Martin Levy

Martin Levy is an associate in the firm’s Washington’s office. He is a member of the Environmental and Energy Regulatory practice, focusing on low-carbon and renewable energy incentives, carbon markets, environmental marketing claims, and other corporate climate change initiatives. He advises power generators, technology companies, and financial institutions on how to better align their business practices with “net zero” commitments. Before joining Covington, Martin was a vetting attorney with the Biden-Harris Presidential Transition, a law clerk at the Eastern District of New York, and an undergraduate environmental law instructor at Boston College.

What You Need to Know.

  • After two days of intense negotiations, world leaders adopted a draft decision that sets out international climate priorities in response to the findings of the first Global Stocktake under the Paris Agreement.  The decision covers several thematic areas, including mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation and resilience in the face of climate change, financing and means of implementation and support for climate projects, and loss and damage funding for climate-vulnerable nations.  The text of the draft decision can be found on the UNFCCC’s website here.
  • The most highly scrutinized and heavily debated aspect of the agreement was the path forward on the use of fossil fuels, greenhouse gas emissions from which, the decision notes, have “unequivocally caused global warming of about 1.1 °C.”  Recognizing the need for deep, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in line with 1.5 °C pathways, the decision calls on Parties to contribute to the following efforts related to the energy transition and fossil fuel use:
    • Tripling renewable energy capacity globally and doubling the global average annual rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030;
    • Accelerating efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power;
    • Accelerating efforts globally towards net zero emission energy systems, utilizing zero- and low-carbon fuels well before or by around mid-century;
    • Transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science;”
    • Accelerating zero- and low-emission technologies, including, inter alia, renewables, nuclear, abatement and removal technologies such as carbon capture and utilization and storage, particularly in hard-to-abate sectors, and low-carbon hydrogen production;
    • Accelerating and substantially reducing non-carbon-dioxide emissions globally, including in particular methane emissions by 2030;
    • Accelerating the reduction of emissions from road transport on a range of pathways, including through development of infrastructure and rapid deployment of zero and low-emission vehicles; and
    • Phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that do not address energy poverty or just transitions, as soon as possible;
  • While coal has been mentioned in previous COP decisions, the language on “transitioning away from fossil fuels” represents the first time that countries have agreed to language that explicitly curtails all fossil fuels in the nearly three-decades-long history of the UN climate summit.  Though hailed by COP28 President Al Jaber and other world leaders as a “historic package to accelerate climate action,” the decision, and how it was adopted, was not without its critics.
    • UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell pushed the world to strive for more action.  “COP 28 also needed to signal a hard stop to humanity’s core climate problem—fossil fuels and their planet-burning pollution.  Whilst we didn’t turn the page on the fossil fuel era in Dubai, this outcome is the beginning of the end.”
    • Anne Rasmussen, lead delegate for Samoa, complained that delegates of the small island nation nations weren’t even in the room when President Al Jaber announced the deal was done.  Garnering the longest applause of the session, Rasmussen declared that “the course correction that is needed has not been secured” and that the deal could “potentially take us backward rather than forward.”

Continue Reading COP28 Final Negotiations Recap: A Global Agreement to Transition Away from Fossil Fuels

What You Need to Know.

  • The thematic focus of the day’s programming was on nature, land use, and ocean, including events on scaling effective solutions that protect, restore, and beneficially manage nature ecosystems, addressing drivers of nature loss, empowering Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and creating resilient livelihoods.  As part of this discussion, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) launched a report highlighting that nearly $7 trillion of public and private finance each year supports activities that directly harm nature—thirty times the amount spent annually on “nature-based solutions,” or actions to protect, conserve, restore, sustainably use, and manage natural resources that simultaneously provide human well-being, ecosystem, and resilience and biodiversity benefits.
  • Late Friday evening, various news organizations reported that the head of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) sent a letter to its thirteen members as well as ten additional countries (altogether known as “OPEC plus”), highlighting the increased pressure to reach an agreement to phase out fossil fuels at COP28.  The letter urged the OPEC plus nations to “reject any text or formula that targets energy i.e. fossil fuels rather than emissions.”
  • Various high-level officials from international organizations or countries central to the energy transition made statements in favor of reaching an agreement to curb fossil-fuel production.  Dr. Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, noted that it is “imperative” that countries agree to an “orderly and just decline in fossil fuels in line with our international climate goals.”  These comments were echoed by Xie Zhenhua, China’s climate envoy, who noted China’s desire to see an agreement that would reduce fossil fuel consumption, and Alok Sharma, the president of the COP26 summit in Glasgow, who stated that “If you’re going to keep 1.5C alive” countries need both “language on a phase-out of fossil fuels” and “a credible implementation plan.”
  • The Netherlands launched a coalition to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, along with Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Spain, Finland, Antigua and Barbuda, Canada, France, Denmark, Costa Rica, Luxemburg.  The coalition has three pillars: (1) publishing a list of their fossil fuel subsidies before COP29; (2) working together to identify and address international barriers to phasing out fossil subsidies; and (3) shaping an international dialogue to share knowledge, develop national strategies for phasing out fossil benefits, and seek joint action to minimize carbon leakage.

