Japan has just raised its target for reducing carbon emissions from 26 percent to 46 percent (by 2030 from 2013 levels). But how was this figure arrived at, environment minister Shinjiro Koizumi was asked? Through a careful analysis of the threat and a realistic assessment of what could be achieved, taking all relevant factors into consideration? Well, er no, according to Koizumi, the number 46 just appeared to him in ‘silhouette’ in a sort of vision.
Shinjiro Koizumi, son of former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, made the comments in an interview with the TV station TBS last weekend. The interviewer, despite her face mask, was clearly stunned by the revelation that the country’s emission target did not appear to have any scientific basis. She asked the minister to confirm what he had said; and he did.
Koizumi is known by the nicknames ‘sexy’ and ‘the poet’. Like his extravagantly coiffured Elvis-impersonating father, he is something of an unusual figure in the staid world of Japanese politics. He inherited his House of Representatives seat when his father retired in 2009 — still how things are often done here in Japan — and has been steadily climbing the pole ever since, unhindered by various gaffes, alleged scandals, and now visions, along the way.
He has plenty of fans. And the power of the Koizumi name, his boyband good looks (the diet building sells green tea-flavored ‘Shinji-rolls’ adorned with his likeness), and the glamour brought by his TV star wife got him briefly mentioned as a potential replacement for Shinzo Abe when the former prime minister stepped down last year. Some starry-eyed supporters see Shinji as the future — he’s only 40, a mere pup in Japan’s gerontocratic establishment — while others think he’s an over-promoted odd ball.
Despite his undoubted confidence, it is not entirely clear that Shinjiro Koizumi truly understands the environmental brief he is now tasked with. He first opposed the phasing out of nuclear power, now he supports it; but is also in favor of the construction of two new coal fired power stations in Yokosuka. As for the number 46, it has been suggested, not entirely seriously (but who knows?) that the reason it popped into his head is simply because the number has a buzzy resonance (Keyakizaka 46 and Nogizaka 46 are two of Japan’s most popular girl groups).
Prime Minister Suga has not commented on his environment minister’s green-tinged epiphany, but he confirmed the 46 percent pledge at the 40-leader climate summit presided over by President Joe Biden via Zoom last week.
Japan’s ambitious stance — carbon neutrality by 2050 is the ultimate goal — was in tune with the tenor of the event. Other notable contributions came from Ursula von der Leyen, who vowed to make Europe the first ‘carbon neutral continent’, while Angela Merkel warned that tackling climate change would require ‘a complete transformation of the way we do business and the way we work’. Biden himself added a ‘resistance is futile’ warning to naysayers when he declared the signs of climate change are ‘unmistakable’ and the science ‘undeniable’. Not that there were many naysayers, only Scott Morrison of Australia struck the faintest tinkling notes of skepticism.
World leaders like Suga, VDL and Biden are no doubt conscious of a shifting narrative in the air as the COVID story gradually fades away. They are eager to tack to the next prevailing wind. Boris Johnson is no exception, with the UK prime minister desperate to ensure that this year’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow is a hit.
From that event we can expect a torrent of dire warnings, urgent pleadings and reaffirmation of big promises for cuts in carbon emissions. The UK is well ahead here with a Greta-tastic 78 percent (by 2035 from 1990 levels); in the US it’s 50-52 percent (from 2005 levels by 2030), while the EU is aiming for 55 percent (2035/1990).
Perhaps we will also soon learn more about how these figures were arrived at. And what they really mean. And whether Boris, Joe, or Ursula are visionaries, like Shinjiro Koizumi.
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