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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

There's at least a small movement brewing to ensure telework remains widely permitted and encouraged in the post-pandemic era as a way to help the climate.

Why it matters: Driving creates lots of air pollution, and transportation (not just from passenger cars) is the nation's largest source of CO2 emissions.

Driving the news: "The vanishing of the daily commute has brought to light the burden of cars and trucks on health and the environment," Matt Butner and Jayni Hein of NYU's Institute for Policy Integrity wrote in Quartz yesterday.

The big picture: Their piece calls for tax incentives for companies that support working from home, with the benefits "proportionate to carbon emissions avoided."

  • They also say private sector policies that support telework "can be a meaningful part of corporate emissions-reductions goals."

Where it stands: It adds to a growing list of efforts to ensure that changes now occurring for tragic reasons remain in place.

  • Two Brookings Institution analysts want business groups and big companies to promote flexible work, especially in congested areas, to curb driving.
  • A related movement is springing up around maintaining street-design changes occurring worldwide to allow more walking and biking space during the pandemic.

What we're watching: Just how much the push to make telework the new normal will affect government and corporate policies, and become part of growing calls for "green" economic recovery efforts.

  • But it's hardly emerging from scratch, and carbon emissions are just one argument for telework, which surveys suggest is already popular with many workers.
  • For instance, New Urban Mobility Alliance director Harriet Tregoning was already engaging with employers on telework pre-crisis.
  • "Now everyone has been part of an involuntary 'pilot project' and many employers who thought they couldn’t or shouldn’t allow it, have been surprised at the results of this foray into telework," she said.

But, but, but: While his mammoth unplanned experiment should yield lots of data, a new peer-reviewed paper that surveys existing studies finds benefits but also sounds notes of caution about their size.

  • The University of Sussex researchers, writing in Environmental Research Letters, find that 26 of 39 studies suggest telework cuts energy use, largely through reduced driving but also lower office energy needs.

What they found: "Despite the generally positive verdict on teleworking as an energy-saving practice, there are numerous uncertainties and ambiguities about its actual or potential benefits," they write.

  • They cite the potential for "unpredictable increases in non-work travel and home energy use that may outweigh the gains from reduced work travel."
  • One drag on energy savings, they say, is that telework can encourage living further from workplaces, so people drive more when they do visit the office.
  • E&E News ($) has more on the study.
Expand chart
Reproduced from Becker Friedman Institute; Map: Axios Visuals

A recent analysis from University of Chicago economists concludes that 37% of U.S. jobs can be performed at home, although this varies across industries and regions and is generally far more feasible for high-income workers.

Worth noting: The analysis reveals the large potential for maintaining the practice post-pandemic.

What's next: Tregoning says the case for telework is even stronger as companies are under more pressure to curb costs including rent and power bills.

  • She said one near-term driver is that mass transit systems must continue operating with vastly fewer passengers in order to maintain distancing, even as economies reopen.
  • "All the cities that have big transit systems are going to have to have these conversations with these major employers," Tregoning said. "You are going to have to do this with some kind of plan."

Go deeper: Remote everything

Go deeper

House passes sweeping election and anti-corruption bill

Photo: Win McNamee via Getty Images

The House voted 220-210Wednesday to pass Democrats' expansive election and anti-corruption bill.

Why it matters: Expanding voting access has been a top priority for Democrats for years, but the House passage of the For the People Act (H.R. 1) comes as states across the country consider legislation to rollback voting access in the aftermath of former President Trump's loss.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

House passes George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

Photo: Stephen Maturen via Getty Images

The House voted 220 to 212 on Wednesday evening to pass a policing bill named for George Floyd, the Black man whose death in Minneapolis last year led to nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Why it matters: The legislation overhauls qualified immunity for police officers, bans chokeholds at the federal level, prohibits no-knock warrants in federal drug cases and outlaws racial profiling.

5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans plan to exact pain before COVID relief vote

Sen. Ron Johnson. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Republicans are demanding a full, 600-page bill reading — and painful, multi-hour "vote-a-rama" — as Democrats forge ahead with their plan to pass President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Why it matters: The procedural war is aimed at forcing Democrats to defend several parts the GOP considers unnecessary and partisan. While the process won't substantially impact the final version of the mammoth bill, it'll provide plenty of ammunition for future campaign messaging.