its nuclear power plants, which is one reason why the country isn't on track to meeting its climate goals.

Business: Jeff Moe, global director of energy policy and product advocacy at Ingersoll Rand, a manufacturing company, said the firm is discussing internally whether to include nuclear, on top of renewable energy, as part of its sustainability portfolio going forward. When prodded by me during a panel discussion at the conference, Moe said the company's operations in France are considered clean — largely because France gets 75% of its electricity from nuclear power.

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Good morning, I recently returned from a whirlwind week covering the climate talks in Bonn, Germany.

My latest column — about the left's internal struggle over nuclear power — is reported mostly from interviews on the sidelines there. I'll offer you a glimpse of that, and then Ben Geman will get you on top of the rest of the news.

The left's nuclear problem

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

America's liberal leaders are torn between fighting climate change and resisting nuclear power.

Why it matters now: The nuclear power industry, which provides the U.S. nearly two-thirds of its carbon-free electricity, is reaching an inflection point. Several power plants are shutting down under economic duress, which is putting pressure on Congress and state legislatures to keep them open, while a new generation of advanced nuclear technologies need government backing to get off the ground.

Read the full Harder Line column here.

Latest in oil: Keystone XL decision, Conoco's plan, markets await OPEC

Coming today: The Nebraska Public Service Commission is slated to make a decision on the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

Via the Associated Press, "The simplest choice is a yes-or-no vote on TransCanada's 'preferred route' through a dozen Nebraska counties. But the commission could include major caveats that would add years to the project's timetable."

  • Quick context: The Trump administration has already approved the proposed pipeline to bring crude oil from Canada's oil sands to U.S. refineries, reversing former President Obama's rejection. But developer TransCanada has not yet decided whether the project's economics still make sense.

ConocoPhillips: CEO Ryan Lance tells the Financial Times that the big U.S.-based company won't invest in new projects that require oil prices of $50 per barrel or higher to make a profit, and that the company is targeting most of its growth capital on U.S. shale projects.

Markets: Reuters reports that crude markets are "tepid" thus far today because traders are "reluctant to take on big new positions ahead" ahead of the Nov. 30 OPEC meeting where ministers will weigh the future of the OPEC/non-OPEC production limiting deal.

  • Crystal ball: According to their piece, a new Morgan Stanley note says, "the market expectation is for an extension through 2018...[but] there is increased risk that OPEC delays the extension decision."
  • PVM Oil Associates analyst Tamas Varga tells Bloomberg: "It is widely believed that OPEC, together with 10 non-OPEC countries, will roll over their production for the whole of 2018."

Transparency: A piece published by the center-left think tank New America looks critically at the Trump administration's recent decision abandon full implementation of Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative standards.

  • Noting that the U.S. still plans to back other nation's transparency efforts, the piece states: "In light of the United States' withdrawal, this form of development aid smacks of hypocritical paternalism and flawed diplomacy."

Solar trade notes: Lobbying, deadlines, and Lighthizer's sway

Battle stations: A pair of residential solar companies opposed to potential tariffs on panel imports — Sunrun and Vivint — have brought on Ballard Partners to lobby on trade issues (newly available filings here and here).

Deadline: Midnight marks the deadline for initial comments to the United States Trade Representative — a branch of the White House — about potential tariffs on imported solar panel equipment.

  • USTR is planning a Dec. 6 public hearing ahead of making policy recommendations to President Trump, who is supposed to make a decision on any solar trade measures by mid-January.

Why it matters: The USTR process is the latest phase in the high-stakes solar trade battle.

  • The U.S International Trade Commission recently recommended that the White House impose new import penalties at the behest of domestic manufacturers Suniva and SolarWorld, although they're weaker than the two companies suggested.
  • The wider solar industry and its allies are battling the proposal, arguing it would wreak havoc on project economics and significantly slow the growth of U.S. solar power.

Person to watch: I recommend reading this piece by my Axios colleague Jonathan Swan. He reports that "hardline trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer is wielding extraordinary — and growing — influence inside the White House."

  • Why it matters: While the White House hasn't tipped its hand on solar trade policy yet, the sway of a Lighthizer, a China hawk, could suggest which way Trump will lean on the solar question. A number of Chinese-owned companies export panels to the U.S.

Exclusive: Who's in the new group fighting Perry's FERC plan

Going public: A group urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reject a DOE proposal that would mandate higher revenues for coal and nuclear power plants is now making its members public.

  • The Affordable Energy Coalition's members thus far are: Advanced Energy Economy, the American Wind Energy Association, BP, the Electricity Consumers Resource Council, Energy Storage Association, Industrial Energy Consumers of America, and the free-market R Street Institute.

Why it matters: The coalition's emergence underscores the breadth of the opposition from several industry sectors to Energy secretary Rick Perry's push to keep coal and nuclear plants at risk of retirement online by shaking up wholesale power market rules.

