Sep 15, 2021

Axios Generate

🐪 Happy Wednesday! Today's Smart Brevity count is 1,378 words, 5.5 minutes.

📊 Data point of the day: Zero — the number of big economies with policies consistent with the Paris Agreement, via a new analysis that CNN explored.

🎶 Talking Heads' live album "Stop Making Sense" from the amazing concert movie of the same name turned 37 Sunday and provides today's intro tune...

1 big thing: Public doubts about climate action
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Data: Pew Research Center; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

New polling indicates pervasive doubts among people in 17 advanced economies about whether China and the U.S. — the world’s two largest carbon emitters — will take meaningful steps to fight climate change, Andrew writes.

Why it matters: The Pew Research Center survey released ahead of a critical United Nations climate summit in just over six weeks reveals public skepticism over whether multilateral negotiations will succeed in confronting the problem.

  • The polling also finds that most citizens give their countries modestly positive grades for tackling climate change.

How it works: The surveys were conducted from March 12 to May 26, among 16,254 adults in Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the U.K., Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. Polling in the U.S., of 2,596 adults, ran Feb. 1-7, 2021.

  • The polling has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 to 4.4 percentage points for other countries, and 2.5 percentage points for the U.S.

Details: The European Union’s climate change response is viewed favorably by citizens of most of the economies surveyed.

  • The United Nations, where Secretary-General António Guterres is rallying countries to slash emissions, gets high marks, with a median of 56% of respondents seeing its efforts favorably.

Yes, but: In a yellow light for the climate summit in Glasgow, a median of 52% of the public in advanced economies — which are collectively responsible for the majority of the world’s historical emissions — say they lack confidence that a multilateral response will succeed. Whereas 46% are optimistic that nations can respond to climate change through international cooperation.

  • Respondents in France, Sweden and Belgium have the greatest skepticism of multilateral approaches, whereas optimism is highest in South Korea and Singapore.
  • In just 12 of the 17 countries studied, half or more think their society has done a good job dealing with the climate challenge, with more than 1 in 10 describing such work as “very good” in just five countries, including New Zealand and the U.K.

The intrigue: The least faith is reserved for the biggest emitters — the U.S. and China.

  • China almost universally gets worse marks for its climate efforts, with a median of 78% across the 17 publics surveyed describing the country’s handling of climate change as “bad” to “very bad.” That compares to 61% with the same judgment of the U.S.

Our thought bubble: Skepticism of the multilateral response to warming is understandable. The climate summit is the 26th such meeting since a U.N. climate treaty entered into force in 1994, and emissions have only gone up, while warming's impacts dramatically escalated.

2. VC cash for wider consumer solar choices

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Arcadia, a startup that provides people avenues to access renewable energy without having to change power companies, has raised $100 million to fuel its expansion, Ben writes.

Driving the news: New investors Tiger Global Management and the Drawdown Fund led the Series D round for the company founded in 2013 that has now raised $180 million overall.

Other new backers include Wellington Management and Reimagined Ventures, and existing investors in the latest round include Energy Impact Partners and G2 Venture Partners.

How it works: A key part of Arcadia's businesses is providing solar to people who can't install panels because they live in multi-unit buildings or aren't homeowners.

  • Arcadia connects residential customers with nearby "community" solar projects, a growing form of solar in which, as the Solar Energy Industries Association notes, multiple customers subscribe to power from a project and receive credits on their bills.
  • The money is also slated to help its expansion to provide commercial businesses with community solar access.
  • Arcadia is taping other business lines too. It recently bought Nanogrid, a software company with services like helping ensure electric vehicles are charged when the grid mix is cleanest.
  • “We are getting into more and more energy products, energy choices in the home,” founder and CEO Kiran Bhatraju tells Axios.

What they're saying: Bhatraju said in an interview that the $100 million round is a "validation of the growth of the market, that it one day could be bigger than rooftop solar.”

  • The company bills itself as a way to democratize energy access while lowering power bills and help consumers navigate a confusing energy market.
  • Arcadia manages 500 megawatts worth of community solar, and Bhatraju said they've had 500% revenue growth since 2019.
3. The precarious White House climate posture

President Biden at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado on Sept. 14, 2021. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The White House is stepping up its PR push for strong climate measures on Capitol Hill even while arguing it can make lots of progress with executive powers, Ben writes.

Driving the news: President Biden yesterday called for congressional action in remarks at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado.

  • He touted proposals in the bipartisan infrastructure plan, like transmission investment, and clean energy and electric car measures in the far more sweeping plan Democrats are trying to move on an uncertain party-line vote.
  • On Monday Biden also promoted his climate efforts after visiting the National Interagency Fire Center in Idaho. The NYT has more on his appearances.

The intrigue: What caught my eye was the press gaggle en route to Colorado by White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre.

  • She said the White House is "strongly committed" to the Democratic legislation and the bipartisan package that's moving on a dual-track.
  • But she also talked up the "whole of government" approach of executive steps and said Biden is committed to "using all of the tools at his disposal."

Our thought bubble: The message on display Tuesday underscores a delicate position ahead of the critical U.N. climate summit that's less than seven weeks away.

  • Democratic legislative provisions like the expansion of renewables and EV incentives, and new financial carrots for utilities to speed clean power deployment, are vital to meeting the White House 2030 emissions pledge under the Paris deal.
  • But if the efforts shrink or die in Congress, administration officials still need to convince other nations that the U.S. can put real policy weight behind its nonbinding climate goals.
  • The dynamic isn't lost on the White House. A spokesperson told CNN that there are "a number of paths to meeting our emission goals and targets" and doesn't rest on Congress alone, but is "integrated throughout both."
4. A wrinkle in Europe's climate policy debate

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Surging European natural gas and power prices are spilling into the debate over European Unions' plans to implement a suite of aggressive climate policies, Ben writes.

Driving the news: "Had we had the Green Deal five years earlier, we would not be in this position because then we would have less dependence on fossil fuels and on natural gas," Frans Timmermans, a top European Commission official on climate, told a European Parliament meeting yesterday.

His comments come via Reuters and others' reporting on the fallout from the price spikes in Europe's tight gas market.

Yes, but: A Politico piece on the topic notes that "concerns over a popular backlash" were evident at the parliament meeting as the bloc debates measures aimed at cutting emissions 55% below 1990 levels by 2030.

  • The story explores complaints by Polish officials about EU carbon policies.
  • However, Timmermans, via that story and several others, emphasized that only a small amount of rising power bills can be attributed to rising carbon prices in the bloc's emissions trading market.

A hat-tip to Carbon Brief's morning news roundup for flagging this coverage.

5. The climate stakes of fake meat's future

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

Plant-based meat firms aren't just going after vegans and vegetarians anymore. They're betting that closely mimicking the taste of meat will let them chip away at the meat-eating market too, Axios' Erica Pandey reports.

Why it matters: Diets that include meat — especially beef — have a steep climate impact. If plant-based protein gains popularity, more and more people could reduce or even halt their meat consumption.

Giving up meat "is the single largest thing an individual can do to reduce their carbon footprint," says Glenn Hurowitz, who runs the environmental advocacy organization Mighty Earth.

By the numbers: A diet that includes beef has 10 times the climate impact of a plant-based diet, he says.

  • A diet that includes chicken has three times the impact of a plant-based one. For turkey and pork, it's four to six times.
  • The plant-based meat companies that are pouring money into approximating the taste and texture of meat are going for "a total transformation of the protein sector," Hurowitz says.

Read the whole story.

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