Happy Friday and thanks for reading The Climate 202 this week! 

🚨 President Biden said at a CNN town hall last night that he would protect $150 billion in clean energy funding if a Clean Electricity Performance Program is dropped from Democrats' spending bill due to opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.). More on that below. But first:

Republicans are heading to the U.N. climate summit

For the first time ever, Republicans in Congress are organizing a GOP-only delegation to the upcoming United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

The goal of the trip is to show other countries that there's bipartisan interest in addressing climate change in the United States, even as partisan tensions flare in Congress over climate, health care, immigration and other issues.

“I think it's really important to make it clear to the international community that we're united in efforts to chart a clean-energy future and to reduce emissions globally, meaning united across this nation, Republicans and Democrats,” Rep. Garret Graves (La.), the top Republican on the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, told The Climate 202.

  • Graves is leading the delegation along with Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah), chairman of the Conservative Climate Caucus. 
  • Other confirmed attendees include Reps. David B. McKinley (R-W.Va.) and Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.), the Washington Examiner's Josh Siegel reported.
  • Travel to the U.N. conference, known as COP26, is being organized by two outside conservative groups, Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions and ClearPath.
Conservative credibility

The delegation comes as polling shows that Republican voters care about climate change — and as the GOP looks to carve out credibility on the issue.

  • A recent Pew Research Center survey found that more than half of Republicans say they would support a range of programs to combat climate change, including tree-planting efforts and tougher emissions standards for cars.
  • Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) introduced legislation last year that would plant 1 trillion trees globally by 2050, while Curtis launched the Conservative Climate Caucus in June to educate GOP members about climate science and policy.
  • Asked what message he hoped to send the world, Curtis told The Climate 202: “Republicans care. We care deeply about the environment. And if there's a second message, it's that we have ideas, and we want to be at the climate table.”
The future of fossil fuels

Countries will face pressure at COP26 to make stronger commitments to cut emissions and to reduce their reliance on coal, oil and gas. However, Republicans have been reluctant to call for rapidly transitioning away from fossil fuels.

  • While Graves has spoken of the need to reduce global emissions, he has championed natural gas and criticized Biden for revoking a key permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
  • Graves defended his positions as consistent, saying, “Advocating for the Keystone pipeline but in the same breath saying you support reduced emissions, it's called facts, because the facts show that conventional fossil fuels are going to continue to have a role in America's energy future.”
  • Curtis said he thinks it's wrong to “demonize” the fossil fuel industry and the workers it employs, rather than engaging with them on climate solutions. “People I know in my district that have made their living on fossil fuels for decades feel very threatened by much of that dialogue, and so we shouldn't be surprised when they push back,” he said.
Parsing the Paris agreement

Some conservatives also have been critical of the 2015 Paris agreement, in which nations agreed to limit global temperature rise to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) — and “preferably” 1.5 degrees Celsius — compared with preindustrial levels.

  • In April, Graves introduced the “Paris Transparency and Accountability Act,” which would require Biden to renegotiate the Paris agreement to extract a more ambitious climate pledge from China.
  • Graves said climate change is a global issue and requires other nations like China and India to step up. He called it “disappointing” that Chinese President Xi Jinping has not committed to attending the summit in person, while Russian President Vladimir Putin will participate via video conference.
Democratic plans

On the other side of the aisle, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters Tuesday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will lead a delegation of Democrats to the U.N. conference.

  • Pelosi previously led a 15-member delegation to the 2019 conference in Madrid, known as COP25, that included Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.).
  • A spokesman for Pelosi declined to confirm which Democrats were headed to COP26, citing security protocols.
  • But Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.), a former clean-energy executive, previously told The Climate 202 that he planned to attend the summit next month.

Pressure points

Biden said he would protect $150 billion in clean energy funding in Democrats' spending bill

During a 90-minute CNN town hall in Baltimore, “Biden said [Sen. Joe] Manchin’s concern is that he doesn’t want Democrats to accelerate the elimination of coal in the country’s energy usage because of his state’s economy’s dependency on it,” The Post's Matt Viser reports.

