Edition for 27 March 2020

Top Stories

The Coronavirus, Climate Change, and the Nature of Crisis (The New Yorker)

  • Physical problems—climate change and the coronavirus being the pertinent examples—are all about time.
  • “By taking fossil fuel companies under public ownership while they’re cheap to buy, the U.S. could ensure the country’s energy demands are met responsibly as it transitions to a net-zero emissions economy, without the need to appease those companies’ shareholders.”
  • At current prices, you could snap up the top four oil producers in the United States for a mere three hundred billion dollars.
  • The new edition of the crucial “Banking on Climate Change” report, from Rainforest Action Network and other N.G.O.s, came out last week. It shows that nothing much has changed: JPMorgan Chase remains the biggest backer of climate-destructive projects, having pumped more than a quarter of a trillion dollars into the fossil-fuel industry since the Paris climate accords. Wells Fargo, Citi, and Bank of America take up the next three places on the global table.

U.S. EPA eases enforcement during coronavirus outbreak - memo (Reuters)

  • The Trump administration has decided to ease enforcement of environmental regulations covering polluting industries to help them cope with impacts from the coronavirus outbreak, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Thursday.
  • The group said it was mainly concerned that coronavirus would leave it with limited numbers of healthy staff to run critical operations - making it harder to comply with federal environmental and safety requirements.
  • More than a dozen environmental groups on Thursday criticized the agency for putting the public at risk as it eased its enforcement of air and water protections.

California’s New Electric Plan Doesn't Cut Enough Carbon (NRDC)

  • The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) today approved a plan that isn’t likely to cut enough carbon emissions from our state’s electricity consumption to meet California’s 2030 emissions reduction target.
  • It also doesn’t set California’s electricity providers on track to be generating zero-carbon electricity by 2045.
  • Despite recommendations to the contrary from the entire environmental community, multiple electricity providers, and even the CPUC’s own Public Advocates Office, the commission adopted a proposal with a relatively high emissions scenario as the state’s reference system plan (RSP) to guide California’s electricity providers for the next two years.

Coronavirus is changing how people think about fighting climate change (PRI.org)

  • When climate journalist Emily Atkin was asked to pledge to stop flying to help prevent climate change earlier this year, she said no.
  • “I gave my whole spiel about how we put so much pressure on ourselves not to do anything to exacerbate the climate crisis,” she said.
  • “We aren’t asking what airlines are doing or the money that they're putting into political causes, the effort that they've put in to fight any type of climate regulation.”

FA Center: Boeing’s 737 MAX problem is a symptom of the other big illness plaguing Wall Street (Market Watch)

  • The failure of the “G” part of ESG ratings This discussion in turn calls into serious question the “G” part of the ESG ratings.
  • In the years prior to the 737 MAX jet crashes, the ESG rating agencies for the most part gave Boeing a corporate governance score of average or higher.
  • In an interview, he told me that he places “zero confidence in the G part of the ESG ratings.”
  • In fact, he added, they really should be called “ES” ratings because, while they do a decent job assessing the environmental and social aspects of a corporation’s actions, those ratings “just do a lousy job on governance.”
  • One big reason for this, according to Hedstrom, is that it’s almost impossible for outsiders to quantify what’s really important in a company’s internal governance.

Cities, Climate & COVID-19 (Climate Law Blog)

  • COVID-19 and climate change are both urgent crises, and plenty has been written already about the similarities between the two, with much more sure to come as lessons from the pandemic emerge.
  • I hesitate to draw early conclusions about the connection between global emissions, climate impacts and our current pandemic conditions.
  • However, this is a moment of opportunity to marry the best of city climate policy and virus response.

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