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Expand chart
Data: BloombergNEF; Chart: Axios Visuals

Global carbon emissions from energy, which are the lion's share, will never fully come back from pre-pandemic levels — recovering from a pandemic-fueled decline but sinking again around 2027 with renewable energy on the rise — according to a BloombergNEF analysis.

But, but, but: It still won't prevent the planet from cooking, as the firm still sees enough emissions to lead to over 3.3°C of warming above preindustrial levels by century's end.

  • That's far beyond the Paris agreement goal of limiting warming to 2°C and ideally 1.5°C — benchmarks for avoiding some of the most damaging effects.
  • And it's despite the fact that, in the new outlook's core scenario, the pandemic's effect on energy demand will remove a total of almost three years worth of emissions by 2050.

Why it matters: “To stay well below two degrees of global temperature rise, we would need to reduce emissions by 6% every year starting now, and to limit the warming to 1.5 degrees C, emissions would have to fall by 10% per year," BNEF analyst Matthias Kimmel said in a statement alongside the report.

What we don't know: How much nations' economic responses to the pandemic will ultimately steer resources into low-carbon projects. A research consortium called Energy Policy Tracker is keeping an updated tally here.

The intrigue: That brings me to another other ripple effect. I don't think it's a stretch to say the pandemic might have an outsized influence on U.S. climate policy.

  • Absent the crisis and its economic effects, President Trump, who gets poor marks from voters on COVID-19, would likely have a much better chance of re-election.
  • If Joe Biden wins, he's vowing a 180-degree turn in the U.S. approach to global warming.
  • While Trump is reversing Obama-era policies, Biden's platform would go vastly beyond anything contemplated in the Obama years.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 29, 2021 - Economy & Business

General Motors puts Trump in its rearview mirror

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

General Motors (GM) is racing to prepare itself for a president and a world that takes climate change more seriously — and putting the Trump era behind them in the process.

Driving the news: GM yesterday announced an ambitious plan to end global sales of internal combustion vehicles by 2035. It's part of their wider new pledge to be carbon neutral by 2040.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 29, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Electric vehicle sales far surpass pandemic expectations

Data: EIA; Note: 2020 figures are preliminary; Chart: Axios Visuals

New International Energy Agency preliminary data shows that worldwide sales grew by an estimated 40% last year, exceeding the agency's expectations.

Why it matters: The increase occurred despite a drop on overall global vehicle sales.

25 mins ago - Health

WHO says Omicron poses "very high" risk

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaking in Geneva in October. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

The World Health Organization said Monday in a new risk assessment that it believes the COVID-19 Omicron variant poses a "very high" risk to the globe because it may be more transmissible than other strains of the virus.

Why it matters: Though the WHO acknowledged there are still many uncertainties associated with the variant, the agency said it believes the likelihood of potential further spread of Omicron around the world is "high."