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Adapted from IEA; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

SUVs reached a milestone last year, crossing 40% of worldwide new car sales for the first time, according to newly released International Energy Agency data.

Why it matters: The popularity of big, heavy cars and pickups is one challenge around decarbonizing transportation, even as fuel economy improves and electrics gain a beachhead.

  • Transportation is the largest greenhouse gas source in the U.S. and accounts for roughly a fourth of energy-related CO2 emissions worldwide.

The big picture: SUVs' share of new car sales has doubled over the last decade. There are now more than 200 million on the road and they account for 60% of the increase in the worldwide vehicle fleet since 2010, IEA said.

  • The increase in SUVs' market share accounts for 500,000 barrels per day worth of growth in oil demand for passenger vehicles between 2010 and 2019, per IEA.

The intrigue: Their popularity in the U.S. is well-known, but IEA notes that growth markets include China and other places where "SUVs are often considered symbols of wealth and status."

Where it stands: A number of legacy automakers and startups are bringing new electrified SUVs to market in the coming years. That includes GM's upcoming revival of the Hummer, and the startup Rivian's upcoming release of its SUV.

What we're watching: The fate of U.S. fuel economy standards. The Trump administration has substantially weakened Obama-era mandates that run through the mid-2020s.

  • But Wednesday attorneys general from two dozen states sued to thwart the weakened rules.
  • The election will matter too. The court fight will continue past November, and if Joe Biden wins he'll seek to implement much tougher standards.

Go deeper

Amy Harder, author of Generate
Sep 3, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Natural gas remains the big question in Biden’s climate change plan

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Joe Biden has the most aggressive climate-change plan in presidential-election history, but he continues to evade the dicey topic of natural gas.

Why it matters: Natural gas, mostly derived from the controversial extraction process called fracking, is filling an increasingly large role in America’s energy system. It’s cleaner than oil and coal, but is still a fossil fuel with heat-trapping emissions.

Trio of Saturday mass shootings rock U.S.

Police officers in New York City's Times Square on Saturday. Photo: David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

The U.S. was hit by mass shootings in New York City's Times Square, a shopping mall in Florida and at a townhome near Baltimore that left four people dead, including the suspected shooter.

The big picture: Since President Biden took office in January, over 700 people have been injured or killed in 139 mass shootings as of late last month.

Scottish first minister vows independence referendum after election win

Scotland's First Minister and leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon, reacts after being declared the winner of the Glasgow Southside seat at Glasgow counting centre in the Emirates Arena in Glasgow on Friday. Photo: Andy Buchanan /AFP via Getty Images

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced plans Saturday for a second independence referendum once the pandemic has abated following the country's parliamentary elections.

The big picture: Sturgeon's Scottish National Party won 64 seats, one seat short of an outright majority in the 129-seat Parliament. But most seats went to pro-independence parties.

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