Utility companies push back on climate policy, report says

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Report says utilities push back on climate policy. In response, the utilities pushed back on the report itself.

Nearly half of the 25 largest investor-owned utilities in the United States actively oppose climate policy aligned with the Paris Agreement, according to new analysis released today by the climate think tank Influence Map.

The report concludes that while some utilities have rallied behind state and federal climate action, others have emerged as obstacles to reducing global warming emissions from the electricity sector.

However, the leading US utilities trade association questioned the report’s methodology and conclusions, calling it a “laughable” analysis that failed to mention utilities’ progress in reducing their own emissions.

The authors of the analysis examined several corporate activities that constitute a commitment to climate policy, including lobbying, advertising, direct contact with elected officials, and financing of campaigns and political parties. They also examined the professional associations to which the public services belong.

The authors gave utilities scores from 0 to 100 to indicate the extent to which the company supports or opposes climate policy aligned with the 2015 Paris agreement, which aimed to limit temperature rise. global to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above. pre-industrial levels – and preferably at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

InfluenceMap found that only four utilities globally support robust climate policy, while 10 utilities show mixed commitment and 11 utilities actively obstruct policies aligned with the Paris climate accord. Furthermore, they found a “clear correlation” between the success of individual states in passing climate legislation and the commitment of their largest public services.

“Utilities have enormous influence in making or breaking climate policy, especially at the state level,” Kendra Havenco-author of the report and head of the US program at InfluenceMap, told The Climate 202. “So moving this sector is going to be critical for the US to meet the goals of the Paris agreement.”

The main results of the analysis include in particular:

  • Edison International in California, Exelon in illinois, Public Service Enterprise Group in New Jersey, and Pacific Gas and Electricity in California received the highest scores – 77 or more – for support for climate policies at the state and federal levels. For example, Edison International and PG&E have advocated for building electrification codes.
  • Center point energy in Texas and Southern Company in Georgia received the lowest scores – 32 and 37, respectively – for opposing climate policies or supporting anti-climate measures. For example, in 2021, CenterPoint Energy and Southern Company both supported state bills anticipating municipal bans on the use of natural gas in new buildings.
  • First Energy Corp. in Ohio received a low score of 45 due to its involvement in an alleged $60 million bribery scheme to bail out two nuclear power plants in the state.

the Edison Electrical Institute (EEI), a trade association for investor-owned utilities, challenged the report.

“We find the overly simplistic approach this coin takes to assessing the complex path to a zero-carbon future laughable,” the EEI spokesperson said. Brian Reil said in an email to The Climate 202. “Our industry is highly regulated and subject to strict reliability standards, two key dynamics that are entirely absent from this article. We also fail to understand the opaque rating process used to claim that natural gas is bad, without acknowledging the role that natural gas plays in enabling more renewable energy.

Asked to respond to these allegations, the spokesperson for InfluenceMap Simon Cullen said in an email that the group’s ratings process was robust and its methodology was publicly available on its website.

Regarding natural gas, Cullen said, “It wasn’t InfluenceMap that decided ‘gas is bad’. Our rating uses benchmarks based on what scientists believe is necessary to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, and clear advice from the [U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] is that relentless fossil gas actually makes climate change worse.

Spokespersons for individual utilities touted their climate commitments when asked to comment on the analysis.

  • FirstEnergy spokesperson Jennifer Young said in an email that “the report overlooks a series of concrete steps our new leadership team has taken to support our [greenhouse gas] reduction targets and the energy transition. Young noted that FirstEnergy released a climate strategy in 2020 that calls for becoming carbon neutral by 2050, adding that the utility plans to retire its two coal-fired power plants in West Virginia by 2035 and 2040.
  • Center point energy spokesperson Geoffrey Castro said in an email that the company strives “to be the first combined electric and natural gas utility with power generation assets to reach Net Zero for its greenhouse gas emissions of scope 1 and scope 2 by 2035”.
  • Southern Company spokesperson Schuyler Baehman said the utility plans to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. He noted that the number of coal units owned and operated by Southern Company has declined 73% since 2007, adding that regulatory approval, these reductions will continue.

Climate pledges are improving – but the world is still on a disastrous course

Humanity can only achieve a key goal of the Paris Agreement if countries fully meet their long-term commitments to zero emissions by the end of the century. However, most countries are off track to meet their ambitions, according to a new study published Wednesday in the journal Nature, Brady Dennis and Sarah Kaplan reporting for the Washington Post.

This is the first study to find that the world has just over a 50% chance of limiting temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels – a sign significant progress in just a few years. The probability of reaching the 1.5 degrees Celsius target is between 6 and 10% unless countries take unprecedented and faster climate action this decade.

California outlines plan to phase out new gas-powered cars by 2035

California on Wednesday unveiled an ambitious plan to mandate increased sales of zero-emission vehicles, a step toward meeting its goal of banning new gas-powered cars by 2035, according to The New York Times. Lisa Friedman reports. Transportation is the main source of greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants in the state.

“These emission reductions will help stabilize the climate and reduce the risk of severe drought and wildfire and the resulting fine particulate pollution,” the state plan says.

If adopted, the rule proposed by the California Air Resources Council would require 35% of new passenger vehicles sold in the state by 2026 to be battery or hydrogen powered. It would also significantly reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and raise the bar for the global auto industry and for other states to follow suit.

But the rule would be a big leap. According to the board, 12.4% of new vehicles currently sold in California are zero-emission vehicles, and that number is expected to increase to 100% by 2035.

Intel is the latest Silicon Valley giant to promise net zero emissions

Intel Corp.a California-based technology company, on Wednesday announced its goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across all of its direct operations by 2040, Dieter Holger reports for the Wall Street Journal. Most of its emissions currently come from the chemicals used to make its computer chips.

“The impact of climate change is an urgent global threat,” Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger said in a statement. “Protecting our planet requires immediate action and a new way of thinking about how the world works.”

The company has said it may have to use carbon offsets to meet its target if no other options are feasible, although environmentalists say offsets are unreliable. Intel added that it will work with customers and suppliers to reduce its Scope 3 emissions, or those from the company’s indirect operations.

Nature could become a victim of the war in Ukraine

Research into past conflicts shows that the war in Ukraine could have a profound impact on the environment, according to The New York Times. Emilie Anthes reports. Wars typically alter ecosystems for decades after destroying habitats, killing wildlife, and generating massive amounts of pollution.

Ukraine, an ecological transition zone, is home to many wetlands, forests and rare species. But since Russia’s invasion in February, troops have already entered or carried out military operations in more than a third of the country’s protected natural areas, leaving landscapes vulnerable to bomb scars, fires, vegetation flattened and toxic gases.

“We see what is happening in Ukraine,” said Thor Hanson, an independent conservation biologist and expert on how wars affect the environment. “And we’re shocked and horrified by the human cost first and foremost, but also what’s happening to the environment there.”

Pollution is a particularly pressing concern in Ukraine, which is home to a number of chemical plants, coal mines, gas pipelines and other industrial sites that could release massive amounts of pollution if damaged.

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