Jun 11, 2021

Axios Generate

Happy Friday! Today's Smart Brevity count is 1,281 words, 4.8 minutes.

📊 Data point of the day: 432. That's how many new global coal mines or expansions are proposed or under development, per Global Energy Monitor. They warn the projects, if built, will thwart climate goals.

🎶 And yesterday marked 41 years since Bob Marley & The Wailers released "Uprising," which has this week's final intro tune...

1 big thing: Climate finance is key at G7 and U.N. climate talks

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Climate finance has emerged as the biggest stumbling block to progress at the high-stakes United Nations climate talks in Scotland in November. How the Group of 7 wealthy nations treats the issue today and tomorrow may determine the outcome, Andrew writes with Axios' Bryan Walsh.

Why it matters: Providing the funding that was promised to developing countries might open up other areas of important conversation in Glasgow, such as setting more ambitious emissions reduction targets for 2030.

Flashback: In 2015, developed nations promised that beginning in 2020, they would provide $100 billion annually to developing nations to help them cope with the effects of climate change and transition their economies away from fossil fuels.

  • This money has never fully materialized.

The big picture: Christiana Figueres, who chaired the Paris climate talks for the U.N. and is a founding partner of the NGO Global Optimism, told Bryan that the G7's credibility is on the line.

  • "Without trust, especially between the global north and the global south, none of this is going to happen," Figueres said.
  • Speaking of the $100 billion commitment, she said: "It is a political commitment and hence it has a very, very high symbolic value as really representing the trust that the global south can or cannot have in the global economy. That's why it's important."

Between the lines: "It's a very important totemic figure in terms of trusting the word of these leaders," said Saleemul Huq, who directs a climate and development NGO in Bangladesh, on a call with reporters.

  • "To me, the issue is the credibility of the world's leaders, the seven biggest countries who have made these promises, or whether we believe anything they say at all."

The bottom line: "This is beginning to look like diplomatic ineptitude amongst the rich countries, because $100 billion really in the scale of things is not an extraordinary amount of money, and it is not beyond our capability to meet that promise, keep it, and then extend it," said Rachel Kyte, dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University.

What we're watching: All eyes will be on the G7 leaders' communique to spot any progress on this issue, including any specific new monetary commitments from countries.

2. Oil thirst could surpass pre-COVID mark by late 2022

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Global oil demand will exceed pre-pandemic levels by the end of next year, the International Energy Agency estimated Friday morning, Ben reports.

Why it matters: When demand went into a historic decline last year, there was lots of discussion about the revival timeline — and whether it would ever come all the way back.

  • Friday's monthly outlook — IEA's first detailed look at oil supply and demand balances over the course of 2022 — helps clarify that picture.
  • Pandemics are a ghastly reason for demand cuts, but the report nonetheless underscores hurdles facing policymakers as scientists warn that a fast transition from fossil fuels is needed to limit warming.

By the numbers: The agency sees demand, which collapsed by 8.6 million barrels per day last year, reviving by 5.4 million bpd in 2021 and another 3.1 million bpd in 2022.

That would restore global demand to well over 100 million bpd by the end of next year.

Yes, but: IEA cautions that slow vaccine rollouts could jeopardize the pace of recovery outside the OECD.

The big picture: The new estimates "highlights the challenges" outlined in its recent analysis of what's needed to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, IEA said.

Read more

3. Another hint about Apple's car program


Apple has hired Ulrich Kranz, a former longtime BMW executive who focused on electric cars and recently departed as CEO of the EV startup Canoo, Ben writes.

Why it matters: Bloomberg, which broke the news, reports that he will help lead the tech giant's auto development program.

"Kranz is one of Apple’s most significant automotive hires, a clear sign that the iPhone maker is determined to build a self-driving electric car to rival Tesla Inc. and other carmakers," it reports.

Of note: Apple confirmed to Axios that Kranz has joined the company, but did not provide any information about his role.

The big picture: Apple has long been reluctant to share details of its evolving auto development efforts — including whether it plans to become an automaker in its own right or license technology.

  • Bloomberg and TechCrunch both report that Kranz will report to Doug Field, a former Tesla exec who helped lead the development of the Model 3 sedan.

Go deeper: What we know about the Apple car

4. Catching up on the infrastructure drama

Bipartisan negotiations on infrastructure remain alive on Capitol Hill, but the odds of a package emerging that can satisfy Democrats' push for aggressive climate provisions appear low, Ben writes.

Driving the news: Axios' Alayna Treene reports that the infrastructure deal announced Thursday night by a group of 10 Democratic and Republican senators is likely the best bipartisan bill President Biden is going to get.

It would cost $974 billion over five years, or $1.2 trillion if extrapolated over eight years. About $579 billion of the total would be new spending.

Yes, but: Alayna notes that it's going to be very hard to sell this package to the rest of Congress — among both Republicans and Democrats.

  • Biden promised progressives a big, bold, once-in-a-generation infrastructure package that would bring about transformational change not only for roads, bridges and highways but also climate change, child care and education.
  • This package doesn't do that, and the progressive wing of the party is already chafing to go the partisan route and pursue a reconciliation bill that would be far more ambitious.

The big picture: As we and others have been reporting, Senate Democrats who prioritize climate change are becoming increasingly vocal.

"It sounds like, to me, that they have a package which is climate denial masquerading as bipartisanship," Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said on MSNBC last night when asked about the 10 senators' agreement.

"We can’t have an infrastructure bill in 2021 that does not have climate at its center," said Markey.

Bonus: Where the public stands on renewables
Data: Pew Research Center; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Recently released Pew Research Center polling takes the public pulse on expanding renewable power, which is a priority for Democrats in infrastructure talks.

Go deeper

5. Lake Mead hits an all-time record low
Data: Bureau of Reclamation; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Lake Mead in Nevada, the nation's largest reservoir by volume, reached its lowest level since its creation in the late 1930s late Wednesday and continued to shrink on Thursday, Andrew reports.

Why it matters: The record low stems from a combination of punishing drought that's worsening across the Southwest and the challenges of managing water resources for a burgeoning population.

Where it stands: As of Thursday morning, the Bureau of Reclamation showed Lake Mead's hourly water levels dipped to 1,071.48 feet and remained below the previous record set on July 1, 2016.

The big picture: Currently, the Southwest is experiencing its worst drought of the century.

  • In Arizona, 86.5% of the state is currently classified as experiencing "extreme" to "exceptional" drought — the two worst categories on the U.S. Drought Monitor.
  • Historical climate information gleaned from tree rings and other sources shows that the region is currently in a longer-term "megadrought" that is the second-worst such event in at least 1,200 years.
  • By elevating temperatures and altering weather patterns, human-driven climate change is making the drought more likely to occur and more severe.

Read more

6. Catch up fast: Tesla, LNG, EPA, bitcoin

Electric cars: "Tesla unveiled a high-performance version of its Model S on Thursday night, as it aimed to fend off rivals such as Porsche and Lucid Motors in the luxury electric vehicle market." (NBC News)

Natural Gas: "Liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices are poised for more gains as gas-hungry China guzzles cargoes to feed a rebound in economic growth while the easing of coronavirus-induced restrictions restores industrial demand in India." (Reuters)

EPA: "The Biden administration will reconsider federal limits on fine industrial soot, one of the most common and deadliest forms of air pollution, with an eye toward imposing tough new rules on emissions from power plants, factories and other industrial facilities." (NYT)

Cryptocurrency: "The Bitcoin Mining Council made its formal debut Thursday amid a growing debate over the amount of energy used in cryptocurrencies." (Bloomberg)