Continue Reading COP28 Day 9 Recap: Nature, Land Use, Oceans, and Nature-Based Solutions

What You Need to Know.

  • Two years ago, governments at COP26 agreed to “phase down” the use of unabated coal. This year, countries remain split on specific language concerning fossil fuels more broadly.
  • draft version of the climate agreement for COP28 provides three different options for the future of fossil fuel use.  The first requires the parties of COP28 to commit to “an orderly and just phase out of fossil fuels,” while the second would instead commit to “accelerating efforts towards phasing out unabated fossil fuels and to rapidly reducing their use so as to achieve net-zero CO2 in energy systems by or around mid-century.”  The third option would contain no text on this point.  Saudi Arabia’s energy minister has already rejected any language that would phase out fossil fuels.  And at the same time, NGO reports have sharply criticized the outsized role of fossil fuel lobbyists at COP28, especially at a time when the stakes are high for the energy transition.  
  • As COP28 reaches its midway point, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released a new report finding that between 2011 and 2020, more countries reported record high temperatures than in any other decade.  Glaciers shrank more than ever from 2011 and 2020 and the Antarctic ice sheet lost 75 percent more mass compared to the previous ten years.  The report concludes there is no sign of immediate warming reversing, and that each decade since the 1990s has been warmer than the previous one. 
  • Amidst this sobering backdrop, six of the world’s largest dairy companies—Danone, Bel Group, General Mills, Lactalis USA, Kraft Heinz, and Nestle—joined the Dairy Methane Action Alliance.  Initiative members will annually account for and publicly disclose methane emissions within their dairy supply chains and publish and implement a methane action plan by the end of 2024.  This private sector action on methane joins EPA’s announcement just days ago of a final rule that will reduce methane and other harmful air pollutants from the oil and natural gas sector.
  • Six more countries joined twenty-seven previously announced nations to sign on to the Global Memorandum of Understanding on Zero-Emission Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles.  The agreement calls for signatories to commit to working together to enable 100% new zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sales by 2040 at the latest, with an interim goal of at least 30% new sales by 2030.
  • The U.S. Department of State announced a suite of Export-Import Bank financial tools to support the deployment of small modular reactor nuclear energy systems and help U.S. exporters compete in this global market.  Additionally, the United States, Canada, Japan, France, and the United Kingdom announced their collective intent to support increased deployment of zero-carbon, peaceful nuclear energy by expanding nuclear fuel production capacity across trusted, high-quality suppliers free from manipulation and influence.

Continue Reading COP28 Day 6 Recap: Draft Agreement Lays Out Options Concerning Potential “Phase Out” of Fossil Fuels

What You Need to Know.

  • The fourth Day of COP28 saw the first-ever Health Day at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference.  In collaboration with the World Health Organization, Health Day included programing that showcased the links between the impacts of climate change on human health and methods for identifying and scaling adaptation measures to address these impacts.
  • Tensions and debate remained high around whether the world should commit to “phase out” or merely “phase down” fossil fuels.  On the same day that the Guardian reported statements from COP28 President Al Jaber that “[t]here is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phase-out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5C,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres noted that the Day 3 pledges by several major oil and gas companies to reduce methane leaks from their pipelines by 2030 “clearly fall short of what is required” and “say[] nothing about eliminating emissions from fossil fuel consumption . . . .”
  • The UN’s High Level Expert Group on Net-Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities launched a Taskforce on Net-Zero Policy to ensure the credibility and accountability of net-zero commitments.  Taskforce constituents include, among others, the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), the United Nations Environment Program – Finance Initiative, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the Vulnerable 20 Group, and the International Financial Reporting Standards.  The taskforce’s objective is to share knowledge, practices, and insights that advance net-zero aligned policy.
  • During the World Climate Action Summit (WCAS), various governments and organizations unveiled $1.7 billion in new initiatives to further both climate and biodiversity goals, including $1 billion from a coalition of international institutions led by the Asian Development Bank.
  • On Day Two of the Business & Philanthropy Climate Forum—COP28’s multistakeholder engagement platform for the private sector—business and philanthropy leaders made additional pledges and announcements on renewable energy and green economy programs, commitments to preserving nature, a methane abatement accelerator, and  initiatives to decarbonize health supply chains.
  • The U.S. Department of State, the Bezos Earth Fund, and The Rockefeller Foundation presented the core framework of the Energy Transition Accelerator (ETA), a carbon finance platform aimed at catalyzing private capital to support energy transition strategies in developing and emerging economies.  The ETA aims to connect willing sellers and buyers employing high-integrity carbon crediting to support faster energy transition.

