Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Activists cry foul over COP26 draft

Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Activists cry foul over COP26 draft
© Associated Press/Paul Ellis

Welcome to Monday’s Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signUp.

Today we’re looking at the first decision draft text out of COP26, former President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe Memo: Biden, bruised by Afghanistan, faces a critical test in Ukraine Is the US capable of thinking strategically? Juan Williams: GOP infighting is a gift for Democrats MORE’s comments at the climate summit and the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill. 

For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Write to us with tips: rfrazin@thehill.com and zbudryk@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @RachelFrazin and @BudrykZack.

Let’s jump in.

 

Green groups slam lack of fossil fuel promises 

Environmental activists are blasting the first draft of decision text from the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26) for not explicitly mentioning a fossil fuel phaseout.

While the 850-word first draft speaks of the need to reduce emissions to keep warming to 1.5 degrees, it makes no mention of fossil fuels in general, or of oil, gas or coal in particular.

Previous decision texts have also not called for such a phase-out, but environmental groups like Greenpeace said the initial draft out of Glasgow was particularly concerning since first drafts are typically more ambitious and pared down by the time the final text is released.

In a statement Monday, Greenpeace blasted the draft language as “exceptionally weak” and out of step with the action and policies experts have said is necessary to prevent catastrophic warming.

What’s the issue? "The draft that’s out today we find to be much too weak for a range of reasons. One is that it acknowledges there will likely be a gap to [keeping warming to] 1.5 [degrees], but there’s not a timeframe at which countries would not come back to the table to fill the gap,” Greenpeace International Executive Director Jennifer Morgan told The Hill.

“The urgency, the acceleration of the action and the urgency is lacking in the text, because the next nine years are essential,” Morgan added.

The lack of fossil fuel mentions, she said, was even more dismaying.

“We know that in order to keep 1.5 degrees in sight we need to see a phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies and also a halt to all new coal, oil and gas projects,” she said. “It’s about time for that to happen after so many years."

Jean Su, director of energy justice at the Center for Biological Diversity, similarly argued that the draft “obfuscates the real issue at hand with the climate emergency, which is fossil fuels.”

So are they pleased with any part of COP26? Su noted several positive developments, as well as other avenues for participants to take aggressive climate action.

She pointed to an international pledge joined by the U.S. to ban public financing for oil and gas projects abroad and also cited what she said was encouraging language on wealthier nations’ financial responsibility for loss and damage from climate change in the global south.

Su urged individual countries to go beyond what is agreed to in Scotland, invoking a similar call to action by U.S. climate enjoy John KerryJohn KerryClimate policies propel a growing dysfunction of Western democracies Kerry calls out countries that need to 'step up' on climate change Those on the front lines of climate change should be empowered to be central to its solution MORE. "There are pledges that can be made outside the text that are just as strong,” she said.

Sierra Club President Ramon Cruz emphasized that despite the lack of specific pledge, more nations are focused on moving away from fossil fuels. "I think there has been in that regard, advancement in this summit in terms of pledges and that’s also corroborated by recent years’ actions within the U.S.," he added.

Read more about the backlash here.



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Obama: World has 'to do more' on climate

Former President Obama touted international climate progress at the COP26 climate summit on Monday, but warned that “we are nowhere near where we need to be yet.”

“Meaningful progress has been made since Paris,” Obama told world leaders, adding, “Thanks to your efforts here in Glasgow, we see the promise of further progress.”

However, the 44th president told those gathered at the United Nations summit that “we have not done nearly enough to address this crisis.”

“We are going to have to do more, and whether that happens or not to a large degree is going to depend on you, and not just those of you in this room but anybody who’s watching or reading a transcript of what I say here today,” he added.

What else? Obama added that one of the major goals of the Paris Agreement negotiated during his administration had been to spur private-sector action, noting that as of 2021, 20 percent of the world’s largest companies have set net-zero emissions targets.

Private industry is taking such steps, he said, “not just because it’s the right thing to do for the environment but because in many cases ... it makes sense for their bottom line.”

The former president conceded that he “wasn’t real happy about” then-President TrumpDonald TrumpMan sentenced to nearly four years for running scam Trump, Biden PACs Meadows says Trump's blood oxygen level was dangerously low when he had COVID-19 Trump endorses David Perdue in Georgia's governor race MORE unilaterally exiting the Paris Agreement, but pointed to the work by local and state governments to advance the pact’s goals even after the U.S. left.

