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

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Aug 12, 2020 - Energy & Environment

EIA revises forecast to steeper crude production drop

Data: EIA; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

This week is bringing new snapshots of how hard the pandemic hit the U.S. oil patch earlier this year and the difficult path ahead, even as demand is now haltingly returning and prices have recovered somewhat.

Driving the news: The U.S. Energy Information Administration yesterday offered its latest downward revision of its domestic crude oil production forecast.

Obama: The rest of us have to live with the consequences of what Trump's done

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Campaigning for Joe Biden at a car rally in Miami on Saturday, Barack Obama railed against President Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying "the rest of us have to live with the consequences of what he's done."

Driving the news: With less than two weeks before the election, the Biden campaign is drawing on the former president's popularity with Democrats to drive turnout and motivate voters.