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George Shultz, 100, gives 'young' Biden climate advice to start his term

By David Callaway, Callaway Climate Insights

When we launched Callaway Climate Insights 10 months ago, at the start of the pandemic, we promised a new voice in the climate change world, dedicated to reporting on climate solutions and the financial world’s new focus on sustainable investing. We also promised to highlight and develop great journalism around the world about what is arguably the biggest story of our time.

As the U.S. enters the post-Trump era this week, with all that is at stake in fighting climate change, we’re announcing a subscription pay model to fund this journalism. Starting in three weeks, on Feb. 8, we will be charging $249 a year for our most valuable coverage, from my Zeus columns and Mark Hulbert’s ESG investing pieces, to special new coverage of climate finance data and interviews with emerging climate leaders. From our interviews with people like George Shultz this week, and Jeff Eckel, CEO of Hannon Armstrong, to Gabriel Kra of Prelude Ventures, and Jean Rogers of SASB, we will bring the freshest ideas and investing strategies to our subscribers.

Subscribers who prefer to pay monthly can do so for $25 a month, or less than a dollar a day, and we will also offer a special founder rate of $350, which will never increase, for our biggest supporters. Student rates will also be available. You can begin supporting us today.

We will still post for free to our growing readership list, and encourage you to share as much as possible, as the climate battle is too important to leave anybody out. But increasingly, our best stuff will be for our best supporters.

In the next few weeks, you’ll see us move to posting four days a week, from two, and notice some new bylines. We’ve added an intern, George Barker, from Northeastern University in Boston, and some more editing help in New York. With Stephen Rae and his team in Dublin, we’ll now be able to extend coverage to the European day and increase subscribers in both Europe and Asia.

We’re working on some data projects that will create new franchises in coming months, and use the subscription funding to bring on new writers in places such as Hong Kong, India, and Australia, to complement our existing coverage of Europe, Canada, and Latin America. We plan to begin offering events, with the webinar with EU Climate Commissioner Frans Timmermans being scheduled for this spring, and special discussion threads for subscribers only to dissect the latest headlines.

My goals for Callaway Climate Insights have always been as much about supporting great journalism as they’ve been about covering this nascent battle to fight global warming. My days running USA TodayCBS MarketWatch, and as president of the World Editors Forum impressed upon me the vital role that journalism plays both in protecting democracies and laying the groundwork for them to succeed.

Only through better storytelling and improved communication can investors, companies and governments rise to the existential challenge we all face together from climate change.

We aim to be right in the eye of the hurricane at Callaway Climate Insights. We hope you will join us with your support today.

Cheers.

— David Callaway

More insights below. . . .

George Shultz at 100 — still recommending climate policy

. . . . As President-elect Joe Biden becomes the 46th president of the United States Wednesday, one of Washington D.C.’s most formidable old power brokers, George Shultz, tells Marsha Vande Berg how Biden can cross the aisle with a climate plan that works for everyone. In a wide-ranging interview that recalls his days in the capital in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Shultz, lays out a strategy for carbon pricing that he said will tick every conservative economic box and appeal to Democrats.

The former secretary of state recalled lobbying his boss, President Ronald Reagan, in 1987 to support an international cap-and-trade treaty that was aimed at the Earth’s fragile ozone layer. Getting Reagan on board meant overruling dissenting members of his cabinet and then getting Congress to ratify the international deal that had been dubbed the Montreal Protocol.

Shultz described his own interest in the treaty as a given. The Environmental Protection Agency had been established during the Nixon administration when Shultz was serving with the Office of Management and Budget. Because the EPA was brand new, it had no representative to advocate on its behalf in budget hearings. Hence, Shultz picked up the cause, acting as the new federal agency’s “first EPA director” . . . .

