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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

WMO: Carbon dioxide levels continue to rise despite coronavirus lockdowns

A protestor wearing a face mask displays a placard reading 'Save The Earth' during the climate crisis protest in Seoul. Photo: Simon Shin/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Although a slowdown in industrial activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic has helped cut emissions of many pollutants and greenhouse gases, it has not reduced record levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Monday.

Why it matters: Record levels of greenhouse gases are trapping heat in the atmosphere, increasing temperatures and driving more extreme weather, ice melt, sea-level rise and ocean acidification, the WMO said, noting that "carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for centuries and in the ocean for even longer."

Amy Harder, author of Generate
Nov 23, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Environmental group pushes new clean-energy tax credit

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The National Wildlife Federation is sharing with lawmakers a tax credit proposal to help bring cleaner electricity to parts of the country that are currently powering with coal and natural gas.

Why it matters: With a divided government likely, any climate and energy policy is probably going to come in the form of relatively narrow spending proposals like this.

Pennsylvania certifies Biden's victory

Photo: Aimee Dilger/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Pennsylvania officials on Tuesday certified the state's presidential election results, making President-elect Joe Biden's win in the key battleground official.

Why it matters: The move deals another blow to President Trump's failed efforts to block certification in key swing states that he lost to Biden. It also comes one day after officials voted to certify Biden's victory in Michigan.