“Manchin, his argument is, ‘Look, we still have coal in the state, you’re going to eliminate it eventually, we know it’s going away, we know it’s going to be gone. But don’t rush it so fast that my people don’t have anything to do,’" Biden said.

“I think that’s not what we should be doing,” the president said. “The fact of the matter is we can take that $150 billion, [and] add it to the $320 billion in the law, now that he’s prepared to support tax incentives.”

Biden added that while the CEPP is not set in stone, Manchin “is open to my convincing him that I can use [the package] to increase environmental progress."

Countdown to COP26

Countries pushed to alter U.N. climate report

World leaders will gather in Glasgow, Scotland, from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12 for the 26th annual United Nations conference on climate change. (Joy Yi/The Washington Post)

Leaked documents reveal behind-the-scenes efforts by countries including Australia, Japan and Saudi Arabia to push back on a U.N. climate report that will be crucial evidence at COP26, BBC News and other news organizations reported.

The documents, obtained by Greenpeace's investigative journalism arm Unearthed, show that countries attempted to play down the need to move away from fossil fuels in the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment report. 

An adviser to the Saudi Oil Ministry wrote that “phrases like 'the need for urgent and accelerated mitigation actions at all scales…' should be eliminated from the report,” according to BBC News. And an Australian government official objected to language calling for the retirement of existing coal-fired power plants and the end of construction of new coal plants, Australia's ABC reported.

Agency alert

Climate change is threatening U.S. national security

That’s the finding from reports released by the White House, the U.S. intelligence community and the Pentagon, The Post’s Shane Harris and Michael Birnbaum report. The U.S. security establishment warns that climate change could increase instability in nuclear powers like North Korea and Pakistan, spark conflicts over food insecurity, drive migration as people flee drought and extreme weather and otherwise alter the strategic landscape.

The reports mark a shift from the Trump administration, which routinely suppressed climate-related security assessments because they did not mesh with the administration’s skeptical stance on climate science. The Pentagon’s report in particular is notable for its warning that climate change could lead to state failure. 

Climate change also poses risks to the U.S. financial system

The Financial Stability Oversight Council warned in a separate report Thursday that bank regulators should take steps to mitigate climate-related financial risks, Maxine and Steven Mufson reported.

While the report does not call for subjecting Wall Street banks to “stress tests” like those required since the mortgage crisis, it does recommend that bank regulators use “scenario analysis” as a tool for assessing climate-related financial risks.

“This report puts Wall Street on notice,” said Becca Ellison, deputy policy director at Evergreen Action. “The report acknowledges in no uncertain terms that climate change is threatening the financial stability of the United States.”

But the report falls short of measures that Ellison and other climate activists have sought to stem the flow of investments into fossil fuel companies and other large emitters. It does not mention requiring banks to hold more capital when they have fossil fuel assets, which activists say are risky investments. 

On the Hill

Democrats could pare down environmental justice initiatives

Billions of dollars in funding for environmental justice are at stake as Democrats look for ways to scale back their social spending package, the Associated Press’s Drew Costley reports.

Congressional aides told the AP that while the final amount of environmental justice spending in the reconciliation bill is up in the air, it will almost certainly be less than the $80 billion originally proposed. That earlier figure included $20 billion to replace lead pipes and $10 billion to expand public transit near affordable housing.

Climate solutions

A Canadian start-up is using drones to plant trees

Flash Forest, a 20-person start-up based in Ontario, is using drones to rapid-fire seeds into the ground in an effort to combat deforestation, The Post's Steven Zeitchik reports.

“The battle against climate change can be waged with sober policymaking, an engaged citizenry and corporate responsibility. It can also be fought, it turns out, by a few hipster millennials with flying machines,” Zeitchik writes.

The company says it can plant carbon-guzzling trees 10 times as fast as a human. The goal is to plant 1 billion by 2028.


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