It has been over a year since our daily lives were modified by the COVID-19 pandemic. The shutdown of our countries’ activities has already had heavy effects on the economy, education, mental health, and has brought to light models that are probably here to stay, at least in some forms.
December 2020 was the fifth anniversary of the Paris climate accord, marked by a climate summit held in the UK with 70 world leaders. In advance of this milestone, the UK threw down the gauntlet to other countries by elevating their emissions reduction target to 68% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, 11% higher than the previous target. These targets are considered the second toughest in the world, following only those of Sweden.
Bill Gates recently published his new book, a green manifesto called ‘How to Avoid a Climate Disaster’. We’re still reading our copy but we believe a core element to this manifesto is noteworthy – addressing the price differential between a fossil-fuel-based way of doing something and the clean, non-emitting way of doing the same thing – what Mr Gates calls the Green Premium.
This week South Korea became the third large Asian economy to pledge carbon neutrality, marking a major milestone for the fight against climate change. All three countries, China, Japan and South Korea, are in the top 10 country emitters of carbon dioxide in the world due to a continued reliance on coal-powered energy, and together represent over a third of annual global emissions.
California seems to be in the eye of the storm at the moment when it comes to the impacts of climate change. Images of yellow smoke-filled skies are proliferating news sources and social media, the result of wildfires that are seasonal for the state due to hot and dry weather, but that this year have burned through over 5 million acres already, worse than any year in the history books. The season for wildfires usually continues until December and may continue to force people to stay at home due to the air quality, further impacting businesses already reeling from the restrictions imposed by COVID-19.
We have written about renewable energy and the energy transition in Europe, the US and China. Today we look at Japan, where multiple factors collude to result in government policies that support a slower transition towards green energy, a source of frustration for many and garnering criticism.
The polarisation of American politics is a subject well covered with the Biden vs. Trump campaigns heating up as we close down on the three-month point before the election. Every nationwide poll currently has Biden leading by between 6 and 15 points, but there is plenty of time for this to change and polls are often wrong.
Of the recovery bills approved by global governments during the peak of the pandemic, little focused on a green recovery. Most were attentive to quick-acting programs to protect jobs and to ensure the survival of businesses.
A documentary film called ‘Planet of the Humans’ was recently released online to much controversy. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it describes itself as a “full-frontal assault on our sacred cows’, arguing that renewable energy and green movements have been hijacked by the traditional form of capitalism, and that these technologies are not as good for the environment or society as we’re led to believe.
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing enormous disruption to many parts of our lives – our health, our jobs, the economy, and our sense of security. It’s a devastating and global catastrophe. But one small silver lining is that it is creating a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to realise the environmental effect of our usual levels of human activity, and how quickly the natural world rebounds when we’re quarantined at home.