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Two-thirds of Americans think the U.S. government is failing on climate change

June 25, 2020, 6:27 AM UTC

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The majority of U.S. adults think the government isn’t doing enough to tackle climate change. That’s the main takeaway from a report published this week by the Pew Research Center, based on a survey of close to 11,000 Americans.

The survey was conducted in the first week of May, when the U.S. was enduring some of its strictest lockdown measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It’s heartening the pandemic hasn’t dampened public concern for the environment but, at the same time, it hasn’t curtailed the Trump administration’s push to roll back environmental protections, either.

Nancy Ketcham-Colwill, a former EPA attorney who now volunteers with Save EPA, a group fighting administration policy, told the Financial Times, “Since the COVID-19 epidemic took hold, Trump has not eased up on efforts to roll back environmental protections. It’s been full steam ahead.”

Since taking office in 2016, the Trump administration has targeted 100 environmental policies for repeal, according to analysis from the New York Times. The affected policies cover issues including industrial and vehicular emission standards, the protection of nature reserves, and the need for federal infrastructure projects to plan for the long-term fallout of climate change. As of May, the New York Times reports, 66 rules have been rolled back, while 34 remain in the dismantling process.

According to the Financial Times, the administration is eager to ram through remaining rollbacks as soon as possible, so it will be harder for Democrats to reverse the decisions if they gain control of the Senate and the White House in November.

The Congressional Review Act permits rules published within the prior 60 “legislative days” to be repealed by a simple majority vote in the House and Senate, with the President’s approval; once 60 days pass, repeal requires the passage of a new law. It’s not clear how many “legislative days” there will be in this year, thanks to the pandemic.

The EPA says the rollback of rules is designed to “pare back burdensome ‘one size fits all’ overregulation for the American people.” The action is presumably not without supporters. Pew Research Center’s report found that, overwhelmingly, it’s Democrats who feel the government is doing “too little” to combat climate change: Only 35% of Republicans would say so, versus 89% of Democrats.

Attitudes about what measures should be implemented to prevent climate change are similarly partisan. Roughly 50% of Republicans favor tougher fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles versus 86% of Democrats; 55% of Republicans approve of carbon taxes versus 89% of Democrats; and 64% of Republicans endorse tougher restrictions on power plant emissions compared with 93% of Democrats.

The one policy where the two sides mostly agree is on tree planting—the solution to carbon emissions that’s perhaps the most dubious. Two reports published in Nature Sustainability this week raised new questions on the efficacy of mass forestation programs, but such schemes are easy PR wins.

In January, President Donald Trump signed the U.S. up for an initiative to plant a trillion trees around the world to absorb carbon emissions: 88% of Republicans approve; 92% of Democrats do, too.

Eamon Barrett
– eamon.barrett@fortune.com

CARBON COPY

Oil slick

British petroleum giant BP issued a $17.5 billion write down of its business as the pandemic hammers global oil demand. BP expects reduced demand for fossil fuels to continue into the post-pandemic era, claiming the virus has accelerated the world’s shift to lower carbon energy. The company write down continues CEO Bernard Looney’s efforts to slim down BP as it transitions to a low-carbon future. Wall Street Journal

Unilever

Unilever plans to make all of its operations and those of its suppliers carbon neutral by 2039, pledging $1.1 billion to climate-friendly initiatives over the next ten years. The consumer goods behemoth—which owns Dove, Ben & Jerry’s, Lux and much more—will also place labels on each of its 70,000 products to show how much greenhouse gas was emitted in the manufacturing and shipping process. Bloomberg

Amazon

Amazon announced it will launch a $2 billion venture capital fund to invest in green tech and sustainable development. The so-called Climate Pledge Fund will invest in sectors spanning transportation, logistics, energy, manufacturing and agriculture. The fund is supposed to help Amazon achieve its goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2040, as the e-commerce leader set out in its Climate Pledge last year. Wall Street Journal

Overhaul

France’s environment minister suggested the government would ban air travel on the shortest domestic routes to prevent budget carriers from picking up flights Air France-KLM was forced to abandon as part of a bailout package. Air France must make a “drastic reduction” of flights on routes where there is an alternative rail link of less than 2.5 hours. Bloomberg

Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto launched a board-led investigation into the company’s heritage management processes after the Australian miner blew up two sacred Aboriginal caves last month—and then stalled on issuing an apology. Meanwhile, the Minerals Council of Australia launched a new climate plan that is being criticized for lacking discernible targets. The plan sets no date for achieving net-zero emissions, for example. Financial Times

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

For BP, a path to zero emissions is taking shape. It’s going to cost them by Katherine Dunn

Why this analyst says the future of cars is electric—and Chinese by Grady McGregor

Corporate Germany has a race problem—and a lack of data is not helping by David Meyer 

‘Personnel overhang’: All the job cuts each airline has announced so far by David Meyer 

Tesla sets a new date for ‘Battery Day’ showcase of its new technology and production line by David Z. Morris 

Former Unilever CEO Paul Polman wants business leaders to accelerate corporate responsibility efforts by McKenna Moore

The pandemic’s economic crunch is fueling the rise of the resale market by Phil Wahba

CLOSING NUMBER

$300 billion

U.S. shale companies face a potential $300 billion write down of assets in the second quarter this year, Deloitte says in a new report, citing the collapse in oil prices wrought by the pandemic and OPEC price wars. The write down could increase the sector’s leverage from 40% to 54%, triggering insolvencies and restructuring.