Read the full interview

. . . . Tesla has been making cars in China for more than a year, and now it’s set up shop in India, with plans for a manufacturing plant in Bengaluru, according to the latest Lights On newsletter by Lou Del Bello. It still might be some time before it’s actually making cars there, given government red tape, but in the meantime it will source its sales in India to its plant in Shanghai. . . .

. . . . Lou’s newsletter has become essential reading for those interested in climate change and energy in India, as well as the ongoing tug and thrust between India and China. In a weekend post, she provided a link to an extraordinary database built by the Global Development Policy Center that tracks Chinese power investments around the world, including their emissions. Worth checking out. . . .

. . . . What happens when the fossil fuel industry begins divesting from itself? We’re about to find out. The decision by Total SA, the French oil giant, to withdraw from the American Petroleum Institute is a harbinger of the breakup to come of the fossil fuel cabal. Total said it disagreed with the institute, which has more than 600 members, on issues such as subsidies for electric vehicles, carbon pricing, and how to regulate methane emissions. The API’s hardcore stance is apparently starting to wear against the reality of the climate fight, especially in Europe. Other European energy companies, such as BP (BP) and Shell (RDS.A), will no doubt pay close attention to this, especially as their own renewable energy efforts begin to gain higher priority. Total itself unveiled a $2.5 billion investment for 20% of Adani Green Energy, an Indian solar company, this week. As the world moves toward COP26 in November, with more and more corporate pledges and Wall Street limitations on fossil fuel investor, we can expect more energy companies to switch sides. . . .

. . . . The SPAC craze for electric vehicle companies surged into 2021 with a series of deals and disclosure last week, according to Pitchbook’s EV Mobility SPAC handbook. Those included a report by Bloomberg that Lucid Motors, which makes luxury electric vehicles, is in talks with Michael Klein’s Churchill Capital about a $15 billion valuation. And news Tuesday from electric truck maker Rivian that it’s raised $2.65 billion, giving it a $27.6 billion valuation before it even begins production of its electric pickup truck this summer. It’s hard to tell whether the craze for special purpose acquisition companies is boosting EV enthusiasm or whether it’s the other way around. At some point, the financial hype will overtake the reality of manufacturing and sales on the ground for these companies. At this rate, it appears sooner rather than later. . . .

. . . . In another sign that in California these days every season is fire season, power company PG&E (PCG) said over the weekend that gusty conditions in the central valley on Monday forced it to shut off power to thousands of customers in places such as the Bay Area, Sonoma, Fresno and the Sierra foothills. See the record wind-gust numbers in our data point below. Wildfire scares during January, the peak of the state’s traditional rainy season, are unprecedented. But with the usual rains not appearing, there is little to stop them from igniting when the winds blow hard enough to down power lines. Those sunny days we locals are enjoying now are the flip side to the heat we can expect in coming months. . . .

. . . . And finally a shoutout to my old USA Today colleague from Los Angeles, Jefferson Graham, for taking his photography, tech reporting, and writing talents to Substack with a new newsletter. Go sign up now. It’s free. . . .

Daniel Yergin takes on climate change: book review

. . . . Energy watchers will assume BP stands for the British oil company, but in Daniel Yergin’s new book, it means “Before Paris,” writes Jack Hamilton in a book review of The New Map: Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations. Yergin finds the world changed its attitude toward global warming with The Paris Agreement of 2015, but that the transition to renewable energy will be political and messy. And the recent trend in some countries toward populist, nationalistic governments will only make it worse.

Yergin emphasizes that technological advances are not enough. Solutions depend on international collective action, precisely as the Paris agreements recognized.

The environmentally sensitive disposal of plastics, a byproduct of petrochemicals, is not a matter of outlawing plastic straws in American communities. The United States accounts for less than 1% of plastic waste in oceans. “About 90% of river-sourced plastic pollution in the oceans comes from uncontrolled dumping into 10 rivers and Asia and Africa.” [p. 416] Dealing with this requires that wealthy countries financially help the poorer take remedial action. . . .

Read the full review

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