“The ball had been rolling and it didn’t stop,” he said. “Despite four years of active hostility to climate science coming from the very top of our federal government, the American people managed to still meet our original commitment under the Paris Agreement.”

But it’s not all good news: Obama said the “bad news” is that “we are nowhere near where we need to be yet,” singling out the absence of leaders from China and Russia — the No. 1 and No. 4 emitters globally — from the conference. This, he said, demonstrated a “dangerous lack of urgency” and “willingness to maintain the status quo.”

Read more about Obama’s remarks here

 

What's in the bipartisan infrastructure bill 

The U.S. Capitol is seen from the East Front Plaza on Tuesday, October 12, 2021. 

Late Friday the House passed the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill after weeks of wrangling. 

And they made progress in passing the Democrat-only reconciliation bill — with five House moderates committing to support that legislation pending a Congressional Budget Office cost estimate. 

Here are some of the things funded in this bill:

  • The buildout of an electric vehicle charging network
  • Public transportation 
  • Electric and “alternative fuel” buses and ferries (natural gas is considered to be one such alternative fuel)
  • Electric grid modernization
  • Removal of lead pipes
  • Clean up of “forever chemicals” in drinking water
  • Climate resilience
  • Cleanup for contaminated sites and abandoned mines and oil wells

“It’s going to make significant, historic strides to take on the climate crisis,” President BidenJoe BidenMan sentenced to nearly four years for running scam Trump, Biden PACs Dole in final column: 'Too many of us have sacrificed too much' Meadows says Trump's blood oxygen level was dangerously low when he had COVID-19 MORE said in a speech after Friday’s passage of the bill.

But the bulk of Democrats’ climate investments are in the yet-to-pass reconciliation bill. 

John Paul Mejia, spokesperson for the Sunrise Movement, told The Hill on Monday that he’s now feeling concerned about progressives’ negotiating power. 

“Voting on the BIF first has put us in a more vulnerable position to have our biggest priorities skewed and gutted by corporate Democrats and the cronies of the fossil fuel industry,” Mejia said.

Read more about the bill’s passage here.



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HAWAII GOV. SAYS NET-ZERO ISN’T ENOUGH

Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) called on Monday for global emission reduction goals that aspire beyond "net-zero," as island communities continue to bear the disproportionate effects of climate change.

The Biden administration has pushed for a goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions within the next few decades, under which the U.S. would seek to eliminate or offset climate pollution entirely. 

But Hawaii has gone further, with Ige telling other governors gathered at the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow that his state is "committed to a net-negative goal by 2045, or as soon as practicable, because we know that zero is not good enough."

“As islands, we are directly threatened by sea level rise, rain bombs and coral bleaching,” he said. “All of those things get even more intense if we are unable to maintain global warming to less than 1.5 degrees.”

Hawaii faced a severe hurricane season in 2015 followed by “intense rain bombs” in 2018 — phenomena that Ige said are “threatening our existence” and require immediate action.

While Hawaii was the first state to commit to 100 percent renewable energy — and plans to fulfill this pledge by 2035 — state officials now recognize that net-zero goals would be insufficient, according to the governor.

Ige underscored the need to transform his state's transportation infrastructure, including aviation and marine transit. Hawaii is currently working on electric planes for inter-island flights, as well as aircraft that operate on sustainable fuels for longer-haul journeys, the governor said.

State officials are also looking into switching inter-island shipping to local, sustainable biofuels, as well as hydrogen to power medium- and heavy-duty vehicles and equipment, according to Ige. Hawaii has also prioritized investments in natural resources, with a goal of capturing more carbon than the state emits, he said.

Read more about Ige’s remarks here.

WHAT WE’RE READING

 

ICYMI

  • Granholm says Biden 'looking at' tapping strategic reserve as fuel prices rise
  • Coons leads bipartisan group to climate summit
  • US, China power struggle on display at climate summit
  • Thousands protest to demand action on climate at COP26
  • Fuel tanker explodes, killing dozens in Sierra Leone


And finally, something offbeat but ON-beat: John Oliver takes on the electric grid.

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s energy & environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you Tuesday.

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