Overnight Energy & Environment

Energy & Environment — Beyond COP26

Welcome to Monday’s Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. Subscribe here: digital-stage.thehill.com/newsletter-signUp.

Today we’re looking at the final results from COP26, a Biden administration decision on oil and gas leasing and the EPA’s first national recycling plan.

For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Write to us with tips: rfrazin@digital-stage.thehill.com and zbudryk@digital-stage.thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @RachelFrazin and @BudrykZack.

Let’s jump in.

US, UK hail deal but acknowledge challenge 


The COP26 international climate summit concluded in overtime Saturday, with text that for the first time mentioned fossil fuels, the primary driver of climate change. Despite the agreement, the final text has been met with mixed responses, with major western powers acknowledging it’s only a first step.

What’s in the deal?

The agreement calls for countries to step up their ambitions on climate change by strengthening their 2030 climate targets by the end of next year. It specifically calls for global carbon dioxide emissions to be cut 45 percent by 2030 when compared to 2010 levels. 

Developed countries also agreed to at least double their collective financing for assisting developing countries to adapt to climate-related harms by 2025. 

For the first time, the agreement will include explicit mentions of coal and fossil fuels, but after objections from India and Iran, the language surrounding coal was weakened at the last minute. 

India proposed an amendment changing language that had previously called for phasing out unabated coal rather than phasing it down that was ultimately added into the final language. 

Unabated coal is that which uses technology to capture its emissions. A previous draft that was not adopted would have called for a phaseout of all coal, so the latest language comes after the language was already softened previously. 

The agreement also calls for countries to eliminate “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies. A draft from earlier this week had called for the elimination of all fossil fuel subsidies, but on Friday, the language was changed to add the qualifying adjective. 

Global leaders also reached an agreement on the rules for carbon offset markets, in which countries can get credit against their emissions for financing climate cooling activities.


Special Presidential Climate Envoy John Kerry praised the deal reached at the climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, saying it will help the world avoid “climate chaos,” while also taking issue with the way a last-minute change in the deal was achieved.  

“I really do believe that as a result of this decision and as a result of the announcements that have been made over course of the last two weeks, we are in fact, closer than we have ever been before to avoiding climate chaos and securing cleaner air, safer water and [a] healthier planet,” Kerry said during a press conference after the deal was agreed to. 

Nearly 200 countries agreed to the “Glasgow Climate Pact” on Saturday. But some language in the deal relating to coal was watered down at the last minute amid a push from India.

The country proposed an amendment just before the deal was finalized, changing language calling for a “phaseout” of unabated coal to instead call it a “phase down.” 

British PM Johnson says COP26 deal ‘game-changing’ but ‘tinged with disappointment’

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson voiced some dismay over the result of the United Nations Climate Conference in Glasgow despite what he called a “game-changing” international pact reached at the summit.

“My delight at this progress is tinged with disappointment,” Johnson said after his government hosted the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, according to Politico.

“Those for whom climate change is already a matter of life and death, who can only stand by as their islands are submerged, their farmlands turn to desert, their homes battered by storms — they demanded a high level of ambition for this summit,” the prime minister added.

“While many of us were willing to go there, that wasn’t true of everybody. Sadly that’s the nature of diplomacy.”

Interior proposes drilling ban near tribal site

The Biden administration on Monday announced that it will propose a 20-year ban on new mining and oil and gas drilling in the area surrounding Chaco Canyon — a New Mexico site with significance to Native American tribes. 

The Interior Department said it will propose making lands surrounding Chaco Canyon, which itself is already protected as a National Historical Park, ineligible for new oil and gas leasing or new mining claims. 

The move, which the administration described as creating a 10-mile buffer around the park, will not impact existing leases and claims. 

Instead, the Bureau of Land Management will seek to make sure that development that occurs through these allowances does so in manners that “avoid or minimize” impacts to protected areas. 

“Chaco Canyon is a sacred place that holds deep meaning for the Indigenous peoples whose ancestors lived, worked, and thrived in that high desert community,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement.

The background: The announcement comes as the White House gears up for a Monday summit with tribes.

A fact sheet previewing this event noted that area Pueblos and other tribes have expressed concerns about oil and gas development in particular threatening sacred and cultural sites over the course of the last decade.

Read more about the announcement here.


EPA unveils national recycling plan with goal of 50 percent rate

EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C., on June 3

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday issued the final draft of its first “National Recycling Strategy,” aiming to achieve a 50 percent nationwide recycling rate by 2030.

The program, first announced nearly a year ago, takes aim at the greenhouse gas emissions generated by production, use and disposal of certain materials.

The United Nations Environment Program’s (UNEP) International Resource Panel has estimated such activity comprises about half of all greenhouse gas emissions. Most plastics are created using fossil fuels, and UNEP projects about 300 million metric tons of plastic waste are generated a year.

What are the objectives? The strategy has five key objectives: improving markets for recycled goods; increasing collection of recyclables and improving collection and recycling infrastructure; reducing contamination in the recycling supply chain; enhanced federal recycling coordination; and improved data collection and standardized definitions for the recycling process.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan, who has frequently emphasized the agency’s role in reducing harms to vulnerable communities, said the strategy will also seek to address the burden that proximity to waste creates for those communities.

“As we move forward with this strategy, EPA is committed to ensuring that historically underserved and overburdened communities share in the benefits that our work will deliver,” Regan said in a statement. “Together with the historic investments in recycling from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, the strategy will help transform recycling and solid waste management across the country while creating jobs and strengthening our economy.”

Read more about the announcement here.

Schumer presses Biden to tap oil reserves to lower gas prices

Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) addresses reporters after the weekly policy luncheon on Tuesday, October 19, 2021.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y) urged the Biden administration on Sunday to make use of emergency petroleum reserves in an effort to lower gas prices ahead of the holiday season.

“We’re here today because we need immediate relief at the gas pump and the place to look is the Strategic Petroleum Reserve,” Schumer said during a press conference in New York on Sunday, according to Reuters

“No industry is spared. But fuel gasoline is the worst of all,” Schumer said of the ongoing supply chain disruptions. “Let’s get the price of gas down right now. And this will do it.”

But analysts have said that making use of the reserves would provide only a short-term solution and wouldn’t increase the country’s production capabilities, Reuters reported.

While Biden has not committed to tapping the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which is located in caverns on the coasts of Texas and Louisiana, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has said he’s considering it. 

“That’s one of the tools that he has, and he’s certainly looking at that,” Granholm said last weekend  on CNN.

Read more about Schumer’s remarks here.


  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will vote on the nominations of Laura Daniel-Davis to be Interior’s assistant secretary for land and minerals management and Sara Bronin chair Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee will also hold a hearing on energy price trends
  • The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on national security implications of climate change in the arctic 
  • The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing called “Plugging in Public Lands: Transmission Infrastructure for Renewable Energy.”



India’s Last-Minute Coal Defense at COP26 Hid Role of China, U.S., Bloomberg reports 

Drilling for ‘white gold’ is happening right now at the Salton Sea, The Los Angeles Times reports

Justices turn away VW appeals over emissions scandal suits, The Associated Press reports

Meet Mitch Landrieu, Biden’s $1.2T man, E&E News reports



Greta Thunberg dismisses COP26 pact: ‘The real work continues outside these halls’

Gas prices dip but remain more than $1 higher than this time last year

And finally, something offbeat and (somewhat) on-beat: Bear with us

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s energy & environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.


Tags Boris Johnson Chuck Schumer Deb Haaland Greta Thunberg Jennifer Granholm John Kerry Michael Regan

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