Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Activist investors' push to make the world's largest energy companies commit to ambitious climate targets is entering a new phase.

Why it matters: A key thing to watch now is whether and how energy giants start providing more granular information on how to transform the pledges into concrete steps.

  • Thus far, while there have been varying levels of specifics, there remain very large blanks to fill in across the board, even as "net-zero" is the coin of the realm for European headquartered multinational oil giants (though resisted by U.S.-based majors ExxonMobil and Chevron).

Driving the news: Power giant Southern Company yesterday pledged to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century, joining a bunch of other big utilities who made similar vows over the past year or so.

  • The move came the same day that BP officials, at their annual meeting, said the COVID-19 pandemic would not alter the wide-ranging climate plans the company rolled out in February.

The big picture: "[P]ressing for more detail on how these plans will be implemented is definitely the next step at all of these companies," says Andrew Logan of the sustainable investment advocacy group Ceres.

  • "There is particular concern about whether the near-term goals companies have set are ambitious enough to actually get them to the 2050 goals without having to assume some miraculous development on the technology front," says Logan, whose work is focused on oil companies.
  • And check out yesterday's statement from investors affiliated with the Climate Action 100+ network, which welcomes BP's steps but calls for more clarity on how they'll start getting there in the near- and medium-term.

What they're saying: Advocates similarly called for specifics from Southern Company — which has a power mix heavily reliant on gas and coal — even as they praised the new goal.

  • Lila Holzman of the shareholder advocacy group As You Sow says they "look forward to more clarity on how it will achieve this new target, especially with regard to its large natural gas fleet."

Flashback: Axios' Amy Harder recently looked at Duke Energy's plan, which provides some specifics but also "relies heavily on a vague bucket of low-carbon technologies that aren’t commercially viable yet."

What's next: BP is planning to unveil details of its plan in September.

  • "I think that BP's September announcement — assuming it is sufficiently detailed — will lead to some pointed questions and hopefully some more detailed plans from BP's peers," Logan adds.

Go deeper: Big Oil's "net zero" club grows

Go deeper

16 mins ago - Health

Top business leaders urge White House to develop mandatory mask guidelines

A man walks past a Ramen restaurant in Los Angeles, California on July 1. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The heads of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, National Retail Federation and other top business organizations wrote an open letter on Thursday urging the White House coronavirus task force to work with governors to make face coverings mandatory in all public spaces.

Driving the news: An analysis led by Goldman Sachs' chief economist found that a national mandate requiring face coverings would "could potentially substitute for lockdowns that would otherwise subtract nearly 5% from GDP," the Washington Post reports.

Updated 47 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 p.m. ET: 10,763,604 — Total deaths: 517,667 — Total recoveries — 5,522,094Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 p.m. ET: 2,715,124 — Total deaths: 128,439 — Total recoveries: 729,994 — Total tested: 32,827,359Map.
  3. Public health: What we know about the immune response to coronavirus and what it means for a vaccine.
  4. Politics: Herman Cain hospitalized for COVID-19 after attending Trump Tulsa rally — Biden downplays jobs number, rebukes Trump for ignoring health crisis.
  5. States: Florida reports more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases — 5 states saw 27% spike in heart-related deaths in first 3 months of coronavirus pandemic.

The other immune responders to COVID-19

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Scientists are inching closer to understanding how antibodies and immune cells are unleashed by the body in response to the novel coronavirus.

Why it matters: Natural immunity differs from that afforded by vaccination but it offers clues for the design of effective vaccines and therapies.