Apr 21, 2021

Axios Generate

Good morning! Today's Smart Brevity count is 1,378 words, 5 minutes.

🚨 Happening today: Join Ben and Axios' Margaret Talev at 12:30pm ET for a virtual event on sustainability with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Southern Co. CEO Thomas A. Fanning.

🎶 And happy birthday to Robert Smith of The Cure, who have today's soulful intro tune...

1 big thing: White House unveils summit plans as EU moves on cuts

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Biden administration offered new details this morning about the big, virtual climate summit Thursday and Friday and signaled they expect new emissions reduction and climate finance commitments from multiple countries.

Driving the news: The administration said 40 heads of state would attend, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil.

They unveiled a lineup that also includes high-profile names, such as Pope Francis, Bill Gates, the heads of NATO and the World Bank, corporate executives and more.

Why it matters: The White House is trying to reassert U.S. leadership on the climate issue and encourage other countries to make commitments to slash emissions before 2030.

The intrigue: On a call with reporters this morning, officials laid out the summit agenda, but did not say what additional commitments the U.S. will be making on the emissions or climate finance front.

  • However, it is widely expected the U.S. will commit to reducing emissions by at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030, which would put the country near the top of the pack when it comes to emissions targets.

What they're saying: "We expect action at this meeting. We're looking for people to make announcements to raise their ambition to indicate next steps that they intend to be taking to help solve the climate problem and to work collectively to do so," a senior administration official told reporters.

  • The administration is also looking to use the summit to showcase its all of government approach to climate — the event will include not only the heads of environmental agencies but also officials like the secretary of defense and the director of national intelligence.

The big picture: The summit comes just after the European Union agreed to a provisional deal overnight on sweeping climate legislation that aims to slash the bloc's net greenhouse gas emissions by 55% compared to 1990 levels by 2030.

Quick take: Biden administration officials can use the deal to show that other countries are acting as President Biden presses Congress for huge new investments and unveils a non-binding target to steeply cut U.S. emissions this decade.

  • "Our political commitment to becoming the first climate neutral continent by 2050 is now also a legal commitment," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement.
  • In addition, China, the world's largest emitter, announced that President Xi Jinping would attend the virtual summit despite deep tensions with the U.S.
  • Separately, the U.K. also announced tougher emissions goals this week, targeting a 78% cut by 2035 compared to 1990 levels.

What we're watching: All eyes are on other countries — notably Japan and Canada — to see if they unveil new targets, and other nations' moves made to date are not necessarily because of the U.S. return to the world stage.

The U.S. goes into the summit with a credibility gap after former President Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris Agreement. Biden moved to rejoin on his first day in office.

2. The finance sector links arms on climate

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

A big, United Nations-backed umbrella group of banks, asset managers, investors and insurers launched Wednesday to boost private clean-tech finance and press polluting industries that use their services to cut emissions.

Why it matters: The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) is the broadest financial industry effort yet on global warming.

  • The group's 160-plus members are responsible for over $70 trillion in assets, organizers said.
  • "GFANZ will work to mobilise the trillions of dollars necessary to build a global zero emissions economy and deliver the goals of the Paris Agreement," the announcement states.

The big picture: It coordinates various industry initiatives and seeks to add methodological rigor to pledges to decarbonize lending portfolios and other practices.

  • It's led by Mark Carney, a U.N. climate ambassador and climate finance adviser to the U.K., which hosts a big U.N. climate summit late this year.
  • Biden administration officials support the effort that arrives just ahead of this week's White House climate summit.
  • Participants include Barclays, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Munich Re, the Zurich Insurance Group and many others.

How it works: The new group combines some existing financial sector initiatives and adds new efforts.

  • Today brought simultaneous rollout of the Net-Zero Banking Alliance of 43 banks from 23 countries.
  • GFANZ will provide "strategic coordination" across financial sectors to "accelerate the transition to a net zero economy" it states.
  • Signatories must set "set science-aligned" interim and long-term goals for net-zero emissions by 2050.

The banks involved agree to ensure emissions from their lending and investment portfolios are on a "pathway" to net zero by 2050, with interim targets beginning no later than 2030.

The banks will especially focus on the most emissions-intensive industries in their portfolios, like oil-and-gas, aluminum, cement, power and others.

Bonus: what they're saying about the new finance push

Several environmentalists were critical of the banking sector efforts this morning, noting the voluntary efforts don't do nearly enough to move finance away from fossil fuels.

  • "All that glitters is not gold. What seems at first glance to be quite ambitious, actually lacks the urgency and ambition that the climate crisis demands," said Becky Jarvis, of the U.K. advocacy group Bank On our Future, in a statement.
  • "Net-zero means fossil fuel phase out, a term which this alliance seems to be allergic to," Jarvis said.

Jeanne Martin of the sustainable investment advocacy group ShareAction said net-zero plans aren't credible without setting dates to end financing for fossil fuels and deforestation.

"It is time for regulators to step in to prevent financial and planetary instability," Martin said.

3. Broad, deep public support for climate action
Expand chart
Data: Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and Facebook Data for Good; Note: MOE range from +/- 3 to +/- 0.48; Chart: Axios Visuals

There is broad and deep support in both developing and industrialized countries for governments to take further actions to address climate change, per new polling data from Facebook Data for Good and the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.

Why it matters: Without public support pushing policymakers to take potentially costly steps to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, efforts to rein in climate change will be doomed to fail.

The details: The poll released Tuesday found that countries in Central and South America, such as Brazil, had the highest public support for stronger national and international climate action to be taken.

  • This may reflect the region’s vulnerability to extreme weather events such as hurricanes, droughts and floods.
  • In the U.S., a solid majority — about 65% — of respondents said their government should be doing “more” or “much more” to address climate change.
  • However, 22% said their government should do either “less” or “much less" about global warming. This may reflect the politically polarized nature of the climate issue within the U.S. in particular.

Of note: The survey also found people strongly support their country’s participation in the Paris Agreement, including 74% of respondents in the U.S.

Between the lines: The international survey of public views in 30 countries and territories was conducted in February.

It included about 46,000 respondents and has a margin of error ranging from plus or minus 3% to plus or minus 0.48%, depending on the country or territory in question.

4. Cadillac begins its electric transition

The Cadillac Lyriq electric SUV. Photo courtesy of Cadillac.

Axios' Joann Muller reports that GM plans to start taking orders in September for the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq, a striking electric SUV coming early next year at a starting price of $59,900.

Why it matters: The production version of the Lyriq, which debuted Wednesday, marks the beginning of the luxury brand's phaseout of gasoline-powered vehicles by 2030.

The big picture: The Lyriq, which looks remarkably similar to a show car unveiled last year, features GM's new modular Ultium battery system.

  • Ultium will also power upcoming electric models like the GMC Hummer pickup and SUV, Chevrolet Silverado pickup and Cruise Origin robotaxi.
  • GM plans to launch 30 EVs globally by the end of 2025, two-thirds of which will be available in North America.
  • The company has committed $27 billion to develop electric and autonomous vehicles in the next five years, including the construction of two giant battery factories in Ohio and Tennessee.

By the numbers: The rear-wheel-drive Lyriq will launch with a 100-kilowatt-hour battery pack that will deliver an estimated 240 horsepower and more than 300 miles of driving range with a full charge, Cadillac said.

  • Officials said all-wheel-drive performance versions will come later.
  • The $59,900 price tag is substantially lower than other luxury EVs, including the $71,000 Jaguar iPace, $66,995 Audi e-Tron and $79,990 Tesla Model X. Tesla's smaller Model Y starts at $39,990.

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