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AM Briefing: Al Jaber Plays Defense

The COP28 president responds to critics, a fossil fuel lobbyist influx, and more

AM Briefing: Al Jaber Plays Defense
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Cyclone Michaung drenches Chennai, India, with 20 inches of rain in two days • Death toll from northern Tanzania floods rises to 63 • The high is 90 degrees in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, which voted this weekend to annex two-thirds of neighboring oil state Guyana.


1. COP28 President Defends Himself Following Controversial Comments

COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber responded to critics on Monday, insisting that he and the UAE “very much believe and respect the science” after The Guardian published a video of him pooh-poohing the phase-out of fossil fuels in an online event that took place ahead of the summit. “I have always been very clear on the fact that we are making sure that everything we do is centered around the science,” Al Jaber, who is also the chief executive of the UAE’s state oil company Adnoc, went on. “We did not in any way underestimate or undermine the task at hand.”

Al Jaber’s ability to lead the climate summit had been called into question after the publication of the comments on Sunday, which he says were taken out of context. Some critics, however, remain unappeased. In an interview Monday, former Vice President Al Gore called Al Jaber “a smart guy … [but] when I look at the massive expansion plan that they have to increase their production of oil [after the conference] … do you take us for his fools?”

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  • 2. The United Arab Emirates Commits $270 Billion to Green Finance

    All the attention on Al Jaber took some wind out of the sails of the UAE’s major green financing deal on Monday, needless to say. But the biggest pledge of COP28’s finance-themed day came from the country’s banking sector, which committed $270 billion to green finance through 2030. That’s on top of a $30 billion fund the UAE announced Friday to invest in clean energy, infrastructure, and other climate projects. It’s been previously estimated that the developing world will need an investment of $2.4 trillion a year to address climate change.

    Here are some other highlights from finance and gender day at COP28:

    • The World Bank shared a new program that will allow developing countries and their national oil companies to access $255 million in grants that target methane emissions.
    • Denmark’s Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners unveiled a $3 billion fund focused on wind, solar, and energy storage.
    • The Asian Development Bank will pour $10 billion in climate financing into the Philippines through 2029.
    • COP28 introduced the Gender-Responsive Just Transitions & Climate Action Partnership, which comes with gender-focused commitments that were joined by 60 signatories.
    • A new Associated Press investigation found that “at least 1,300 employees of organizations representing fossil fuel interests registered to attend [COP28], more than three times the number ... of last year’s talks.” The Kick Big Polluters Out coalition put that number significantly higher, finding at least 2,456 fossil fuel lobbyists were given access to COP28, outnumbering every national delegation except Brazil’s.

    Tuesday’s COP28 agenda is focused on energy and industry, the just transition, and Indigenous Peoples.

    3. Report: The Greenhouse Effect of CO2 Gets Worse the More There Is

    Carbon dioxide becomes a “more potent greenhouse gas” the more it accumulates in the atmosphere, a new study published in Science found. Previously, the strength of the greenhouse gas effect of CO2 was thought to scale linearly, Science writes. Overall, the paper found that “doubling the atmospheric CO2 concentration increased the impact of any given increase in CO2 by about 25%,” thanks to the gas’s effect on the stratosphere.

    While that would imply the planet will heat at an increasingly rapid rate, the report wasn’t all bad news. “[T]hough this effect means that the carbon dioxide added to the air now leads to more warming than it would have a century ago,” writes Science, “it also means that geoengineering schemes to release sunlight-reflecting particles could be more effective than thought by heating the stratosphere and reducing CO2’s strength.”

    4. There Are Now Enough Voters Who Prioritize Climate to Swing Key Elections

    There are enough voters who prioritize climate issues to potentially swing elections in certain key states, a new 18-state study by the Environmental Voter Project (EVP) has found. It’s not just young voters (ages 18-34) doing the heavy lifting on climate and environment at the ballot box, either; voters who are 65 and older were second to young voters with regards to prioritizing green political issues, with one in six listing “climate change” or “clean air, clean water, and the environment” as their #1 issue.

    This is significant, because in states like New Mexico, for example, EVP found that one-third of older voters prioritize climate. And just next door, “EVP identified 230,000 climate voters 65 or older in Arizona, a state where the presidential race was decided by 10,500 votes in 2020,” Inside Climate News reports. Read the full results here.

