China, Japan the EU and Canada have made major policy changes in the past week, discover more below

Japan Declares climate crisis

A Japanese Environmental Ministry Whitepaper referred to the effects of global warming as a “climate crisis” this week. This follows 2019 being the nation’s hottest year of all time and a marked increase in weather events such as October’s Typhoon Hagibis.

The paper suggested that climate change was a threat to humanities’ existence and stressed that renewables should become Japan’s primary energy source.

Koizumi Shinjiro the nation’s minister of environment stated the ministry considered the whitepaper a “climate crisis declaration” to be impressed upon its citizens. He went on to stress the importance of avoiding a post-pandemic emissions rebound. Japan remains heavily reliant on coal and has been criticised for its lack of environmental policy, commentators speculate this may mark a change of tack for Shinzo Abe’s government and the nation.

China takes removes “green coal” projects from green bonds

The People’s Bank of China has eliminated ‘clean coal’ projects from their list of investments eligible for ‘green bonds’ in a draft of updated guidelines. Despite pronounced criticisms from international sustainable investment standards bodies and NGOs, Chinese investors pumped billions in green investments to coal projects in which emissions were reduced or eliminated while the industry was eligible for green bonds from 2015 to present.

China utilised green bonds to finance its pollution reduction efforts over the last decade, but this change has been hailed as an indication of a shift in focus toward greenhouse mitigation. Meanwhile, shared bicycle services and EV infrastructure were both made eligible for green bonds.

Sean Kidney of the Climate Bonds Initiative dubbed the regulatory changes as a “hugely significant step … welcomed by international investors”.

Canada to relax restrictions on oil sands

Canadian oil-sands producers Suncor Energy and Canadian Natural Resources have cut green to mitigate COV-19 related losses. This follows a number of oil companies leaving Canada in recent years due to high costs, and restrictions from investors to encourage cleaner oil sands extraction and use (oil sands emissions being among the highest of any fossil fuel 39kg CO2 per barrel of oil extracted).

Projects cut included wind farms, a co-generation plant and bitumen removal from fuel projects. Following America’s suit, the state of Alberta, Canada’s leading oil producer lowered the stringency of environmental restrictions on the industry, which has been met with criticism by investors and NGO’s alike. Multitudes of investors have distanced themselves from tar-sands over the last decade. for their poor carbon credentials. J. Bergan head of responsible investments at KLM said that cuts to green projects by oil-sands producers had “strengthened [their] view on the matter”.

EU faces backlash over Blackrock appointment

Outrage ensued after the EU voted for BlackRock to advise on the integration of sustainability into it’s banking regulations. Questions about the firm’s suitability, which have been voiced by at least 85 MEPs and 92 NGOs, stem from BlackRock’s voting history with respect to ESG issues.

BlackRock has voted against over 80% of climate resolutions in firms it owns shares in. French Economist and MEP Aurore Laluq said that BlackRock’s selection for the advisory position would mean “the world after COVID-19 remains the same as before”. While the European parliament is not obligated to evaluate it’s decision, mounting pressure and media coverage is thought to be likely to have some sway.

  1. Jiji Press, Nippon June 2020
  2. Christian Shepherd, Financial Times June 2020
  3. Rod Nickel, Jeff Lewis, Reuters June 2020
  4. Billy Nauman, Patrick Temple-West, Siobhan Riding, Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson, Financial Times June 2020