Mike Bloomberg's plastics playbook - POLITICO

PLASTIC TACTICS — Mike Bloomberg came for coal; now he’s coming for plastic.

But the mayor/ magnate/multihyphenate’s new push to get petrochemical plants canceled across the Southeast will be tougher than his crusade against coal, E.A Crunden reports for POLITICO’s E&E News.

Bloomberg’s Beyond Coal campaign was a remarkable success: He pledged to retire 30 percent of U.S. coal plants before 2020 and wound up doubling that number, helping bring down national emissions by more than 600 million metric tons.

Beyond Petrochemicals, however, will confront different dynamics. Unlike coal, plastics are wildly popular and deeply interwoven into modern life. And they don’t have obvious replacements, as coal does. The U.N. projects plastic manufacturing will double by 2040.

The campaign just started two weeks ago; it’s not clear yet what its tactics will be, beyond bolstering environmental groups’ advocacy against proposed plants. But Seth Jaffe, an environmental compliance attorney with Foley Hoag LLP, noted the campaign’s emphasis on petrochemicals, rather than plastics, in its name and announcement.

“In modern regulatory lingo, the reduction in plastic pollution will just be a co-benefit of the campaign’s efforts to stop the construction or expansion of all these facilities,” Jaffe wrote. “I don’t know if this was part of the rationale behind the strategy, but it does allow the campaign to avoid having to discuss the convenience plastics deliver to consumers.”

RE-NEVER MIND — Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurer, announced Thursday that it would stop investing in and insuring new oil and gas projects starting next April.

“As an environmentally conscientious business, Munich Re aims to play its part in meeting the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement,” the company said in a statement.

It’s a big move, especially on the heels of its Lloyd’s of London arm announcing last week that it would exit new oil and gas underwriting.

With Swiss Re, Hannover Re and other European reinsurers making similar moves earlier this year, 43 percent of the reinsurance market by premiums is now restricting underwriting of the fossil fuel industry, according to Insure Our Future, a network of NGOs pushing for insurers to drop those companies.

Campaigners are hoping the shrinking number of companies willing to reinsure new oil and gas projects means the risk will get too concentrated for the ones remaining in the pool to absorb.

“Even if they wanted to pick up the business these companies are ending, it would be such a concentration of risk that it goes against all the basic principles of insurance and reinsurance,” said Lindsey Keenan, Insure Our Future’s European coordinator.

LETTER TO LARRY — Louisiana Treasurer John Schroder on Wednesday became the latest Republican to beat up on BlackRock over ESG. Schroder sent a letter to CEO Larry Fink saying he would pull almost all of the state’s $800 million in investments out of the world’s biggest asset manager by year’s end, our Jordan Wolman reports.

CHILD’S LABOR’S LOST — The Labor Department’s move this week to place Chinese batteries on a list of goods made with materials known to be produced with child or forced labor could add another wrinkle to the electric vehicle market, Jael Holzman and David Iaconangelo report for E&E.

It’s not binding — the list is mostly for informational purposes, and is “not intended to be punitive,” according to DOL. But it may serve as a warning to companies that customs agents may follow up with action.

The other side: Because it will take so long to shift to non-Chinese supply chains, the report might do nothing in the near term, while giving ammunition to clean-energy opponents who point to the sector’s overdependence on China.

“There is a danger with this labeling that it demonizes the EV industry, the battery industry,” said Mark Dummett, a researcher at Amnesty International who helped expose that children were mining cobalt in Congo, where China owns some of the largest mines. “Anyone worried about the state of the planet should be alarmed by that.”

HOW ARE WE DOING? — The world needs a better system for calculating greenhouse gas emissions. That’s according to a new paper released ahead of next month’s U.N. climate talks.

Some systems rely on bottom-up measurements that use observations of human activities. Some use top-down measurements that rely on measurements of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Some use a combination of both.

What we need, the report says, is a single global clearinghouse for greenhouse gas information from all over the world. Sounds daunting!

But the clearinghouse doesn’t need to be a single database, it says: It just needs to have data presented in standardized formats and with transparent information about how it was compiled.

Read more from Chelsea Harvey for POLITICO’s E&E News.

MALPASS’ MOVE — The IMF/World Bank annual meeting next week in Washington has a climate-heavy agenda, including panels on climate change and long-term growth, food insecurity, getting to net zero, climate justice and a defense of globalization’s ability to address climate change.

A session Thursday on “Investing in People and Planet: Financing the Low-Carbon, Resilient Transition” with recent climate-denier World Bank President David Malpass should be particularly interesting.

Happy Friday! Team Sustainability is editor Greg Mott, deputy editor Debra Kahn, and reporter Jordan Wolman. Reach us at [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected].

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— Texas is exempting a state agency from its requirement to divest from BlackRock Inc. in a what might be a test of a new anti-ESG law.

— An Australian company, inspired by the Inflation Reduction Act, is ramping up the first new U.S. cobalt mine in decades.

Microchip makers are seeing a “breathtaking” drop in demand for their products in a sign that the tech downturn might worsen.

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