We’ve had enough news in recent days to suggest we’re 13 months, not days, into this decade.
Driving the news: President Trump is pushing the most significant changes to environmental law in 50 years, the world’s largest investor is going big on global warming, and House Democrats are going it alone on climate policy. And this all just happened last week!
Where it stands: It was easy to miss those developments with all of the alarming headlines of the start of 2020 — America flirted with a Middle East war although the oil market surprisingly shrugged it off, a plane was shot from the sky, the impeachment saga continues, and Australia is burning.
Quick take: Cue a modern-day rendition of 1989’s "We Didn’t Start the Fire."
“How does one be productive in the midst of all the unpredictability? I think it forces you to choose between nihilism or pragmatism and loud or quiet.” — Jason Grumet, president, Bipartisan Policy Center
The big picture: Big changes are happening on the energy and climate change front that suggest more polarization and acrimony that could last long after the presidential election.
1) Democratic leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee released an outline of sweeping legislation on Wednesday laying out policies that the lawmakers say could achieve net-zero U.S. greenhouse gas emissions within the next three decades.
- It adds policy substance to what has otherwise been mostly rhetoric coming from House Democrats.
2) Trump announced proposals on Thursday to drastically narrow the scope of the National Environmental Policy Act, a law governing environmental reviews of America’s infrastructure, as a way to hasten the construction of everything from bridges to pipelines.
- “Don’t expect any expedited permitting in the meantime ... in fact, [expect] the opposite. But it does have significant implications for long-term energy investments,” says Leslie Hayward of the Rapidan Energy Group.
3) BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, joined Climate Action 100+, an investor network pushing companies to be more transparent and aggressive in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
- Time will tell how aggressive BlackRock will be within this group, but even joining is significant.
Flashback: In August 2017, I wrote an article with the headline: “Chaos obscures Washington's biggest policy change.”
- Its purpose was to underscore how the chaos unfolding in Washington at that time — Trump’s prolific tweeting, the FBI’s Russia investigation and the Mooch’s 15 minutes of fame — was diverting attention from Trump’s near-complete reversal of America’s environmental policies.
- Today, we have different tweets, investigations and characters — but the same chaos.
The bottom line: “The chaos is now predictable," Grumet says. "I think anybody who is trying to advance policy recognizes that this is the boundary condition.”