Daily on Energy: Biden needs help from Congress to fulfill pledge of doubling US climate finance

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DOUBLING CLIMATE FINANCE: President Joe Biden pledged this morning the U.S. will look to double the amount of money it offers to developing countries to help curb climate change within the next three years.

That commitment, made during his speech at the U.N. General Assembly in New York City, is in addition to a doubling of U.S. funding Biden announced during a virtual climate summit he hosted in April, bringing the total new target to $11.4 billion annually by 2024.

Biden said the updated commitment would enable wealthy nations together to fulfill a promise -- first made in 2009 -- to provide $100 billion starting in 2020 in annual financial assistance to help the developing world shift away from fossil fuels and protect themselves against the effects of global warming.

He said the new funding would make “the United States the leader of public climate finance.”

But developed countries including the U.S. have failed to deliver on climate finance promises so far, and Biden acknowledged he needs cooperation from Congress to appropriate his promised funding.

“This was a really important commitment by the president to ramp up his request for climate finance both on mitigation and adaptation, and to put the weight of his administration behind it. Getting that full amount does have to go through Congress,” Nat Keohane, president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, told me, adding that fulfilling that promise is in the U.S. interest when it comes to delivering on a “moral imperative” with regards to helping the most vulnerable countries, as well as creating export markets for American clean energy technologies.

The Biden administration has begun to close the credibility gap of being a leader on international climate mitigation after former President Donald Trump rejected the Paris Agreement, pledging earlier this year to cut U.S. emissions in half by 2030.

But Biden’s dependence on cooperation from Congress both on his domestic agenda and global finance pledges shows he still has more work to do, something that other world leaders are making clear in their comments at the U.N. General Assembly.

Boris Johnson, president of the United Kingdom, told reporters yesterday he is hopeful the U.S. can deliver on a promise to increase its share of money toward the $100 billion annual finance goal but "we've been here before" and "we're not counting our chickens."

Johnson was speaking after he held a closed-door meeting with U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and other world leaders to address gaps on emissions targets and climate finance ahead of November’s COP26 in Glasgow.

Guterres called the meeting “a wake-up call to instill a sense of urgency on the dire state of the climate process” and warned “unless we collectively change course there is a high risk of failure” at the Glasgow climate summit.

Biden this morning declared the U.S. as being “back at the table in international forums to spur global action” to attack “challenges that hold the keys to our collective future,” including climate change.

Now, Biden needs help from Congress to deliver.

Welcome to Daily on Energy, written by Washington Examiner Energy and Environment Writer Josh Siegel (@SiegelScribe). Email jsiegel@washingtonexaminer.com for tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. If a friend sent this to you and you’d like to sign up, click here. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email, and we’ll add you to our list.

DEMOCRATS FACE TRICKY PATH FORWARD ON AGENDA: Democrats planned to pass a massive social spending bill along with a major infrastructure package, government funding, and a debt ceiling increase — all by the end of September.

But the plan is facing big challenges due to internal differences over spending, taxes, and policy changes lawmakers hoped to include in the legislation, the Washington Examiner’s Susan Ferrechio reports.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer yesterday offered assurances that Democrats are on target to achieve their primary goal of passing Biden’s dual bipartisan infrastructure and larger reconciliation spending bill.

However, House Democrats face immediate opposition to their plan to pass the two-part package.

The head of the House liberal faction announced Democrats oppose a leadership plan to take up the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure package on Sept. 27.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi could bring up the infrastructure bill and attempt to pass it over the objections of many Democrats but with the help of dozens of Republicans who are poised to support it, however it’s unclear if there are sufficient numbers of GOP members willing to do so.

This morning, Susan reports that Democratic Caucus Committee Chairman Hakeem Jeffries and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer vowed the House will be able to pass the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package as well as the second social spending bill with a price tag as high as $3.5 trillion.

“Failure is not an option,” Jeffries, of New York, told reporters in the Capitol. “The votes will be there for both the bipartisan infrastructure agreement and the Build Back Better plan.”

Hoyer repeated that pledge.

"I expect both of them to pass," Hoyer said.

INTERIOR NOMINEE GRILLED ON OIL AND GAS LEASING PLANS: Fossil fuel state senators of both parties on the Senate Energy Committee demanded answers on the status of a delayed oil and gas leasing report from Laura Daniel-Davis, Biden’s nominee for assistant Interior secretary for lands and minerals management, at a confirmation hearing this morning.

Daniel-Davis, in her current job as the principal deputy assistant secretary for land and mineral management, has overseen the Biden administration’s oil and gas leasing pause.

The Biden administration last month began taking steps toward restarting oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters as it complies with a ruling by a federal judge that found its pause on new auctions to be illegal.

