Climate Home News offers some climate good news if you are keeping track of the world’s stock of net zero gestures. Bhutan is already there and South Korea is thinking of saying some stuff about it. The only storm cloud on this particular horizon is that there’s no actual action, just vague promises and suspicious carbon accounting. And a peculiar imbalance between the supposed urgency of the crisis and the willingness to accept empty gestures in place of bold action to meet it.
In case you’re not entirely au courant with Bhutan’s leadership in the climate change fight, it turns out they didn’t so much do something as say something. Specifically, CHN reports, “the Himalayan mountain kingdom of Bhutan is in the lead – it says that its forests and reliance on hydropower make it carbon negative already.” Well gee golly gosh. Is it really that easy? Because Canada has some trees too, and some hydro power, so I guess we can relax.
Meanwhile in Seoul, CHN is also very excited that the recently re-elected Democratic Party, praised for its effective response on COVID-19, “is on track to be the first East Asian nation to set a 2050 goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions”. Not to get to that goal. Not to move toward that goal in any convincing way. Just to make some vague promise that one day it might point to a grove of trees and say mission accomplished.
CHN does add that “Seoul’s commitment to carrying out its ‘Green New Deal’ plan will be a test of how far governments are willing to step up action to limit global warming”. But it doesn’t go on to say that based on the extent to which other governments have walked the walk, or haven’t, the answer is: not very far.
What it does say is almost as bad. After claiming the Democratic Party had secured a mandate “to push a climate manifesto to steer the country’s transformation into a low-carbon economy” rather than being reelected primarily because of its comparatively successful response to the pandemic, CDN then belches out the following oily cloud: “South Korea, heavily dependent on high-polluting coal, has a long way to go. Climate Action Tracker, which is compiled by European researchers, rates South Korea’s existing carbon-cutting measures to 2030 as ‘highly insufficient’ to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement to limit rising temperatures.” Which might matter. Elsewhere in Asia, Japan and Singapore have “set net zero goals that are hazier, both talking of the ‘earliest possible’ date in the second half of the century”.
So there’s a victory dance. There’s just no victory.