    5. Schools Are Adding EVs to Driver’s Ed Classes

    Today’s 15-year-olds will be just 27 when states like California, New York, and New Jersey begin to require that all new cars on the road be zero-emission vehicles. To best prepare today’s learning-permit holders for the future, then, states like Illinois have begun to add electric vehicles to their driver’s education fleets, Yale Climate Connectionsreports.

    Using grants from ComEd, the local utility, “more than a dozen schools” in Illinois have made EVs and chargers available to first-time drivers so far. Educators point out that EVs still have “four wheels, a steering wheel, a brake pedal, and an accelerator” to allow students to learn the basics, but they can also offer features that double as handy teaching tools, like overhead cameras that show how far a vehicle is from a curb during those dreaded parallel parking sessions.


    “There’s always talk about ‘I’ll just wait for technology,’ but the technology is available — there are ways of doing it.” —Massive Attack founding member Robert Del Naja. The band announced on Tuesday its plans for a one-day music festival in August that will be 100% powered by renewable energy.

    Jeva Lange

    Jeva is a founding staff writer at Heatmap. Her writing has also appeared in The Week, where she formerly served as executive editor and culture critic, as well as in The New York Daily News, Vice, and Gothamist, among others. Jeva lives in New York City. Read More

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    AM Briefing: SCOTUS Weighs Smog Rules

    On being a good neighbor, Rivian’s results, and China’s emissions

    Will SCOTUS Block a Major Air Pollution Rule?
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    Current conditions: Heavy rain caused extreme flooding outside Rio de Janeiro • Japan is enduring record-breaking warm winter weather • It’ll be 72 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny at Peoria Stadium in Arizona for the MLB’s first spring training game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres.


    1. Supreme Court weighs challenge to EPA pollution rule

    The Supreme Court this week has been hearing arguments in what CNN called “the most significant environmental dispute at the high court this year,” and things aren’t looking good for the Environmental Protection Agency. Several states and energy companies want to block the EPA’s “good neighbor” plan, which seeks to impose strict emissions limits on industrial activities in 23 states in an effort to prevent pollution from drifting across state lines and forming dangerous smog. Challengers say the regulation is overreaching and want its implementation delayed. Yesterday the court’s conservative majority appeared skeptical of the EPA’s authority, citing the fact that lower court decisions have paused the regulation in 12 states.

    Environmental groups worry a ruling against the EPA here could set a dangerous precedent. “The Supreme Court — if it were to block this rule — would effectively be saying to industry, ‘Look, any time you face costs from a regulation, come on up and take a shot. We might block that rule for you,’” Sam Sankar, senior vice president for programs at Earthjustice, told E&E News.

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    Why Clean Energy Projects Are Stalling Out on Native Lands

    The urgency of the green transition hasn’t made tribal concerns any less important.

    The Colorado River.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images, Library of Congress

    It’s windy in the Great Plains and it’s sunny in the Southwest. These two basic geographic facts underscore much of the green energy transition in the United States — and put many Native American tribes squarely in the middle of that process.

    The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has estimated that “American Indian land comprises approximately 2% of U.S. land but contains an estimated 5% of all renewable energy resources,” with an especially large amount of potential solar power. Over the past few months, a spate of renewable energy projects across the country have found themselves entangled with courts, regulators, and tribal governments over how and under what circumstances they are permitted on — or even near — tribal lands.

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    Is This the End of American Polyester?

    New federal safety regulations could push PET plastic-makers out of the country for good.

    An x-ray and a clothing tag.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    There are an estimated 40,000 to 60,000 chemicals used commercially today worldwide, and the vast majority of them haven’t been tested for human safety. Many that have been tested are linked to serious human health risks like cancer and reproductive harm. And yet, they continue to pollute our air, water, food, and consumer products.

    Among these is 1,4-dioxane, a chemical solvent that’s been linked to liver cancer in lab rodents and classified as a probable human carcinogen. It’s a multipurpose petrochemical, issuing from the brownfields of defunct industrial sites, chemical plants, and factories that use it in solvents, paint strippers, and degreasers. It shows up as an unintentional contaminant in consumer personal care products, detergents, and cleaning products and then goes down the drain into sewer systems.

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