👟 Off we go! Today's edition has a Smart Brevity count of 1,210 words, 4.5 minutes.

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🎶 Today marks 40 years since U2 dropped the album "War," which provides today's searing, anthemic intro tune ...

1 big thing: UN warns on geoengineering

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Scientists are calling for a comprehensive research program and starkly warning against pursuing ways to deliberately interfere with the climate so as to temporarily counteract global warming, known as geoengineering, Andrew writes.

Why it matters: Who sets the rules of the road and what they contain, particularly on the type of geoengineering known as solar radiation modification (SRM), may alter the course of global warming itself and affect billions of people.

  • SRM would involve injecting particles into the atmosphere to deflect incoming solar radiation, thereby cooling the planet temporarily.

Zoom in: In a new report released Monday, an expert panel convened by the U.N. Environment Program “rapid assessment” pours cold water on the notion that SRM is anywhere near balloon ready.

  • “Even as a temporary response option, large-scale SRM deployment is fraught with scientific uncertainties and ethical issues. The evidence base is simply not there to make informed decisions,” wrote UNEP head Inger Andersen, in a cover letter accompanying the document.
  • Andersen notes that SRM may be needed, since the world is off course to meeting its Paris temperature targets, with potentially devastating consequences.

The intrigue: UNEP includes a cost estimate for SRM, noting that the direct costs of deploying it without considering all the possible adverse consequences may be in the tens of billions of dollars annually per 1°C (1.8°F) of cooling. (Indirect costs from accidental effects, such as disrupting the South Asian Monsoon, would presumably be orders of magnitude more.)

  • And to be effective, SRM would need to be maintained for several decades to centuries, depending on emissions cuts and carbon removal rates, the report finds.

The big picture: Also on Monday, more than 60 scientists from three continents signed on to a new letter supporting comprehensive research, but not deployment, of SRM.

  • This is significant, because there are some in the scientific community who are against researching SRM at all.
  • The letter was not in response to geoengineering company Make Sunsets starting small-scale SRM testing, organizer Sarah Doherty of the University of Washington told Axios.
  • It puts climate scientists on record as being against incorporating SRM into any climate credit trading system, since such credits would not address a cause of global warming.

What they’re saying: Climate scientist and diplomat Janos Pazstor, who leads the Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative, told Axios both the UNEP report and the scientists’ letter are major developments.

  • "The world would need governance to ban these new approaches, but it would also need governance to make them happen," he said via email.

Read the whole story

2. A chill take on the hot U.S.-Europe subsidy race

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Maybe EU officials shouldn't worry so much about subsidies in the U.S. climate law drinking their milkshake on manufacturing investments, Ben writes.

Driving the news: "The share of [climate law] spending that supports U.S. manufacturing directly at the expense of European industry is considerably lower than recent reporting on the transatlantic clean energy rift might suggest," a new Rhodium Group analysis finds.

The big picture: The law has big tax incentives for manufacturing, added subsidies for domestic power project content, and strict rules on sourcing of battery materials for cars eligible for purchase subsidies.

Why it matters: That's creating tension with EU officials looking to bolster their low-carbon industrial sectors and prompting major new efforts there to attract and retain investment.

Yes, but: The research firm argues little U.S. activity will come at Europe's expense.

  • Direct manufacturing subsidies are only 7%-11% of total funding.
  • On the power side, bonus credits for domestic content "likely won't matter much for Europe." Wind and solar are a small share of U.S. steel demand.
  • Most wind projects already meet wider domestic content provisions, while on solar, the main import source is Asia, not Europe.
  • The EV assembly and battery requirements only apply to a subset of purchases due to income and vehicle price limits.

Full analysis

3. Europe's quick pivot from Russia

New and proposed LNG import capacity additions in the EU
Data: International Energy Agency; Chart: Alice Feng/Axios

A new report has eye-catching stats that help illuminate Europe's rapid move away from Russian gas and last year's crisis overall, Ben writes.

The big picture: Europe's gas demand fell 13% last year, "the steepest decline in absolute terms in history," International Energy Agency's latest market analysis notes.

The drop stemmed from record prices, conservation efforts, fuel switching and other forces.

Zoom in: The report takes stock of the EU scramble to diversify suppliers and deal with reduced Russian flows.

  • Europe's LNG imports surged in 2022, with inflows up 63% amid higher shipments from the U.S. and elsewhere.
  • Check out the chart above. The bloc's efforts to replace gas from Russia — its dominant supplier before the war — are prompting a surge in efforts to develop LNG import infrastructure.

Full report

4. Catch up fast on electric vehicles

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

⛏️ Auto giant Stellantis — parent of Chrysler, Citroën, Jeep and more — is investing $155 million for a 14.2% equity stake in McEwen Copper, owner of a major planned mine in Argentina, Ben writes.

  • Why it matters: EVs require far more copper than gas-powered models. Automakers are racing to lock up supplies of various critical materials needed for their electrification plans.
  • The big picture: Manufacturers are increasingly forming partnerships within mining companies and beginning to take equity stakes. GM recently announced a $650 million equity investment in Lithium Americas.

📈 Nissan is boosting its global EV sales targets as it looks to claim turf in the increasingly competitive market.

  • Driving the news: It now sees "electrified" vehicles — which include battery-electric and hybrids — claiming 98% of its European sales by fiscal year 2026, up from a prior target of 75%.
  • The big picture: Nissan also raised its target in Japan by a lesser amount, while keeping its U.S. target of 40% from pure EVs by 2030. Overall, it sees electrified vehicles at 55% of sales by 2030.

⚔️ EV price war update! Via Reuters, Vietnamese EV maker VinFast "has cut the lease price for its first model shipped to the United States by more than 50% for its first customers in California."

Dispatches from the ESG wars

The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal are both out with new features on growing political battles over ESG at the state and federal level, Ben noticed on the world wide internet machine.

Driving the news: The WSJ has details on a multimillion dollar campaign by conservative activists to "make ESG the next CRT" and push back on what they consider the "politicization of investments."

How it works: A nonprofit called the Marble Freedom Trust and the consulting firm CRC Advisors are leading an effort that has spent over $10 million so far, the paper reports.

  • Recipients of funding are Consumers’ Research, the Heritage Foundation, and the State Financial Officers Foundation and others.
  • Activities include providing model anti-ESG legislation to state lawmakers and funding ads "attacking companies that support ESG principles."

Yes, but: The Post reports that some red state officials are not keen to join Florida and Texas and others that are pulling money from asset managers who favor climate-focused strategies and other ESG principles.

"In Republican strongholds such as North Dakota, Indiana, Mississippi and Kentucky, state lawmakers have recently defeated proposals that would prohibit state governments or pension funds from doing business with the big financial institutions that have adopted ESG ... goals and policies."

🙏 Thanks Lisa Hornung and David Nather for edits to today's edition.

Editor’s note: The fourth item has been corrected to state that Stellantis is investing in McEwen Copper (not McEwen Mining) for a 14.2% equity stake (not 14.5%).