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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

G20 governments' pandemic recovery packages are steering much more funding to fossil fuel industries and energy-intensive sectors like airlines than "clean" energy, an Energy Policy Tracker project from several think tanks and activist groups shows.

Why it matters: International agencies like the United Nations and International Monetary Fund have been urging governments to prioritize climate-friendly energy in economic recovery packages.

By the numbers: According to the new database, thus far G20 governments' commitments provide...

  • $151 billion for policies "supporting production or consumption of fossil fuels."
  • Of that amount, only $30 billion comes with climate targets or new emissions requirements.
  • Meanwhile, $89 billion has been steered toward "clean" sectors like energy efficiency, solar and wind.
  • There's another $28 billion in the "other energy" category that doesn't fall into their "fossil" or "clean" taxonomy, such as " biofuels and hydrogen of unspecified origin."

Yes, but: Quartz points out an important caveat.

  • "This analysis only counts funding that has been officially committed. Stimulus funds that are still in discussion, like the European Union’s $850 billion green recovery plan, are not included," the piece notes.
  • The groups plan to update the tracking tool on a weekly basis as more recovery spending is approved.

The big picture: “National and subnational jurisdictions that heavily subsidized the production and consumption of fossil fuels in previous years have once again thrown lifelines to oil, gas, coal, and fossil fuel-powered electricity," said Ivetta Gerasimchuk of the International Institute for Sustainable Development.

  • Her group launched the project with organizations including the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, the activist group Oil Change International, the Overseas Development Institute and others.

Go deeper

Updated Oct 28, 2020 - Axios Events

Watch: How the pandemic has changed the energy industry

On Wednesday, October 29 Axios' Amy Harder hosted a conversation on the pandemic's effects on the environment, the energy industry, and how these shifts will have a lasting impact on the private sector's approach to renewable energy. The conversation featured Sunrun co-founder and CEO Lynn Jurich and New York's deputy secretary for energy and environment Ali Zaidi.

Lynn Jurich discussed the shift to renewable energy and the technology making renewable energy cheaper than fossil fuels.

  • On the next biggest global challenge in renewable energy: "How do you decarbonize this energy industry globally?...I view this very much as an opportunity and something where the U.S. should really be just moving faster on this. And that's why I look to the Biden program to help us."
  • On new technologies in the energy space: "We're just scratching the surface of the existing lithium-ion battery technology. If we combine that technology with renewable energy, we can go a long way to decarbonizing our energy system."

Ali Zaidi unpacked Gov. Cuomo's statewide plans around renewable energy, from centering issues of race and equity, as well as New York state's initiative to get to 70% renewable electricity by 2030.

  • On the goals of New York's energy policy plans: "It's an opportunity to advance jobs. It's an opportunity to advance justice. And it's an opportunity to advance our climate ambitions. That's the playbook Gov. Cuomo has laid out."
  • How energy is an equity issue: "What we are seeing increasingly is the intersecting and interconnected challenges of race, of equity and of the environment. And what that reveals to us is a real opportunity. Coming out of this pandemic to build back better."

Axios Chief Revenue Officer Fabricio Drumond hosted a View from the Top segment with Cognite co-founder and CEO John Markus Lervik and discussed the role of technology in increasing usage of renewable energy.

  • "For renewables and renewable transformation, [it is] fully dependent on digital transformation. Technology is the single most important driver for more sustainable and environmentally friendly operations."

Thank you Cognite for sponsoring this event.

"Atmospheric river" swings Northern California from drought to flood

Satellite view of the bomb cyclone swirling off the coast of the Pacific Northwest and the atmospheric river affecting California on Oct. 24. Photo: CIRA/RAMMB

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are delivering historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest.

Why it matters: The atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, was causing Northern California to whiplash from drought to flood, as it slowly moved south overnight. It's triggered widespread power outages, flooding and mudslides.

In photos: Drought-ravaged California lashed by major storm

Workers try to divert water into drains as rain pours down on Oct. 24 in Marin City, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A major storm system was pummeling Northern California and parts of the Pacific Northwest with heavy rains overnight.

The big picture: "Atmospheric river" storms, associated with a record-strong "bomb cyclone" offshore from the Pacific Northwest, have brought flooding and mudslides to parts of California that were razed by recent wildfires and in severe drought. It's also caused widespread power outages in California, Oregon and Washington state.