  • It's part of a broader, strange bedfellows alliance that spans renewable energy groups, the oil-and-gas industry and environmentalists — a mix that highlights the high-stakes of one of the most intense energy policy fight of the Trump era thus far.
  • The coalition announced its presence two weeks ago but has not previously disclosed its members.

In their words: "The DOE grid proposal would raise costs for millions of American families and make it harder for American businesses to compete," said Michael Steel, a spokesman for AEC.

  • Steel, a former senior House GOP aide now with the firm Hamilton Place Strategies, said the group will "educate consumers across the country and leaders in Washington on the consequences of the DOE grid proposal."

What's next: Interim FERC chairman Neil Chatterjee is pushing for FERC action in mid-December that would extend a "lifeline" to at-risk plants while the independent agency weighs Perry's request.

Electric vehicle news and views

Tesla's truck: Here's a few more items about the company's newly unveiled electric semi-truck prototype...

  • Via Trucks.com this morning, here's a comprehensive list of knowns and unknowns about the vehicle.
  • MarketWatch reports that retail giant Walmart has pre-ordered 15 of the Tesla trucks and the trucking company J. B Hunt Transport Services has also placed orders for the new rig. From their story: Walmart is "excited to be among the first to pilot this new heavy-duty electric vehicle. We believe we can learn how this technology performs within our supply chain, as well as how it could help us meet some of our long-term sustainability goals, such as lowering emissions," the company said in a statement.
  • The latest episode of Greentech Media's Energy Gang podcast looks at the state of Tesla's ship, and Jigar Shah argues that the truck is a better fit for the company than the mass-market Model 3, given Tesla's problems thus far trying to produce vehicles on a large scale.

Big picture: Reuters has published a very useful, company-by-company summary of major automakers' EV plans.

Counterpunch: A very interesting Wall Street Journal feature looks at joint efforts by major oil companies and automakers to develop the next generation of advanced engine lubricants and other technologies that make internal combustion vehicles more efficient.

  • Bottom line: "They're betting the new, thinner oils will help them squeeze even more efficiency out of traditional car engines, allowing them to comply with stricter environmental rules and remain relevant as new technologies like zero-emission electric vehicles gain traction."

One cool website

NASA/USGS Landsat; Geoscience Australia

Check it out: This corner of NASA's website has lots of stunning satellite and aerial images.

The shot above is part of western Australia captured by the Landsat-8 satellite a few years ago.

From their description: "The image is enhanced and involved masking, separately enhancing and then reassembling water and land portions of the image. The water patterns are the result of an RGB display of Landsat-8's red, blue, and ultra-blue bands. Land is shown using short-wavelength-infrared, near-infrared and green."

Thanks for reading!

A reminder: Ben will be moderating a timely discussion that Securing America's Future Energy is hosting on Tuesday, Nov. 28, called "Oil's Coming Decade of Disorder."

The Washington, D.C., event will explore how underinvestment in new supply, geopolitical risk and other forces affect market stability. You can register here.

Column / Harder Line Featured

The left's nuclear problem

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

America's liberal leaders are torn between fighting climate change and resisting nuclear power.

Why it matters now: The nuclear power industry, which provides the U.S. nearly two-thirds of its carbon-free electricity, is reaching an inflection point. Several power plants are shutting down under economic duress, which is putting pressure on Congress and state legislatures to keep them open, while a new generation of advanced nuclear technologies need government backing to get off the ground.

Some Democratic politicians and prominent scientists have come out to back nuclear in recent years because of climate change, but most of the biggest environmental groups and influential leaders remain opposed. In interview after interview at a United Nations climate conference in Bonn, Germany, I noticed a trend: Politicians would cite the many challenges facing nuclear power, such as safety, how to store radioactive waste and the economics, as reasons their positions didn't matter. Those more inclined to support the fuel would cite the challenges as hurdles to overcome. Three examples:

  • Tom Steyer, the billionaire environmental activist: "Obviously, nuclear does not create greenhouse gases. It creates other problems ... Nobody has any ability to create nuclear power at any kind of competitive price point, plus all of the existing nuclear plants have disposal and safety issues."
  • Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City, is opting not to put his money toward state initiatives trying to keep open struggling reactors. Instead, he's funneling his money — $116 million over the last month — to close coal plants in the U.S. and Europe. "Nuclear power is not killing people from air pollution and climate change the way coal power is," said Antha Williams, the head of the environment program at Bloomberg Philanthropies. "So he doesn't oppose nuclear."
  • Democratic Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon, whose state is one of more than a dozen that effectively ban nuclear power, says she wants to see data ensuring safe storage of fuel waste. Brown described Oregon-based NuScale, a startup building small advanced reactor technologies, as "innovative," but she declined to comment on state legislation exempting the technology from the ban. "I would just say it's not my focus at this point in time."

