The truth about Joe Biden’s climate summit: Unrealistic pledges revealed as grandstanding

  • Date: 03/05/21
  • Financial Times

Of the top 20 global CO2 emitters, not a single one is hitting its climate goals as outlined under the Paris Agreement, according to recent data from the Climate Action Tracker.

The high-level pledges over the last year, in particular, have been impressive with major economies such as the European Union, Japan, South Korea and China all promising to get to ‘net-zero’ emissions or carbon neutrality at some future date,” Victoria Cuming, the head of global policy analysis at BNEF was quoted in February. “But the reality is that countries simply haven’t done enough at home with follow-through policies to meet even the promises made more than five years ago.”

At President Biden’s recent Leaders’ Summit on Climate, 40 world leaders repeated or made new emissions pledges and promised yet again to be very good. Most of these lofty pledges, however, look increasingly unrealistic, exposing governments to criticism of political hype and grandstanding.

When Yoshihide Suga pledged to slash Japan’s carbon emissions by 2030, the prime minister received a warm welcome from world leaders at Joe Biden’s climate summit. But his announcement sparked panic across Japan’s bureaucracy.

Policymaking in Japan normally involves a slow and painful process of building consensus. This time, however, Suga imposed the target — a 46 per cent reduction from 2013 levels by 2030 — with no consultation, little political debate and no analysis to confirm it is possible.

Officials are now rushing to turn the objective into concrete policy, with experts openly doubting its credibility and warning that the Japanese public has not been primed for the sacrifices it will require.

In comments that were taken as emblematic of the government’s lack of planning, Shinjiro Koizumi, the environment minister, sparked criticism and social media derision when he told a television programme that the 46 per cent figure had “just floated up”.

“The government is in total confusion,” said one member of the advisory panel in charge of devising the national energy strategy. “Japan hasn’t done anything to prepare for this.” […]

Taishi Sugiyama, research director at the Canon Institute for Global Studies, said the target was only achievable if Japan accepted a big hit to its economy. A 1 per cent reduction in emissions costs about ¥1tn ($9.1bn) a year, he said, so the 20 percentage point reduction would cost ¥20tn.

That would be equivalent to about 3.5 per cent of gross domestic product, implying that the carbon target would soak up much of the improvement in living standards expected for Japan’s low-growth economy by 2030.

Full story (£)

see also: The strange truth about Japan’s climate change target

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