Mar 2, 2021

Axios Generate

Welcome back. Today's Smart Brevity count is 1,263 words, < 5 minutes.

🚨Situational awareness: The chairwoman of the Texas Public Utilities Commission has resigned following last month's catastrophic power outages. The Texas Tribune has more.

🎶 Yesterday marked 28 years since the Cranberries released "Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?" which provides today's intro tune...

1 big thing: Global emissions return to pre-COVID levels
Expand chart

Newly released data show that global CO2 emissions had returned to pre-pandemic levels by the end of last year and surpassed them in some major economies.

Why it matters: The International Energy Agency warned that clean energy efforts are falling short.

  • It's important to clear the decks by noting that a tragic, economy-hobbling pandemic is not a climate policy and is a terrible reason for emissions cuts.
  • But the IEA and other multilateral agencies have called on nations to stitch support for clean energy into their recovery packages — and warn that's not happening nearly enough.

What they're saying: "The rebound in global carbon emissions toward the end of last year is a stark warning that not enough is being done to accelerate clean energy transitions worldwide," IEA executive director Fatih Birol said in a statement.

  • "If governments don’t move quickly with the right energy policies, this could put at risk the world’s historic opportunity to make 2019 the definitive peak in global emissions," he said.

The big picture: IEA estimates that global energy-related CO2 emissions fell by 6% last year, the steepest drop since World War II.

  • IEA's chart above shows monthly emissions levels compared to 2019.
  • In December, emissions had crept 2% above the prior year's levels as activity rebounded.
  • China was the only country to see an increase on a full-year basis in 2020, albeit a small one.

How it works: Separate new analysis in Carbon Brief explores why emissions in China, the world's largest emitter, actually rose in 2020 despite the big restrictions early in the year.

  • "China’s return to economic growth after its first Covid-19 lockdown has relied on stimulating polluting sectors, such as construction and heavy industry," writes Lauri Myllyvirta of the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.

Threat level: Substantial global cuts are needed every year for decades to get the world on to track to meet Paris Agreement's goals for limiting long-term temperature rise.

  • That's especially true for deal's most ambitious, long-shot target of preventing more than a 1.5°C increase above preindustrial levels.
  • The UN estimates that global greenhouse gas emissions would need to decline by roughly 45% by 2030 compared to 2010 levels — that is, about a pandemic's worth of decline every year.
2. Wall Street titan joins Kerry's climate shop

Axios' Hans Nichols and I report that Mark Gallogly, a Wall Street veteran and big-dollar Democratic donor, is joining John Kerry’s international climate team.

Why it matters: Hiring someone with Gallogly’s experience is an indication Kerry plans to leverage markets and investing strategies to address climate change.

  • Gallogly is the highest-profile New York investor to sign on to the Biden administration.

The big picture: "We need to be working hand in hand with the private and public sector to provide the finance, which will be critical — finance in the trillions — in order so that countries can do what they have to do," Kerry, special envoy for climate change, told the Munich Security Conference last month.

  • Gallogly will focus on outreach to the business community. His job doesn't require Senate confirmation.

Catch up fast: Gallogly co-founded Centerbridge Partners, a private equity firm, after spending 16 years at Blackstone, a private equity firm.

  • Since retiring in December, he has been focused on his family investment office, with an interest in climate solutions.

Where it stands: While Biden's National Economic Council Director Brian Deese and Wally Adeyemo, nominee for deputy treasury secretary, both worked for asset management giant BlackRock, they are more creatures of Washington than Wall Street.

  • Gallogly made his mark, and his money, in finance.
3. Volvo says its electric horizon is 2030

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Volvo Cars said this morning that it plans to sell only fully electric cars by 2030, building on a prior target of having 50% of sales come from fully electric models by 2025.

Why it matters: It marks the latest target by several automakers to electrify their passenger lineups.

The intrigue: Volvo is making a big bet about the direction of the market, emissions policies and consumer preferences.

  • Volvo chief executive Håkan Samuelsson told reporters: "I am totally convinced there will [be] no customers who really want to stay with a petrol engine," per Reuters.

Where it stands: "Volvo, based in Sweden and owned by Geely Holding of China, has been ahead of larger rivals in converting to electric power. In 2019, all the models it sold were either hybrids or ran solely on batteries," the New York Times reports.

4. Capitol Hill climate bills to watch

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Senior Democratic lawmakers in both chambers are unveiling new climate and clean energy proposals this week.

Driving the news: Sen. Joe Manchin, who chairs the energy committee, is proposing $8 billion in new tax credits to spur domestic manufacturing of climate-friendly technologies.

Why it matters: Manchin's vote is coveted for Democratic priorities in the narrowly divided Senate, which gives him lots of leverage.

  • E&E News points out that he's likely to use his new bill as a "bargaining chip when Democratic leaders seek his support for broad climate action."
  • The new bill would steer $4 billion of the incentives toward regions where coal mines or coal-fired power plants have closed — a priority for Manchin, whose state is a major coal producer.

How it works: The bill would support new or retooled factories to build tech like carbon capture equipment, renewables and advanced grid components, electric cars and more.

  • The incentives are also available for upgrading factories to cut emissions, a summary notes.
  • The bill aims to revive an advanced manufacturing tax credit program first created in the 2009 economic recovery package.
  • Tax bills are under the jurisdiction of the Senate's finance committee. Co-sponsor Sen. Debbie Stabenow is on that panel.

What's next: Over in the House, leaders of the Energy and Commerce Committee will unveil sweeping climate legislation later today.

  • We'll be watching for provisions that could move under the budget reconciliation process, which protects certain spending and tax measures from Senate filibusters.
Bonus: The oil lobby's evolving climate stance

Speaking of Beltway climate moves, the Wall Street Journal has some news about the American Petroleum Institute...

  • "The oil industry’s top lobbying group is preparing to endorse setting a price on carbon emissions in what would be the strongest signal yet that oil and gas producers are ready to accept government efforts to confront climate change."
  • Their piece notes that API's draft statement supports pricing instead of "mandates or prescriptive regulatory action."
  • But that posture comes as the Biden administration is planning a suite of new climate rules, and pricing is not a high climate priority in Congress.

Flashback: The Washington Examiner noticed in January that API was taking tentative steps toward endorsing pricing.

5. Cities are starting to ban gas stations

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Axios' Jennifer A. Kingson reports that Petaluma, California, has voted to outlaw new gas stations, the first of what climate activists hope will be numerous cities and counties to do so.

Why it matters: Expect more such ordinances, particularly in liberal towns. Grassroots groups are popping up with the mission of spreading this type of ban and forcing pollution cleanups at existing gas stations.

  • The movement aims to accelerate the shift to EVs.
  • "This is not a ban on the existing gas stations, which are providing all the gas currently needed," Matt Krogh of the environmental group Stand.earth that backed the effort, tells Axios.

Driving the news: In Petaluma, the council voted unanimously last week to move forward with a permanent ban on new stations.

  • Existing stations won't be allowed to add new gas pumps, though they're encouraged to build electric charging bays.

What we're watching: Stand.earth says 30 cities and counties have passed policies in keeping with their agenda, but none has gone as far as Petaluma.

Read more

6. Catch up fast: Citi and Lime

Finance: "On her first day as chief executive officer, Jane Fraser vowed Citigroup Inc. would achieve net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions in its financing activities by 2050." (Bloomberg)

  • They join several other banking giants with similar pledges.

Transportation: "Lime said Monday it has allocated $50 million toward its bike-share operation, an investment that has been used to develop a new e-bike and will fund its expansion this year to another 25 cities in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand." (TechCrunch)