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Climate

Clean Energy Investment Is Eclipsing Fossil Fuel Funding

On a new IEA report, Hochul’s congestion pricing u-turn, and the heat dome

Clean Energy Investment Is Eclipsing Fossil Fuel Funding
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Unseasonably cool temperatures brought snow to parts of Scotland • New South Wales in Australia recorded more than a month’s worth of rain in just 12 hours • Multiple tornadoes were reported across Maryland.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Gov. Hochul pauses NYC congestion pricing ‘indefinitely’

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced yesterday that she will “indefinitely pause” the long-awaited NYC congestion pricing program that was set to start on June 30. The policy would have charged drivers for entering some of the city’s busiest areas, raising $1 billion annually for the transit authority, cutting pollution, and easing traffic congestion. It would have been the first such program in the nation. But, no more. Hochul said it risked “too many unintended consequences.”

Environmental groups, state budget hawks, and transit advocates are outraged by the u-turn. Her decision “will be a generational setback for climate policy in the United States,” wrote an incensed Robinson Meyer for Heatmap. “New York was bushwhacking a trail for everyone else to follow: If congestion policy was a success there, then other American cities could experiment with it in some form. By pausing that trial before it has even begun, Hochul has essentially frozen our ability to experiment with congestion pricing anywhere else in the country.”

2. IEA: Clean energy investment set to double fossil fuels in 2024

Global investment in clean energy is on track to reach $2 trillion in 2024, double the $1 trillion expected to be invested in fossil fuels, according to the International Energy Agency. In its new World Energy Investment report, out today, the IEA said global spending on renewables surpassed the amount invested in fossil fuels last year for the first time. Most of the money is going toward solar power. Here’s a look at recent annual investment in solar PV (light blue) compared to all other power generation sources (dark blue):

IEA

China accounts for the largest share of clean energy investment by a long shot, and China, the U.S., and Europe make up more than two thirds of the world’s clean energy investment. “More must be done to ensure that investment reaches the places where it is needed most, in particular the developing economies where access to affordable, sustainable and secure energy is severely lacking today,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. Even as clean energy funds are flowing, spending on oil and gas is set to rise this year and remains far too high to meet the world’s climate goals, the report said. Just 4% of oil and gas companies’ 2023 investments went toward clean energy.

3. UN secretary-general calls for global ban on fossil fuel ads

António Guterres yesterday urged nations to ban advertising from fossil fuel companies in a speech at the American Museum of Natural History. The UN secretary-general called the fossil fuel industry “the Godfathers of climate chaos,” and said advertising and PR agencies that take Big Oil on as clients are “enablers to planetary destruction.” He said the end of the fossil fuel age was an economic inevitability, but that global emissions need to fall 9% every year until 2030 to keep the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius alive. The next 18 months will be key to deciding our future, he said. “I call on leaders in the fossil fuel industry to understand that if you are not in the fast lane to clean energy transformation, you are driving your business into a dead end – and taking us all with you,” Guterres said.

The speech coincided with a new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) concluding there is an 80% chance that the global annual average temperature will exceed the 1.5C degree increase in one (or more) of the next five years. That’s up from a 66% chance last year, and as Guterres noted, “in 2015, the chance of such a breach was near zero.”

4. Southwestern states bake under intense heat dome

Temperatures across much of the American Southwest are between 20 and 30 degrees Fahrenheit higher than usual for this time of year, according to the National Weather Service. Residents in California, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, and Texas are roasting under a heat dome that has settled on the region and will likely peak in severity today. In Phoenix, where temperatures will hit 111 degrees Fahrenheit today, all fire department vehicles are being kitted out with large ice bags in which people suffering from heat stroke can be submerged to lower their temperatures. In California’s Death Valley, the mercury will hit 120 degrees today. The heat wave is expected to boost emissions from California’s power sector as customers crank up their air conditioners. Below is a snapshot of the region today from the NWS HeatRisk tool. Regions in red are experiencing “major” heat-related impacts; purple regions are under extreme heat conditions.

NWS HeatRisk

5. GM records best month for North American EV sales

In case you missed it: General Motors just had its best month ever in terms of EV sales. During a shareholder meeting on Tuesday, CEO Mary Barra said May was the company’s “best month ever for EV sales in North America,” adding that “we’re seeing profit improvement in our EV portfolio as we scale production of the broadest EV portfolio on the market, a portfolio purposely built to win new customers.” Demand was particularly strong for the Cadillac Lyric and the new Chevrolet Blazer EV. The news would have been unfathomable even last year, when GM reported cratering EV sales after it discontinued the Chevy Bolt EV, wrote Patrick George at Inside EVs. The new numbers are “an outstanding development for GM and for the wider EV market,” he said.

THE KICKER

A Department of Energy initiative will repurpose two former nuclear test sites in Idaho by using the land to install 400 megawatts of solar power with battery storage.

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Jessica  Hullinger profile image

Jessica Hullinger

Jessica Hullinger is a freelance writer and editor who likes to think deeply about climate science and sustainability. She previously served as Global Deputy Editor for The Week, and her writing has been featured in publications including Fast Company, Popular Science, and Fortune. Jessica is originally from Indiana but lives in London.

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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Green