Continue Reading COP28 Day 4 Recap: The First COP Health Day

As noted in our COP27 recap, this year’s climate summit in Sharm el-Sheik involved both the historic creation of a fund to compensate countries most impacted by climate change, as well as lost opportunities to adopt more ambitious and accelerated climate mitigation commitments.  Perhaps hidden between these headlines, President Biden announced an initiative with significant implications for federal contractors.  Under this proposal, the United States would become the first country to require major government suppliers and contractors to set science-based emissions reduction targets aligned with the Paris Agreement.  It would also require contractors to disclose their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate risks. 

This initiative—the proposed Federal Supplier Climate Risks and Resilience Rule—would have wide-reaching impacts if ultimately finalized.  Collectively, the proposed rule would cover about 86 percent of the federal government’s supply chain GHG impacts and 86 percent of federal annual spending.  To put this in perspective, in the last fiscal year alone the United States purchased $630 billion in goods and services.

The comment period for the proposed Federal Supplier Climate Risks and Resilience Rule closes on January 13, 2023.  The proposed compliance requirements for major contractors would start two years after publication of a final rule.  If promulgated, this rule may be challenged in court along the lines of the Biden Administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors. Continue Reading US Government Proposes Rule Requiring Major Federal Contractors to Disclose Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Establish Science-Based Emissions Reduction Targets

On October 26, 2022, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) adopted a long-awaited rule[1] that will require listed companies to adopt and publicly file so-called “clawback” policies to recover erroneously awarded incentive-based compensation following accounting restatements. Companies with securities listed on national securities exchanges, including NYSE and Nasdaq, will be required to implement such policies within 60 days of the effective date of new listing standards, which the exchanges must adopt within 12 months of the new rule’s publication in the Federal Register. Companies who fail to comply will be subject to delisting.

The most significant deviation from the SEC’s initial proposal of the clawback rule in 2015 is that Rule 10D-1 will require companies to conduct a clawback analysis not only for “Big R” accounting restatements, which must be disclosed under Item 4.02(a) of Form 8-K, but also for “little r” accounting restatements, which involve the correction of errors in prior period financial statements when those financial statements are included in a current period filing.

Clawback Policy Requirements

Under the new rule, a listed company’s clawback policy must require the company to recover, reasonably promptly, erroneously awarded incentive-based compensation from persons who served as an executive officer at any time during the performance period for such incentive-based compensation and who received such compensation during the three fiscal years preceding the date on which the company is required to prepare an accounting restatement. The compensation to be recovered is the amount in excess of what would have been paid based on the restated results.Continue Reading SEC Requires Clawback Policy

In a series of prior blog posts, we previously highlighted the historic implications of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) for the U.S.’s international climate commitments, as well as for private companies navigating the energy transition.  Shortly after our series published, the Senate passed the IRA on Sunday August 7th with only minor modifications to the bill’s $369 billion in climate and clean energy spending.  Today, the House passed the IRA without any further changes, and soon hereafter President Biden is expected to sign it into law. 

However, this is only the beginning of the road; the IRA will have sweeping implications beyond the four corners of its pages.  In the coming months and years, we expect to see intense jockeying over agency rulemakings that will shape the IRA’s implementation, as well as determine its ultimate success as an energy policy.  

I. Congressional Permitting Reform

As an initial matter, it seems Congress has not finished its work revamping the nation’s climate and energy laws.  As part of his agreement to support the IRA, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced that “President Biden, Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi have committed to advancing a suite of commonsense permitting reforms this fall that will ensure all energy infrastructure, from transmission to pipelines and export facilities, can be efficiently and responsibly built to deliver energy safely around the country and to our allies.”  While the exact contours of this legislation are not currently known, Senator Manchin’s office recently released a legislative framework, which includes proposals to, among other things:Continue Reading House Passes Inflation Reduction Act, Marks a New Era for Climate Policy

Late on July 27, Sen. Joe Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer announced an agreement on the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA): a reconciliation package that implements prescription drug pricing reform, invests in Affordable Care Act health care subsidies, imposes a corporate minimum tax and improves tax enforcement, and—most relevant for this post—provides $369