Many of America's largest environmental groups, which have influence over liberal politicians, are doubling down on their opposition to nuclear power. They argue plummeting prices of wind and solar make nuclear power unnecessary.

Another reason: they'd lose donations, according to James Hansen, a climate scientist at Columbia University, and his colleague Steve Kirsch, a California-based entrepreneur and philanthropist. At a meeting in 2014 between Kirsch and Frances Beinecke, who at the time led the Natural Resources Defense Council, Beinecke said one of the reasons the group couldn't back nuclear power is because it would lose donations.
  • "The lunch did in fact occur and there was no movement," Kirsch said by email last week. A spokesman for NRDC declined to comment. Beinecke, who retired from NRDC later that year, didn't respond to requests for comment. NRDC's position on nuclear power resembles that of many others on the left: It would only support it if all of the industry's challenges are "properly mitigated."

Democratic senators who traveled to the Bonn conference indicated an increased albeit cautious openness to nuclear power, but this rhetoric was not matched by any sense of urgency to press for action in Congress or otherwise.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island said there's bipartisan support to pass a pair of measures boosting advanced nuclear technologies and helping keep open existing reactors facing economic challenges. On the latter point, he was talking about a bill he authored that puts a price on carbon emissions. That would help nuclear power because it would monetize its carbon-free attribute, but Republicans, most of whom don't acknowledge climate change is a problem but do back nuclear power, don't support that bill.

"The rhetoric seldom goes further into doing anything that could actually support (or end) nuclear power in this country," said Andrew Holland, an energy expert at the American Security Project, a think tank. "What we're left with is a sort of stasis, where policies don't change, and America's nuclear power capacity slowly erodes."

Meanwhile, smaller policies seem poised to pass. The tax overhaul bill the House just approved extends a production tax credit for nuclear energy, which industry executives say is critical to both existing reactors and advanced technologies still in planning phases.

"It is shifting in a sensible direction, but slower than it needs to," Hansen said.

The Harder Line will be off next week and back Dec. 4.

Featured

Coal’s technology problem, and vice versa

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

BONN, Germany -- The future of coal in a carbon-constrained world depends on technically feasible but prohibitively expensive technology that captures emissions from coal power plants. That technology, in turn, has become politically and inextricably linked to coal, despite the fact that most of it right now is used for purposes separate from coal.

Why it matters: Coal has been a popular topic here at a global climate conference hosted by the United Nations precisely for its unpopularity among many of the thousands of political leaders, activists and experts attending. On Thursday, 15 nations announced plans to phase out coal by 2030. Meanwhile, the capture technology itself is getting caught up in the political theater.

Coal's technology problem

The U.N.'s scientific body concluded in its most recent assessment of climate science in 2014 that if this technology isn't widely deployed, it would be 138% more expensive to keep global temperatures below a roughly 2-degree Celsius rise over the next century.

Today, only 17 such projects exist around the world, according to a report released at the conference this week by the Global CCS Institute, which was founded in 2009 and funded by fossil-fuel companies and others to more widely deploy the technology. Just two of those are capturing carbon from coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel that needs the technology the most.

Technology's coal problem

The other 15 large-scale carbon capture projects around the world are capturing industrial emissions of one kind or another, which are often processes that inherently emit greenhouse gas emissions and can't easily be swapped out with renewable energy.

"We keep saying, 'I'm not here to promote coal use or oil use or natural gas use," said Brad Page, head of the institute, in an interview at the conference. "We, the institute, only exist because climate change is a problem. There is no other reason for us to exist."

The environmental group Clean Air Task Force, which works to promote the technology as a solution to climate change, cites World Bank data to say that if China's industrial emissions, which come from processes that make steel, cement and related products, were their own country, they would be the third-largest emitter in the world.

But many liberal politicians, including those who traveled to the conference, say the technology, which has the acronym CCS, is just a prop the Trump administration uses to push coal without it. Top White House officials hosted an event here earlier this week touting the role cleaner fossil fuels and nuclear power should fill in addressing climate change.

"CCS is is principally used by the Trump administration to camouflage their interest just to burn coal without it," said Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, in an interview here. "If they came here and said, 'We're not going to promote coal-based technology unless it is in fact CCS, that would have—."

He pivoted mid-sentence to tell a story about a conversation he had with then-President George W. Bush about the viability of the technology, which was facing economic challenges back then much like it is today.

Featured

Top Trump energy adviser talks solar, climate

Trump aide George David Banks speaks at climate event in Bonn, Germany, on Nov. 13. Photo: Lukas Schulze / Getty Images.

