Good morning and welcome to The Climate 202! Our colleague Brady Dennis, a national environmental reporter at The Washington Post, helped with the top of today's edition.

U.N. climate boss: 'We need to understand' young people's frustration

Brady sat down with Patricia Espinosa, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, at a U.N. satellite office in downtown D.C. yesterday.

Their wide-ranging conversation came nearly a month after the conclusion of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, where negotiators from almost 200 nations reached a deal intended to help reduce planet-warming emissions. The deal still leaves the Earth headed for dangerous levels of warming.

Here are key excerpts from the interview:

Empowering youths

Espinosa said that she recognizes the frustration of tens of thousands of young people, who marched through the streets of Glasgow last month to protest what they perceived as world leaders' inaction on global warming.

“We need to understand the anger and the frustration of so many young people around the world,” she said. “And I think that one of our main tasks now is to try to give them some tools so that they can transform that anger and frustration into solutions.”

Espinosa said that leaders must empower young people to become part of efforts to shape climate policy so that they do not feel “completely helpless.”

Defending the process

At the same time, Espinosa defended the U.N. climate negotiations that activist Greta Thunberg and other critics dismissed as little more than “blah blah blah.” She said the challenging, often messy process in which negotiators converge to hammer out a consensus on addressing climate change is imperfect but valuable.

“In many ways, what was demonstrated is that there is no other way to address global issues but through multilateralism, that there is no possibility to find solutions for a challenge like climate change if we do not work all together,” she said.

Still, Espinosa recognized that getting delegates to agree is “not an easy task,” adding that it can seem like “almost 200 realities” are competing at each conference.

Defining success

The deal that negotiators struck in Glasgow — dubbed the Glasgow Climate Pact — pushes countries to strengthen near-term climate pledges and to move away from fossil fuels, particularly coal. But it does not achieve the more ambitious goal of the 2015 Paris agreement: To limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels.

To Espinosa, the deal represents significant, if incremental, progress.

“I would define the result as a good outcome,” she said. “A good outcome that has brought us important steps forward toward achieving this 1.5-degree goal.”

Still, Espinosa said developing countries have fallen short in key respects. In particular, she said wealthy nations have not yet submitted “transformational” commitments under the Paris agreement or fulfilled their long-overdue promise to provide $100 billion in climate finance annually to poorer nations. 

“The progress has not been fast enough,” Espinosa said, adding that “one of the disappointments was the question of the $100 billion that was not there.”

Closing the emissions gap

Espinosa acknowledged a recent Washington Post investigation that revealed a giant gap between the emissions that countries report to the United Nations and the emissions that humans are actually putting into the atmosphere.

Espinosa said she thinks that “there is generally goodwill in the information that countries are providing,” rather than any “deliberate intent” to alter emissions data and give “a completely different picture from reality.” At the same time, she expressed hope that a proliferation of emissions-monitoring satellites would usher in an era of greater transparency.

Achieving gender equity

Espinosa is one of a relatively small number of female leaders in international climate policy. That fact was on full display when world leaders gathered for a photo at a dinner reception at a museum in Glasgow.

Out of more than 120 people in the photo, less than 10 were women. One was Angela Merkel, the first female chancellor of Germany, who is succeeded by Olaf Scholz today after nearly 16 years in power.

To Espinosa, the picture signaled that nations must make greater strides toward gender equity, particularly in the realm of climate diplomacy, given that women and girls are often worst affected by climate disasters.

“If this is the picture of power in the 21st century, it's not acceptable,” she said.

What's next at COP27

Ultimately, the Glasgow Climate Pact urged nations to revisit their climate goals as soon as next year. That marks an acceleration of the typical five-year timetable for updating climate commitments under the Paris agreement.

Espinosa encouraged all countries to come to COP27, next year's summit in Egypt, with tangible progress to share. Whether that will happen remains uncertain.

“What people will be waiting to see is, how are we going to improve?” she said. “When we get to Egypt, the citizens and the youth will be asking, 'Okay, and what did you do? After Glasgow, you promised so much. What did you do?'"

