Sep 7, 2021

Axios Generate

☀️ Welcome back! Today's Smart Brevity count is 1,395 words, 5½ minutes.

📊 Data point of the day: 30,679 — the # of power poles Entergy said Hurricane Ida damaged or destroyed in its service area that includes much of Louisiana. This is more than hurricanes Katrina, Ike, Delta and Zeta combined.

🎶 And Sunday marked the 1988 release of Siouxsie and the Banshees' "Peepshow," which provides today's intro tune...

1 big thing: Amazon's climate goals take root in Brazil

Satellite timelapse showing the loss of forest cover in Rondonia, Brazil, between 1984 and 2020. Animation: Google Earth

Up to 47 million acres of Amazonian rainforest have been damaged in fires since 2001, per a Nature study out last week, but the company Amazon and the Nature Conservancy hope a new initiative may help alleviate the situation, Andrew reports.

Why it matters: The rainforest absorbs vast quantities of carbon dioxide and contains about 10% of all known species. But, since blazes are intentionally set to clear land for farming or livestock, some hope providing those farmers compensation may preserve the Amazon.

The big picture: The study shows how drought and land policies affect deforestation rates, including the spike in deforestation under Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

  • Since the 1960s, about 20% of the Amazon's forest cover has been lost due to deforestation and fires, the researchers found via satellite imagery and other data.
  • The study projects that between 21% to 40% of Amazonian rainforest could be lost to these forces by 2050, which could convert the region into a savannah and be a net carbon emitter.

Driving the news: Against this backdrop, the Nature Conservancy and Amazon are partnering to compensate landowners for protecting their land.

  • The goal is to remove up to 10 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions through 2050, which is equal to about one year of emissions from 2 million gas-powered cars, the company stated in a press release.

How it works: The initiative aims to provide local farmers in the Brazilian Amazonian state of Pará with a sustainable income, while restoring native forests that will store carbon.

  • Amazon’s initial investment will support 3,000 farmers and restore approximately 49,400 acres within three years. It's an area equivalent to the city of Seattle.
  • The Nature Conservancy CEO Jennifer Morris said in a press release that Pará has been losing 3,300 acres of tropical forest every day in the last year.

Context: This project is part of Amazon's Climate Pledge, which commits the company to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2040. Amazon is acting on other fronts to meet this challenge, including the purchase of 100,000 electric delivery vehicles.

Yes, but: There remains some dissatisfaction at Amazon's pace of sustainability changes.

What they’re saying: James Mulligan, a senior research scientist at Amazon, tells Axios this project shouldn’t be looked at as a mere demonstration.

  • “I view it as a scaling vehicle,” Mulligan says. “What we're trying to achieve in the project is basically how this region needs to transform if we're going to stabilize the forest."
2. Ida's environmental toll emerges

The U.S. Coast Guard conducts an overflight assessment Sunday of a rainbow sheen at Bay Marchand, south of Port Fourchon in Louisiana. Photo: U.S. Coast Guard/Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile

Hurricane Ida's ecological hazards are coming into focus as energy companies are looking to restore power, refining and oil-and-gas production, Ben and Axios' Rebecca Falconer write.

Driving the news: The U.S. Coast Guard announced Monday it's investigating almost 350 reports of oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico it has received since the deadly Hurricane Ida struck Louisiana.

  • In response, the Coast Guard is establishing a pollution response team in Baton Rouge, per NOLA.com.
  • Among the investigations is a large oil spill first detected last week in Bay Marchand, two miles south of Port Fourchon, which has since reduced in size after containment efforts.
  • Rebecca has more.

The big picture: Roughly 80% of Gulf of Mexico oil-and-gas production was shut-in as of Monday, down from roughly 95% just before and after the storm, per the Interior Department.

  • Power losses remain big but have been falling over the last week. Via PowerOutage.us, around 417,000 homes and businesses lack electricity in Louisiana, which is well under half of peak outage levels.
  • Five Louisiana refineries remained offline as of Monday, representing about 6% of total U.S. refining capacity, per the Energy Department.

Threat level: "Widespread power outages, damage, flooding, and access constraints are leading to retail gas station closures in impacted areas," DOE notes.

3. Breaking: Push for UN climate conference delay

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Green groups say a critical UN climate summit hosted by the U.K. in Scotland this fall should be delayed because COVID restrictions and costs will hinder poor and vulnerable nations' participation, Ben writes.

