It’s up to Kishida to implement Suga’s climate goals

Documentary “I Am Greta”, about Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, opens in Japan later this month, about a year after its theatrical release and on streaming services in much of the rest of the world .

Given that the period covered by the film begins with Thunberg’s solo school strike in Stockholm in August 2018 to draw attention to the climate crisis and ends with his scathing denunciation of world leaders at the United Nations Summit on the climate action in September 2019 for their continued inaction, the film looks dated. The effects of climate change in the past year alone have been acute and devastating, not to mention that Thunberg was 15 when director Nathan Grossman started following her and she is now 18. She’s a an enormous and vital period in the life of any young person.

However, nothing has changed much in those three years in terms of the global response to the climate crisis, as Thunberg herself pointed out during her last appearance in the news cycle, when she was again lambasted world leaders, this time at the Youth4Climate summit. in Milan on September 28, for their lack of concrete action to solve the problem, claiming that all they offer is “blah blah blah” – meaningless phrases to appease those who are rightly afraid for their future in a world that is becoming less conducive to human life.

Thunberg understands the power she wields as a teenager over the imaginations of other young people. Those who brought the world to a state of disaster will all be dead soon, so they only care about maintaining the economic status quo. By the time Thunberg’s generation is old enough to wield power, the world will be too far away to be saved.

“Our hopes and dreams are drowned in their empty words and promises,” she said of promises to “build back better” and buzzwords like “green economy”.

Another platitude she doesn’t trust is “net zero emissions by 2050,” the cornerstone of Yoshihide Suga’s environmental plan after he became Prime Minister of Japan a year ago. At the time, the media were in awe, as Japan had so far offered only vague assurances that it would do its part in reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, a major source of global warming. For Thunberg, however, such statements mean nothing until they are translated into real action, so the question now is whether Suga’s successor Fumio Kishida will begin to achieve these goals.

According to a September 29 article in the Mainichi Shimbun, Kishida will not stray from the course set out by Suga, and the article points out that when Kishida was Minister of Foreign Affairs, he supported the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN and helped ratify the Paris Agreement on CO2 Emissions. He met “more than 40 times” his then US counterpart, John Kerry, who is now US President Joe Biden’s climate change envoy. According to an Environment Ministry bureaucrat interviewed by the Mainichi, these events signify that Kishida understands the importance of climate change “at the international level”. The problem now is to implement such measures over the “next five to ten years,” explains another bureaucrat, who is encouraged because Kishida properly listens to the opinions of the bureaucrats.

Such perceived intentions don’t always translate into meaningful actions, but a Mika Obayashi, director of the Renewable Energy Institute, professes his faith in government, telling the Mainichi that carbon neutrality is now Suga’s “legacy”, so there is no going back. It is as if the concern of a former prime minister about his place in history was enough to guarantee the elimination of CO2 emissions by 2050.

Can Thunberg count on Japanese youth to keep up the pressure? A Tokyo MXTV show hosted by former NHK reporter Jun Hori aired on August 6 featured “Generation Z” representatives confronting then Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi with About what the government is doing to reduce greenhouse gases. In July, the government proposed a bill to reduce household CO2 emissions by 66% by 2030, and during the debate, Koizumi explained a program to get schools to install solar panels. When Hori asked Koizumi when such programs will actually be implemented, Koizumi’s response was lacking in detail.

On September 24, during the campaign for president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, the candidates were interviewed by high school students, one of whom said he feared that if nothing is done, his generation could in kills the effects of climate change. Kishida responded by saying that individual actions play an important role in reducing emissions, such as switching to energy-saving LED bulbs and showering instead of bathing. Examining the exchange, reporter Rei Shiba pointed out that Kishida’s response was criticized by other young people on Twitter who said he did not act like climate change was a serious issue. Shiba added that Kishida’s comment conveyed ideas that were at least 10 years old.

More importantly, the solutions offered by Koizumi and Kishida place the burden of reducing emissions on the public. One of the sub-themes of “I Am Greta” is Thunberg’s sustainable lifestyle. She is a vegan with ascetic consumption habits who avoids air travel. Even when she traveled from Europe to New York to speak to the UN, she sailed across the Atlantic. It was a very uncomfortable trip, but she did it because she knows that all she has to insist on is her image of total dedication to the cause.

At the same time, she understands that such individual actions are insufficient. Only concerted global action will make a difference at this point, and this can only be accomplished by governments. In Japan, that means moving away from fossil fuels to generate electricity, which accounts for over 80% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

During a discussion on the web talk show in August, award-winning environmental activist Kimiko Hirata said that while Suga’s goals are ambitious, nothing realistic has been done to meet them so far. In fact, some in government were still talking about new construction of thermal power stations using coal. The media might be impressed by the government’s promises, but Thunberg is reportedly demanding receipts.

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