Bonn, Germany – A top adviser to President Trump on international energy issues, George David Banks, sat down with a small group of reporters at the United Nations climate conference here Wednesday. Here are the highlights — and reality checks:

On what Banks says the administration is doing to mitigate climate change, which he says is a priority, despite actions and rhetoric indicating otherwise:

  • Remaining a party to the United Nations' underlying climate treaty, the Framework Convention on Climate Change, despite President Trump's announcement he intends to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate deal.
    • Reality check: This is technically true, but a negative — not withdrawing from this treaty — does not equate a positive — prioritizing climate change.
  • Promoting exports of liquified natural gas, which burns 50% fewer carbon emissions than coal.
    • Reality check: This is true. President Obama laid the groundwork.
  • Promoting research and development in the budget.
    • Reality check: Along with most budgets save for the Pentagon, the administration is proposing to slash the Energy Department's R&D budget across the energy spectrum.
  • Banks wouldn't comment on what matters most: whether the Environmental Protection Agency will not just repeal but replace regulations addressing climate change. He deferred questions to EPA, which has said only generally it acknowledges current law requires it to address carbon emissions somehow.
    • Reality check: Whatever happens, it won't be much.

On a pending trade case, where two U.S.-based solar manufacturers are asking Trump to impose remedies on a flood of cheap imports.

  • "The United States has been helping finance the deployment of renewable energy technologies, but it's essentially a jobs program for China and other countries ... I think where we have been involved from an energy policy perspective, first of all, is asking the question, is having a vibrant solar manufacturing industry in the U.S. national interest? I think we would say yes, is in national interest."
    • Reality check: We reported back in September the administration was likely to issue tariffs, and that remains as true today as ever, much to the chagrin of most of the U.S. solar industry that's benefiting from cheap solar imports.

On progress of the actual negotiations at the climate conference, which are hashing out boring but important details of the Paris deal that Trump said in June the U.S. will withdraw from, citing Obama's pledge being unfair compared to other commitments.

  • "We've got the best negotiating team in the world … My guess is the pledge was created and invented in the Obama White House."
    • Reality check: Just like this White House, Obama's executive team had discretion. The negotiations are moving along mostly as normal, according to multiple sources, creating a sometimes awkward but cordial relationship between America and the rest of the world here.

On the circumstances the administration would decide to stay in the Paris deal:

  • "That's yet to be determined."
    • Reality check: No effort is being made here on behalf of the administration. The rhetoric remains empty.

On the emphasis that the impacts of climate change have dire impacts on migration and public health issues.

  • "There is a much more direct link between energy access and these issues."
    • Reality check: That's true, but it doesn't make the climate impacts any less relevant. They're intertwined problems.

On the World Bank's restrictions funding new coal-fired power plants.

  • "I would say the World Bank guidance should be changed," adding that the administration will work toward that outcome.
    • Reality check: The U.S. alone can't make this happen, but it's certainly be influential.

On how many times he has met with the president himself on this issue:

  • "No comment."
    • Reality check: The non-answer — the only one of the nearly 40-minute briefing — indicates the answer is probably no, or at least almost no.
Facts Matter Featured

The vast limits of the Michael Bloomberg, Jerry Brown climate campaign

The group represents just 35% of America's total greenhouse gas emissions. Photo: Martin Meissner / AP

The issue

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, California Gov. Jerry Brown and other leaders representing more than a dozen states and hundreds of U.S. cities are in Bonn, Germany, this week to tell the world America is still on board with tackling climate change. The group just released a report that said if these non-federal entities were a country, their economy would be the third largest in the world. It also said the group represents nearly half of all Americans and more than half of the U.S. GDP.

The facts

The group largely represents America's coasts, where a lot of people live in big cities, but that's not where most of the greenhouse gases are emitted from coal, oil and natural gas production. The group represents up to 35% of America's total greenhouse gas emissions, according to the report's appendix data. That means this group represents roughly less than 5% of the world's emissions, despite comprising an economy that's the world's third-largest.

Why it matters

The report released here in Bonn is seeking to be optimistic, but it also concedes more action will be necessary. The biggest reductions would need to come from the fossil-fuel emitting states not currently on board.

The 35% figure -- not highlighted as part of the report's release -- underscores why federal action is essential in making sizable cuts in greenhouse gases. That's clearly going to be harder at a time when President Trump has said he intends to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate deal.

Featured

Top State Official bows out of climate talks

Bonn, Germany — A top State Department official who was supposed to be America's lead climate negotiator here at a conference isn't coming. The department said the official, Tom Shannon, isn't coming because of a family emergency.

Judith Garber, a lower level State Department official, is coming instead.

Why it matters: Regardless of the reasons, the optics look bad. The Trump administration has said it's going to withdraw America from the Paris deal and doesn't acknowledge climate change is a problem in need of addressing. This shuffle makes it appear like the administration — the politically appointed people versus the career staff — is divided over how to position itself at the conference.