A red governor enters a police officer

TELL ME IF YOU HEARD THIS – A conservative Republican governor from a barn-red state walks into a climate conference.

It might sound like the start of a joke, but it happened last week when the governor of Indiana. Eric Holcomb attended the 27th round of annual UN climate talks in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt — the only Midwest governor present and the first Indiana governor to ever attend.

Holcomb is not exactly a climate activist. He believes that “multiple sources” affect climate, not just human activities. He also welcomed Donald Trump’s move in 2017 to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, saying states know best how to manage their energy portfolios. But his presence at the conference marks a new moment in the fight against climate change, as green energy economic development opportunities attract unlikely converts.

To compete with other states — and in some cases nations — for clean energy jobs, governors like Holcomb are becoming increasingly pragmatic about where they seek an advantage. In 2021, 47 foreign-owned companies have committed to locate or grow in Indiana, according to the governor’s office.

“I want to make sure our auto industry is thriving, not just tomorrow, but 10 years from now, 20 years from now,” Holcomb said in a Zoom interview.

He says the old Republican false dichotomy on climate change is “not an either/or proposition. Neither is she [choosing] the economy or the environment. It can be both.”

At COP 27, Holcomb met with automakers like General Motors Co. and agribusinesses like Corteva AgriScience. He delivered the opening remarks for an electric vehicle session and highlighted Indiana’s investments from companies such as Cummins Inc., Stellantis NV, Samsung SDI Co. and Toyota Motor Corp.

And his presence earned him the ire of conservative Club for Growth President and fellow Hoosier David McIntosh, who criticized Holcomb’s visit in an op-ed in The Indianapolis Star, writing that “the vigilance programs emerging from the UN’s COP27 will have an outsized and long-term devastating impact on Indiana.”

“It’s not an Illuminati conspiracy or gathering,” Holcomb replied.

Among his right-wing critics, Holcomb cited his great-grandfather, a blacksmith in Knox County, Indiana in the 1880s through the 1940s, who saw the transition from horses to automobiles.

“Some people probably said the same thing about my great-grandfather when he stopped shoeing horses and said, ‘Oh my God, the end is near.’ “But I tend to accept where we’re going. But my responsibility is Indiana and the rate of growth in terms of manufacturing and agriculture. It’s at an all-time high and I think it will continue down that path for years to come.”

EIGHT BILLION, BUT WHO COUNTS – Since China, it is no longer en vogue to talk about population and the environment attempts to claim emission reduction benefits from his one-child policy. Some try anyway.

Discussions about population quickly encounter political blockades on a global level. Such talk smacks of rich countries hoisting the drawbridge behind them, just as developing countries accuse the rich of hypocrisy when they get them to cut their carbon emissions — or worse, given that the core issue is reproductive freedom.

Focusing on one’s yard is almost as stressful: advanced and aging economies are more concerned with finding people to care for the elderly and contribute to their retirement savings. The suggestion that US fertility has been below the replacement rate for decades quickly detracts from Tucker Carlson’s immigration policy and territory.

Exhibit A: the The development of the Sierra Club from a proponent of limiting population and immigration in the 1970s to an ardent opponent of any effort to link population and climate change. “Contraception and family planning are not climate action,” the group said in its statement, updated earlier this year.

And in the techno-optimistic zeitgeist, wringing hands over the population can appear inhuman and pessimistic. If focusing on one’s carbon footprint is the result of successful deception by corporate interests, then choosing not to have children to save the planet is the ultimate act of surrender.

“A lot of people have shied away from talking about it because they’re like, ‘There’s no way you can do this,'” he said Stephanie FeldsteinDirector of Population and Sustainability for the Center for Biodiversity, which has spent more than a million Endangered species condoms since 2009.

Advocates have been working on softer messages centered around “gender and reproductive justice” both in the US and abroad. The nonprofit population group Population Connection, one of the original population groups from the 1960s, cites USAID surveys that found 218 million women in low- to middle-income countries have unmet family planning needs. But it still makes the fundamental point that population is a key driver of emissions alongside consumption.

“The IPCC is constantly releasing reports based on different scenarios of what the future might be like,” he said Marian Starkey, spokesperson for Population Connection. The scenarios are based on population growth, economic growth and technology, she stressed. “It’s hard to argue that population growth doesn’t matter when it’s one of the three components of these results,” she said.

FIRST AT LG — Anti-ESG proponents may not have gotten a big boost from the midterms, but they’re not wasting momentum, our Jordan Wolman reports exclusively for POLITICO.

A conservative group that has been at the forefront of the Red State’s attacks on Wall Street’s introduction of sustainable investment policies is forming a new nonprofit to boost its political activities.

Will HildeExecutive director of Consumers’ Research, said the spinoff lobby group called Consumers’ Defense will be the first to specifically address “ESG fraud.”

“We needed a tool that would allow us to make clear how consumer interests should be protected from ESG,” said Hild. “We decided it made sense to introduce a 501(c)4 that can support legislation, which can be very specific about how we speak to legislators and government officials.”

The group plans to hire lobbyists in several states over the next year to push legislation that would either strengthen pension fund managers’ fiduciary duties or a more aggressive “energy boycott” law that would direct certain state agencies to divest themselves of companies that are said to be merging refuse to do business with fossil fuels. Hild predicts that 12 to 20 states will debate these bills next year.

WHERE IS THE METHANE? — Methane emissions from the 15 largest meat and dairy companies are greater than some of the world’s largest economies, including Germany and Russia, a new report from estimates by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and the Changing Markets Foundation.

Business methane accounts for more than 3 percent of global methane emissions from human activity, the report estimates. Tyson Foods alone has a methane footprint equivalent to that of Russia’s entire livestock sector, writes POLITICO’s Marcia Brown.

The report comes as 40 countries plan to release it national methane reduction plans at this week’s COP27 as part of the Global Methane Pledge Ministerial, an effort to cut global methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030. The report’s authors argue that meat and dairy production is slowing and may need to shrink.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack declined to say in a call with reporters Monday whether people need to eat less meat and dairy to meet international emissions targets. He added that significant methane emissions come from sources other than livestock and pointed to other USDA efforts to reduce methane emissions, such as: tackling food loss and waste, and animal feed additives.

CONTINUE TO PLAY – Welcome to the Long Game, where we bring you the latest in efforts to shape our future. Tuesday through Friday, we deliver data-driven storytelling, compelling interviews with industry leaders and politicians, and news to keep you informed about sustainability.

Team Sustainability is editor Gregory MottDeputy Editor in Chief Debra Khan and reporters Jordan Wolmann and Allison Prang. Reach us all at [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected].

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