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Gina McCarthy. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy was on the road Tuesday in Illinois to tout the administration's progress on climate action and learn more about cutting-edge energy research at two national laboratories.

Driving the news: In an interview with Axios, she addressed a Reuters report that the White House is working with the airline industry on a plan to cut that sector's greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050, through the use of sustainable aviation fuels, among other steps.

The intrigue: McCarthy confirmed conversations are ongoing with the airline industry, which is a growing source of emissions and particularly difficult to decarbonize, though she said an announcement of any agreement is premature.

  • "We're certainly looking at a number of new initiatives moving forward and I know [Transportation] Secretary Buttigieg has been talking to the airline industry, as has our entire climate team," she said.
  • McCarthy cast an airline industry deal as a potential part of what the U.S. might be able to bring to the table at the United Nations Glasgow climate summit in November.
  • "We're going to wait till the opportunity to actually roll something out, but clearly we want to get in every sector of the economy," she said.

The big picture: The administration needs all the credibility it can get from climate actions in order to maximize its influence in Glasgow.

  • "If we can do something with the airline sector to look at as fuels that are less carbon-intensive, if we can look at those opportunities, moving forward, it will be a big benefit when we get to Glasgow," McCarthy said.
  • "It's a little too early for any announcement."

McCarthy also told Axios that the landmark IPCC report, released Monday, "was disturbing" because it narrowed the opportunity to limit warming to the low-end 1.5-degree Paris temperature target.

  • How administration officials and members of Congress interpret the IPCC report could point the way to what's next in climate policy, particularly as the $3.5 trillion Democrats-only spending package is crafted during the next few months.

Go deeper

Updated Sep 22, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on bold climate commitments

On Wednesday, September 22nd, Axios co-founder Mike Allen and energy reporter Ben Geman hosted a virtual conversation on the innovative approaches climate leaders are undertaking to reshape standards for sustainability initiatives in 2022 and beyond, featuring White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy and Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp.

Gina McCarthy explained the Biden administration’s recent environmental priorities, the importance of mobilizing different communities to fight climate change, and how the White House is incentivizing private industries to reduce their emissions.   

  • On addressing extreme heat problems: "I think everybody’s beginning to understand as the President tours the sites of wildfires and flooding and other really big challenges like drought, there’s this silent killer for climate change that’s called excess heat, that really doesn’t get enough attention."
  • On cross-agency collaboration on climate change at a federal level: “It’s an exciting moment where people across the federal government are working together in ways they have never done before, not just to tackle wildfires and droughts and flooding and heat stress, but also to tackle the challenge of how we motivate our business sector and send them all the signals you would want us to send that shows that President Biden is committed to achieving net zero in 2050, and knows that this decade is a decisive decade.”

Fred Krupp highlighted how companies must be held accountable to pledges to reduce their emissions, how some corporations are breaking with lobby associations to become more vocal about climate change (and others are not), and how he believes debates surrounding the infrastructure bill will play out in the near future. 

  • On how corporate lobbying has fallen short: “Right now, we don’t see enough corporations lobbying on behalf of the climate sections of the reconciliation bill. This bill that’s pending in Congress is our once in a decade opportunity to get something done on climate.” 
  • On public support for the infrastructure bill: “I see an enormous amount of support in the American public for moving ahead with a sort of clean energy economy that are going to create tremendous numbers of jobs, clean the air, make people healthier.” 

Axios VP of Communications Yolanda Brignoni hosted a View from the Top segment with GE’s Chief Sustainability Officer Roger Martella, who discussed how GE is following through on their ESG goals by investing in sustainable energy technologies. 

  • “We create some of the most technically complex and critical technologies the world needs, and we’re focused today on innovating these technologies on a path to decarbonization.” 

Thank you GE for sponsoring this event.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Sep 24, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Finance regulators becoming involved in climate change

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Biden-era financial regulators are getting increasingly involved in climate — if not as much as some advocates want — and this week is bringing fresh signs of the trend.

Driving the news: The Securities and Exchange Commission revealed that it's sending letters to corporations seeking more complete disclosures about their climate-related risks.

Updated Sep 23, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on investing in advanced climate tech

On Thursday, September 23rd, Axios business editor Dan Primack and Axios Today host Niala Boodhoo explored how alternative energy investments toward climate solutions function in the private and public sector today, featuring Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Galvanize Climate Solutions co-founder Tom Steyer.

Sen. Ron Wyden explained his support for overhauling the existing tax code to incentivize companies to reduce their emissions, his belief that all Americans should pay their fair share of taxes, and Congressional efforts to increase electric vehicle usage.

  • On his support for modifying the tax code: “One of the little secrets about the tax code is that many billionaires pay little or no income taxes. The way they do that is they don’t take a wage, and so Americans have read all these stories about prominent billionaires paying virtually nothing in the way of income taxes for years and years on end. I don’t think that’s right.”
  • On the future trajectory of electric vehicles: “Getting a critical mass of these electric vehicles on the road is going to bring down costs. It’s going to be good for the environment, good for marketplace forces, and the American economy.”

Tom Steyer highlighted the importance of cleaning up electricity generation across the country, how the climate tech investment landscape has changed over the last decade, and what areas of climate tech he believes need more attention and investment.

  • On the future of the infrastructure and reconciliation bills: “I believe that the Democratic Party will come to a negotiated place which will include very important climate regulations, climate initiatives, and that specifically they will be encouraging the move to clean electricity generation across the United States during this decade.”
  • On the need for more tangible innovations in climate tech: “It’s going to be incredibly important for us too to do well in the businesses like manufacturing, where you can touch the product. We have dominated the kinds of businesses like software that you can’t touch.”

Axios co-founder and CEO Jim VandeHei hosted a View from the Top segment with HSBC’s Group Chief Sustainability Officer Celine Herweijer, who discussed how sustainability is moving to the forefront of many corporations’ long-term goals.

  • “We’ve committed to essentially have a net zero target across all of our finance commissions portfolio. So to be able to do that, that means fundamentally changing how we finance it, fundamentally changing our risk appetite, changing our culture, our policies, our processes of capability.”

Thank you HSBC for sponsoring this event.

Go deeper: Get smarter, faster on the growing field of climate tech with our free short course.