๐Ÿช Halfway there. Today's edition gets you over the hump with a Smart Brevity count of 940 words, 3.5 minutes.

๐ŸŽถ Exactly 20 years ago, Usher and guests were atop the Billboard Hot 100 with today's all-timer of an intro tune...

1 big thing: Methane's "worrying trends"

Data: International Energy Agency; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: International Energy Agency; Chart: Axios Visuals

Fresh data shows the persistence of fossil fuel methane emissions โ€” but with it offers hope of potential changes, Ben writes.

Why it matters: It's a powerful planet-warming gas, and the energy industry is the second-largest source of human-caused methane (after agriculture).

Driving the news: Energy-related emissions inched up in 2023 and remain around 2019's record levels, the International Energy Agency said this morning.

  • There is a small silver lining. While fossil fuel use has expanded, methane intensity โ€” that is, amount per unit of production โ€” has dropped a bit.

The big picture: Roughly 70% of methane from fossil fuel production comes from the top 10 emitting nations, IEA finds.

  • The U.S. is the largest source from oil and gas operations, while China is tops from coal.

Friction point: The agency sees both "signs of progress and some worrying trends."

  • There's no shortage of pledges, including new ones at last year's UN climate summit, and emissions are falling in some areas.
  • If all national and corporate targets are fully met, methane from fossil fuels would drop 50% by 2030.

Yes, but: At least for now, the landscape of national and corporate pledges is strewn with mirages.

  • "[I]n most cases, these pledges are not yet backed up by detailed plans, policies and regulations," IEA finds.

The intrigue: Steep cuts are quite feasible โ€” in theory.

  • IEA estimates two-thirds of methane from fossil fuels can be avoided with known and existing tech, "often at low โ€” or even negative โ€” cost."

The bottom line: Despite signs of progress, the heavy lifting remains.

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2. Why effective research about Africa requires more Africans

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Research into Africa's energy transition is surging, but scientific course corrections would make this work more useful, a new analysis concludes.

Why it matters: Providing energy for development, and better living standards, while limiting carbon dioxide is a big 21st century challenge, Ben writes.

The big picture: The study in Energy Policy explored 156 peer-reviewed papers with transition modeling. Among the findings:

  • Nearly two-thirds of the papers are written exclusively by authors outside of Africa.
  • Research on energy and emissions pathways is often siloed from studies on development.
  • Transition modeling for Africa gives relatively little attention to nuclear, carbon capture, hydrogen and geothermal.

Friction point: These trends leave knowledge gaps.

  • Papers written with African scholars focus more often on individual nations โ€” a needed thing because policies are rarely continental.
  • "[S]ome important country-specific characteristics and challenges related to implementing energy transition policies are less likely to be addressed in studies with no Africa-based researchers," they note.

What's next: More support for local researchers from African governments and international donors would help, it states.

  • Another recommendation: "The dual challenge of economic development and climate change calls for more multidisciplinary collaborative research to address the two issues within the same framework."

3. New in tech finance: Protein and DAC

Illustration: Aรฏda Amer/Axios

๐Ÿฅฉ The Bezos Earth Fund is providing an initial $60 million to create "Bezos Centers for Sustainable Protein," part of a wider $1 billion program on climate-friendly food systems, Ben writes.

  • Why it matters: The meat industry is a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions. But alternative proteins โ€” the plant-based and nascent lab-grown variety โ€” remain a small market compared with traditional sources.
  • What's next: "The Centers will target major technological barriers to reducing cost, increasing quality, and boosting nutritional benefit of alternative proteins by advancing science and technology," the announcement states.

๐ŸŽฃ Direct air capture startup CarbonCapture just landed $80 million in Series A finance.

  • Why it matters: Deep pockets are increasingly interested in the nascent space. Amazon and Saudi Aramco are among the Series A investors, and Prime Movers Lab led the round.
  • Go deeper: Talk to our sales team about Axios Pro: Climate Deals for more on this โ€” and a steady diet of must-read daily scoops and analysis.

4. One policy thing: Freight emissions push

Image courtesy of the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation

Biden officials have unveiled a detailed road map to help spur buildout of charging and hydrogen refueling infrastructure for big trucks, Ben writes.

Why it matters: Diesel-powered freight movement is a big source of CO2 and dangerous air pollutants like fine particulate matter.

  • Yet lack of infrastructure to support electric and hydrogen models is a barrier to deployment.

The big picture: Enter the new "National Zero-Emission Freight Corridor Strategy."

  • It's designed to help guide public dollars and catalyze private investment, but it also aims to "focus utility and regulatory energy planning" at local and regional levels and "align" industry activity.
  • Officials see a tool for breathing life into the administration's goal of zero-emissions models reaching 30% of medium- and heavy-duty truck sales in 2030, and 100% by 2040.

Threat level: These trucks spew roughly a fourth of all greenhouse gases from U.S. transportation, the announcement states. And transportation is the largest overall emissions source.

Catch up fast: Recent years have given officials new money and policy tools, such as billions in the bipartisan infrastructure law for refueling infrastructure.

The bottom line: The strategy is an attempt to get lots of voices singing in harmony.

5. ๐Ÿงฎ Number of the day: $469 billion

That's the amount of "surplus" factory investment for clean tech manufacturing โ€” largely batteries and solar equipment โ€” slated to come online over the next three years.

Why it matters: The tally, via the research firm BloombergNEF, is part of a report warning that Chinese output is a double-edged sword, Ben writes.

  • It's driving down the price of energy transition but also threatens domestic industrial policy goals in the U.S. despite climate law subsidies.

Threat level: "Global price pressures, and especially cheaper and cheaper imports, will result in many U.S. factories facing a pretty rude awakening ... and it will probably lead to a lot of factory cancellations," BNEF analyst Pol Lezcano tells Bloomberg.

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๐Ÿ™ Thanks to Chris Speckhard and Javier E. David for edits to today's edition, along with the brilliant Axios Visuals team.