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Climate

Exxon Triumphs Over Activists

On shareholder proposals, ex-Tesla employees, and extra-hot days.

Sunrise over a field.

Thursday

Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions:More than 400,000 households are currently without power in storm-battered Texas and the southern Plains • Southeast Louisiana tied a century-old temperature record on Memorial Day, recording a high of 98 degrees Fahrenheit in Baton Rouge • India may have broken its own heat record with a preliminary reading of about 126 degrees Fahrenheit near New Delhi.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Exxon board members clinch reelection

ExxonMobil Chairman Darren Woods and Lead Director Joseph Hooley easily won reelection at the company’s annual general meeting on Wednesday, neutralizing a threatened shareholder uprising over its climate policies. Several major pension funds said ahead of the meeting that they would vote to remove most of Exxon’s board after the company sued activist shareholders pushing for stronger emissions reduction targets. Though most of its petrochemical peers have similar targets, the company argued that the activists’ true goal was to “interfere with ExxonMobil’s business and to promote their own interests over those of ExxonMobil’s shareholders.”

The resistance effort “amounted to a test of whether top fund firms would rally to defend the small shareholders whose resolutions have put topics like the environment and workforce diversity at the center of many corporate annual meetings,” Reuters said. “Wednesday’s results suggested the answer was no.” All 12 of Exxon’s director nominees received between 87% and 98% support at the meeting, the company reported. The activists, meanwhile, withdrew their proposal in February, but Exxon is still pursuing the matter in court.

2. EV charging companies hire former Tesla employees

The U.S. electric vehicle sector is snapping up Tesla employees who were laid off when the company gutted its charging team last month. Atlanta-based charging provider EnviroSpark Energy Solutions has hired a dozen of them, E&E News reported, while other charging companies have landed high-profile hires let go by Tesla or are in talks to do so. “It does present an awesome opportunity for other charging operators like us to fill in the gap,” David Jankowsky, CEO of Francis Energy, told E&E News. There is still some trepidation, however, over how Tesla’s tribulations could affect the broader industry’s future. Despite its poor recent performance, Tesla still dominates the U.S. EV market, so a dip in consumer confidence could have negative ripple effects on EV uptake.

3. Rich countries meet $100 billion aid target two years late

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development announced Wednesday that the world’s rich countries had met their goal of delivering $100 billion in annual climate finance to poorer countries in 2022 — two years after their self-imposed deadline, the group said. The 2020 target was first set at the 2009 United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen, and the delay in meeting it had strained recent climate talks. Developed countries came up with $115.9 billion in climate finance in 2022, OECD data shows, an increase of 30% from 2021. That’s the biggest year-on-year jump so far. “Exceeding this annual commitment materially by more than 15% is an important and symbolic achievement which goes some way towards making up for the two-year delay, which should help build trust,” OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann said in a statement.

Climate advocates warned, however, that achieving this aim is not an end point in itself. Transitioning to clean energy and adapting to new climate realities are both expensive processes. “While domestic finance, strong policies and private finance are important, for these countries, international public finance needs to play a lynchpin role,” Melanie Robinson, global climate, economics and finance director at the World Resources Institute, said in a statement. Discussions about setting a new climate finance goal will be a centerpiece of COP29 in Azerbaijan.

4. An IRA rebate roll-out

New York will be the first state to launch home energy rebates created by the Inflation Reduction Act, the Biden administration announced Thursday. The initial phase of New York’s $158 million rebate program will be aimed at single-family homes and multifamily properties with up to four units, while later phases will expand to larger buildings and retailers. It will provide up to $14,000 per housing unit for upgrades such as better insulation, heat pumps, and heat pump water heaters. A separate, $159 million IRA home efficiency rebate program is expected to follow. Massachusetts, Michigan and Rhode Island have all applied for the funding to establish their own home energy rebate programs under the IRA — a process that’s turned out to be messier than some had hoped, according to Heatmap’s Emily Pontecorvo.

5. Study: Extra-hot days are on the rise

The average American experienced 20 more extra-hot days over the past year than would have been expected without climate change, a new scientific analysis found. Globally, the average person experienced 26 more extra-hot days due to climate change, while in a few countries, that number exceeded 120, according to the report by Climate Central, the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, and World Weather Attribution. The researchers considered temperatures abnormal when they exceeded 90% of a location’s daily readings recorded between 1991 and 2020. Americans experienced 39 such days in total over the last 12 months. Almost 80% of the world’s population experienced 31 or more.

Manila residents swelter during a May heat wave. Manila residents swelter during a May heat wave. Ezra Acayan/Getty Images

THE KICKER

The National Weather Service issued its first-ever warning for hail the size of a DVD — that is, a diameter of approximately 5 inches — in northern Texas on Tuesday.

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Nicole Pollack

Nicole Pollack is a freelance environmental journalist who writes about energy, agriculture, and climate change. She is based in Northeast Ohio.

Sparks

Nuclear Energy Is the One Thing Congress Can Agree On

Environmentalists, however, still aren’t sold on the ADVANCE Act.

A nuclear power plant.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

While climate change policy is typically heavily polarized along party lines, nuclear energy policy is not. The ADVANCE Act, which would reform the nuclear regulatory policy to encourage the development of advanced nuclear reactors, passed the Senate today, by a vote of 88-2, preparing it for an almost certain presidential signature.

The bill has been floating around Congress for about a year and is the product of bipartisanship within the relevant committees, a notable departure from increasingly top-down legislating in Washington. The House of Representatives has its own nuclear regulatory bill, the Atomic Energy Advancement Act, which the House overwhelmingly voted for in February.

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Technology

AM Briefing: America’s Long Bake

On Equatic’s big news, heat waves, and the Paris Olympics

Ocean-Based Carbon Removal Is About to Take a Big Step Forward
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Tropical storm warnings have been issued for Texas and Mexico • Parts of southwestern France were hit with large hail stones • The temperature trend for June is making climate scientists awfully nervous.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Lengthy heat wave threatens nearly 80 million Americans

About 77 million people are under some kind of heat advisory as a heat wave works its way across the Midwest and Northeast. In most of New England, the heat index is expected to reach or exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. What makes this heat wave especially dangerous is its “striking duration,” Jake Petr, the lead forecaster with National Weather Service Chicago, toldThe New York Times. Temperatures are projected to stay exceptionally high for several days before beginning to taper off only slightly over the weekend. According toThe Washington Post, temperatures could be up to 25 degrees higher than normal for this time of year. And forecasters expect it to be unseasonably hot across the country for at least the next three weeks. Below is a look at the NWS HeatRisk projections today (top) and Thursday (bottom). The darker the color, the warmer the temperature and the higher the health risks.

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Economy

Crux Is Getting Some Powerful New Backers

The New York-based startup aims to create a market for clean energy tax credits.

Green energy and money details.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

One of the least-noticed changes in the Inflation Reduction Act may be one of the most important.

For years, the government has encouraged developers, power utilities, and other companies to build clean energy by offering tax credits. But those tax credits were difficult to transfer to other companies, meaning that complicated financial instruments had to be created to allow them to share in the wealth.

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