Driving the news: The Climate Action Network, an umbrella group of climate NGOs, cited lack of vaccine access, rising travel and hotel costs and other factors.

  • "An in-person [conference of parties] COP in early November would de facto exclude many government delegates, civil society campaigners and journalists, particularly from Global South countries, many of which are on the UK’s COVID-19 'red list,'" the group said.

The other side: Alok Sharma, the U.K.'s top summit official, said this morning the event must go ahead because "COP26 has already been postponed by one year, and we are all too aware climate change has not taken time off."

  • The U.K. government is offering to fund quarantine hotel stays for delegates from nations on the "red list" and will vaccinate delegates who otherwise cannot obtain the jab, he said.

The BBC has more.

4. Automakers peer into the future

BMW i Vision Circular concept. Image courtesy of BMW

The electric future, near-term and far, is on display at the big IAA Mobility 2021 in Munich this week — even as internal combustion cars remain dominant, Ben writes.

Driving the news: That image above is BMW's i Vision Circular concept, a vision for 2040 to create vehicles made of 100% recycled materials and are 100% recyclable themselves.

  • 2040 isn't soon (I'm smart!), but Car and Driver notes it "acts a demonstrator of BMW's goals for developing sustainable but luxurious vehicles."

Why it matters: BMW's long-term concept is among several ideas automakers are unveiling at the show.

  • For instance, TechCrunch explores models Mercedes plans to bring into production, while VW previewed the "near-production concept" for its ID 5 GTX crossover, CNET reports.
  • Axios' Joann Muller has a wide-angle look at the event, noting that auto shows are coming back and now feature "hands-on experiences showcasing innovative climate-friendly technologies and new modes of mobility."

Yes, but: The European environmental group Transport and Environment said Tuesday: "While EV sales continue to grow, they are being worryingly outpaced by SUVs, which are still primarily polluting, engine-driven cars."

5. Catch up fast: shale, exports, Iraq

Divestments (maybe): Chevron says its assets in Texas' Eagle Ford shale basin are being "being marketed actively to sell," confirming a Reuters report that broke Friday.

  • By the numbers: Oil majors have divested $7 billion of upstream oil-and-gas assets so far this year, roughly matching their $8 billion-plus in alternative energy investments announced in 2021, per the consultancy Wood Mackenzie.
  • What they're saying: "Chevron’s rationale in selling the Eagle Ford asset is unlikely related to ESG concerns and more likely related to a desire to streamline its portfolio, shed a non-core asset while the M&A market is favorable for sellers, and potentially distribute proceeds to shareholders," Enverus analyst Andrew McConn tells Axios.

Deals: Via MarketWatch, "Enbridge Inc. it has agreed to acquire Texas-based liquids terminaling and logistics company Moda Midstream Operating LLC for $3 billion from venture capital firm EnCap Flatrock Midstream."

More deals: Via Bloomberg, "Iraq’s government and TotalEnergies SE agreed on a $27 billion package of investment deals aimed at boosting oil and gas output and reducing power outages in OPEC’s second-biggest producer."

6. Medical experts issue joint climate alarm

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Editors of over 230 medical journals warned that global warming is affecting people's health — and world leaders can't wait until the COVID-19 pandemic is over to act, Rebecca reports.

Why it matters: It's the first time so many publications have issued such a joint statement to world leaders.

  • Ahead of this November's UN general assembly and the COP26 climate summit in Scotland, they warned: "The greatest threat to global public health is the continued failure of world leaders to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5C and to restore nature."

Keep reading.

7. Extreme swimmer crosses ice fjord in Greenland

Lewis Pugh swims in Ilulissat Fjord, Greenland. Photo: Lewis Pugh Foundation/Olle Nordell via Flickr

Extreme swimmer Lewis Pugh completed a treacherous swim across the five-mile wide mouth of the Ilulissat Ice Fjord in Greenland on Tuesday, Andrew writes.

  • Pugh's swim, covered in 14 frigid sessions over 12 days in 32 to 37-degree waters, sought to raise awareness of the upcoming UN Climate Summit.

Threat level: This fjord is where the fastest-moving glacier in the world, Jakobshavn, deposits its massive icebergs into the sea.

What they're saying: "I don't want world leaders to worry about what's happening here," Pugh says.

  • "I want them to have sleepless nights over the issue."

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