The global climate

First in The Climate 202: Russian gas threatens Europe's climate goals, report says

The European Union could miss its 2030 climate targets because of its reliance to imported Russian natural gas, which releases massive quantities of heat-trapping methane, according to a report shared exclusively with The Climate 202.

The report by the Progressive Policy Institute, a center-left think tank, examined the E.U.'s status as the world's largest gas importer — and by far the largest importer of gas from Russia. It found that Russia's aging, leaking production and transport system has “extremely high” emissions of methane, a powerful planet-warming pollutant.

That methane pollution could undermine the E.U.'s ambitious goals under its “Fit for 55" legislative package, which aims to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent by 2030. To address this problem, the report recommends that the E.U. start monitoring and regulating methane emissions from both domestic and imported gas — a move that could be undertaken in concert with the United States.

“There's an enormous opportunity for the E.U. as the world's largest gas importer — and the U.S. as an increasingly large gas exporter — to ratchet down methane emissions from global gas,” Paul Bledsoe, the author of the report and a strategic policy adviser at PPI, told The Climate 202.

“This would have a huge role in long-term climate protection as natural gas displaces coal globally,” said Bledsoe, who served as a White House climate aide under former president Bill Clinton.

Bledsoe also urged President Biden to act more forcefully to prevent Nord Stream 2, a Russia-to-Europe gas pipeline, from coming online. Biden has refrained from reimposing sanctions on the German-backed pipeline in an effort to preserve relations with Berlin, drawing criticism from Republicans

During a two-hour video call Tuesday, Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin of economic consequences if Russia escalates its buildup of troops on its border with Ukraine. The United States could push Germany to halt Nord Stream 2 if Putin invades Ukraine, Bloomberg reported yesterday.

On the Hill

Activists disrupted rush-hour traffic in D.C.

Protesters demanding congressional action on various liberal issues, including climate change and immigration, disrupted traffic around the Capitol on Tuesday, The Post’s Ellie Silverman and Dana Hedgpeth report

Activist Luke Mayhew held a sign that read “Fund Green Jobs Not War,” as others called on Congress to pass the Build Back Better Act, which includes a historic investment in clean energy.

Elon Musk opposes federal electric vehicle spending

The chief executive of Tesla came out against provisions in the Build Back Better Act that would expand tax credits for electric vehicles, citing concerns over the federal deficit.

“Honestly, I would just can this whole bill. Don't pass it. That's my recommendation,” Musk said during a virtual appearance at the Wall Street Journal's CEO Council Summit.

Under the version of the legislation that passed the House, consumers would receive a $7,500 tax credit for purchasing most EVs. But Tesla buyers would not be eligible for the additional $4,500 credit, which is limited to vehicles made in the United States by unionized workers.

Tesla has benefited from a variety of government assistance, Reuters reports. Since 2019, Tesla has made more than $3 billion in revenue from selling credits to other automakers that fail to meet federal emissions standards.

The power grid

Offshore wind could generate $4.5 billion in federal revenue, report says

Expanded offshore wind development could generate up to $4.5 billion in federal revenue and create up to 128,000 jobs, according to a report released this morning by the American Clean Power Association. The clean energy industry group analyzed the potential impact of the Biden administration’s plan to schedule seven new lease auctions by 2025.

White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy and her deputy, Ali Zaidi, also spoke at the group's conference yesterday in Salt Lake City. McCarthy said the U.S. had a major presence at the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, adding that “a big risk was taken by both sides” when the U.S. and China issued a surprise joint pledge to cut emissions over the next decade.

Pressure points

Wildlife officials are feeding Florida's starving manatees

In the face of record manatee deaths, federal officials will start supplementing the marine mammals' diets with lettuce and cabbage to help them survive the winter, The Post’s Lori Rozsa reports. Manatees primarily feed on sea grass, which has been affected by pollution and outbreaks of toxic algae exacerbated by climate change.


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