But committee chairman Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, told Daniel-Davis he is “bothered” that Interior has let slip a promised early summer deadline for releasing a report on how it plans to reform the leasing program.

Daniel-Davis reiterated the report is coming “very soon,” but when pushed by Manchin, she conceded it won’t come out until the fall.

Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the top committee Republican, decried that under Daniel-Davis’ supervision, Interior has “undermined energy projects on federal lands” while creating “unnecessary bureaucracy and backlogs, delays and uncertainty, costs and headaches.”

In response, Daniel-Davis said oil and gas production on existing federal leases has not suffered, and has been consistent with historical levels. She said she is “not aware” of revenue losses distributed to states and localities from energy production on federal lands.

Interior is expected to propose a package of reforms that provide a fairer return to taxpayers and reorient the use of public lands away from fossil fuel production to other practices, such as clean energy development. House Democrats are looking to advance a number of these reforms through their reconciliation spending package.

BIG OIL AND GAS GROUP MAKES NET-ZERO PLEDGE: The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, a voluntary group representing dozen of the world’s largest oil and gas majors, pledged yesterday to reach net-zero emissions from operations and released updated targets for reducing the methane and carbon emission intensity of their upstream operations.

OGCI said it supports the goals of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and recognizes there is "a real urgency to act".

But the group is not setting a specific time frame to meet its net-zero target because more “answers” are needed to reach the goal, said the OGCI, which includes ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell, Saudi Aramco, and more.

The target includes operations under the companies’ control, while the group will also lool to “leverage their influence” to achieve the same in non-operated assets, meaning production on wells that a company does not directly manage.

Ben Ratner, who leads the Environmental Defense Fund’s Business Energy Transition team, credited OGCI for “signaling an important step forward by expanding its scope of action to non-operated assets, a fixture of the global energy landscape that will be critical for achieving emission reductions at scale.”

But he challenged the group’s members to translate its de-carbonization pledge into concrete plans with capital commitments and to extend their planned reductions to include scope 3 emissions that come from the use of their products.

SHELL’S PERMIAN EXIT: European energy giant Shell is exiting from the Permian, the top U.S. oil field, announcing yesterday it has sold all of its assets in the basin to Houston-based ConocoPhillips for $9.5 billion.

The move comes as Shell is under pressure to reduce emissions faster after a Dutch court recently ruled the company’s current emissions reduction plan isn’t sufficient to address its contribution to climate change. Shell is appealing the ruling.

Shell said it will distribute the bulk of the proceeds from the sale -- $7 billion -- in distributions to shareholders while the rest would help fund efforts towards the “energy transition.”

The Permian represented less than 1% of the company’s carbon emissions from operations, Wael Sawan, Shell’s upstream director, told the Wall Street Journal.

But critics were quick to note that Shell wiping Permian production from its books does not mean that global emissions will fall, since another company, ConocoPhillips, is picking up the production. More broadly, production in the Permian has recovered from pre-pandemic levels, with the basin yielding 4.7 million barrels a day of oil production in August.

IEA WARNS AGAINST BLAME GAME FOR EUROPE’S GAS CRISIS: Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Association, is warning policymakers to not slow actions to combat climate change in the face of Europe’s energy crunch caused by surging wholesale prices for natural gas.

In a scathing statement this morning, Birol said the clean energy transition has nothing to do with the natural gas shortage, and instead cited a perfect storm of forces producing higher-than-expected demand and low supply.

“Recent increases in global natural gas prices are the result of multiple factors, and it is inaccurate and misleading to lay the responsibility at the door of the clean energy transition,” Birol said.

But Birol noted the European gas market “could well face further stress” in the winter, when demand further picks up. He said the shortage and higher prices, which is causing higher utility bills for customers, should be a “reminder” for governments to ensure access to affordable energy as they transition to cleaner energy sources.

“Well-managed clean energy transitions are a solution to the issues that we are seeing in gas and electricity markets today – not the cause of them,” Birol said.

The Rundown

Bloomberg ‘Little can be done’ to ease crisis in short term: gas update

New York Times Why Louisiana’s electric grid failed in Hurricane Ida

Washington Post China is key to saving the planet from climate change. But it can’t quit coal.

Washington Post Jeff Bezos pledges $1 billion to protect 30 percent of the Earth’s land and sea

Bloomberg Top US energy official sees ‘unusual partnerships’ for nuclear


9:30 a.m. 406 Dirksen. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing to consider several nominees, including Jeffrey Prieto to be General Counsel of the Environmental Protection Agency and members of the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board.

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Tags: Energy and Environment, Daily on Energy

Original Author: Josh Siegel

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