Will Corporations Walk The Walk?

The climate crisis this proxy season, new journalism awards, job opportunities and the week's climate news.

Climate activists with Stop The Money Pipeline held a rally in midtown Manhattan on April 17, 2021 at Blackrock's headquarters (Photo: Erik McGregor)

If it’s spring, it’s proxy season. A time when shareholders at public companies vote on board seats and other corporate practices—such as whether the companies in question are helping or hurting the fight to avoid climate catastrophe.

The world’s largest money manager, BlackRock, made big news last year when its CEO, Laurence Fink, announced BlackRock would be “increasingly disposed” to vote against directors at companies that aren’t doing enough to curb carbon pollution—no small threat, given the outsized voting power that BlackRock wields as such a large shareholder. The coming days will reveal how serious BlackRock is about that pledge. Today, BlackRock will vote on whether to retain the current CEO of Duke Energy Corp, a North Carolina-based utility company that has long been among America’s biggest polluters and has resisted a shift to clean energy.

And journalists will have plenty of additional opportunities to illuminate whether mega-investors are following through on talk about climate action. Proxy votes will take place at oil giants BP on May 12, Shell on May 18, and ExxonMobil on May 26. In the case of ExxonMobil, BlackRock and other shareholders will vote on whether to require the company to report on whether its lobbying operations align with the Paris Agreement and how a 2050 “net zero” emissions target would affect its bottom line.

Journalists wanting to cover these stories are invited to contact Covering Climate Now for background info, trustworthy sources, and more.

NEWS FROM US

New climate journalism awards: CCNow and Columbia Journalism Review have announced the Covering Climate Now Journalism Awards. Honoring exemplary journalism about the defining story of our time, the awards are open to journalists from every corner of the newsroom all over the world. NBC News’s Al Roker and Savannah Sellers will co-host the awards celebration in September. Help spread the word and submit your story for consideration by June 1.

Join us on Slack: In the last month, close to 100 journalists have joined our Slack workspace, where they’re chatting, brainstorming, collaborating, and more. Want to join? Send an email to our engagement editor, Mekdela Maskal: mekdela@coveringclimatenow.org.

Help us improve our joint coverage weeks: If you’re a partner, we’d appreciate seven minutes of your time to help us evaluate our recent #ClimateEmergencyWeek. Take the survey.

ESSENTIAL CLIMATE COVERAGE 

  • Drier and wetter: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s newly released climate normals reveal that weather across the US is warming, reports Chris Dolce for The Weather Channel, just as scientific models have long predicted. The data, released once every decade, shows the West is also becoming drier while the East is becoming wetter.

  • Last state first to tell it like it is: Hawaii has become the first US state to declare a “climate emergency,” joining 1,933 cities, town councils, and countries, including the European Union. For Grist, Kate Yoder writes that the non-binding emergency resolution acknowledges that an “existential climate emergency threatens humanity” and calls for immediate, statewide action to address the crisis.

  • A fighting chance: In a landmark climate case, Germany’s highest court has sided with youth activists, ruling that the country’s climate law is unconstitutional because it places too much of a burden for reducing greenhouse gas emissions on younger generations. The German government responded quickly, Bloomberg Green reports, promising bigger emissions cuts of 65 percent by 2030 and full carbon neutrality by 2045.

  • HFCs: The end is near? The EPA has proposed dramatically restricting the use of hydrofluorocarbons, the extremely powerful greenhouse gases used in refrigerators, air conditioners and building insulation, over the next 15 years. At Reuters, Valerie Volcovici writes that it’s equivalent to avoiding the combustion of one trillion tons of coal.

  • The specter of eco-facism: In a new lawsuit, Arizona attorney general Mark Brnovich, a Republican, seeks to reinstate immigration policies enacted during the Trump administration, arguing that President Joe Biden has failed to carry out mandatory environmental reviews of how more immigration could increase climate-changing pollution. HuffPost’s Alexander Kaufman writes that the move “is one of the highest-profile examples of how the political right will shift on climate change…”

  • A dangerous combination: The growing risk of overlapping heat waves and power failures poses a severe threat that major American cities are not prepared for, new research suggests. For The New York Times, Christopher Flavelle reports that power failures have increased by more than 60 percent since 2015, as climate change worsens heat waves.

  • The new normal: Current droughts in California are different from those that historically cycled through the Golden State, Climate Scientist Peter Gleick tells The Guardian’s Maanvi Singh. “The sooner we put in place policies to save water, the better off we are,” Gleick says.

  • When the good news isn’t so good: In New Mexico, coverage of the fossil fuel industry tends to skip over the climate connection, effectively doing the industry’s PR for it and failing to show how good business for the industry doesn’t necessarily mean good news for New Mexico or its economy. For Capital & Main, Jerry Redfern examines whether a depleted and stretched-thin local press is up to the task of providing accountability for the industry.

ODDS & ENDS

It’s about ‘survival and science’: For Columbia Journalism Review’s podcast “The Kicker,” CCNow executive director Mark Hertsgaard and Katrina vanden Heuvel, publisher of The Nation, join Kyle Pope, CJR’s editor and publisher, to discuss how CCNow can build on the successes of its first two years. News coverage of climate change has gotten noticeably better, all agreed, but the media still isn’t treating climate change like the emergency scientists say it is.

Environmental journalism grants: The Society for Environmental Journalism is accepting proposals for story grants of up to $5,000 covering, environment-climate-religion connections or environmental health and justice in the US. Learn more.

Job alerts: Climate Central is looking for an Editor/Writer. And NBC News’ climate unit is hiring a producer and an associate producer.

Free environmental journalism courses: The Thomson Foundation is offering three new online environmental journalism courses focusing on investigating local environmental storiesstorytelling, and safety.