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"The world needs Japan’s leadership on the transition towards a carbon net-zero economy." (A solar plant in Shuzenji, Japan)
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Tuesday, 8 October, 2019

"The climate crisis is a battle for our lives and, currently, we are losing." - Mary Robinson speaks at the TCFD Summit in Tokyo, Japan.

 

This speech was delivered at a summit convened by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) in Tokyo, Japan on 7 October 2019.

Your excellences, ladies and gentleman,

It is a privilege and an honour to be here to address you today at the TCFD Summit, an event that could not have come at a more important time.

The world faces a climate emergency that presents an existential challenge to our existence. But whilst the stakes could not be higher, we also have the solutions at hand to prevent it – if only we seize the opportunity.

I use the word opportunity quite deliberately here today, because, from a business and investment perspective, I am convinced that the need to transition to a low-carbon future presents a range of economic benefits to those willing to fully engage in efforts to secure a sustainable planet.

The opportunity for innovation and competitiveness is compelling. According to Bloomberg, clean energy will account for 86 percent of the $10.2 trillion likely to be invested in power generation by 2040.

The Asia Pacific region - and the world - needs Japan’s leadership on the transition towards a carbon net-zero economy. This great nation has been one of the leading exemplars of innovation throughout history, and we need to see that spirit of innovation pivot away from fossil fuels and into industries that are enablers of the targets in the Paris Agreement.

I was pleased to learn that Japan has just joined the carbon neutrality coalition. Ireland has also just joined, so perhaps we can compete to see which country is carbon neutral first.

Leadership from members of the business and investment community, like yourselves, is particularly crucial, at a time when many political leaders are failing to take the necessary action.

Last month I attended the UN General Assembly and the Climate Action Summit in New York where, together with millions of others around the world, I called on governments to demonstrate courageous leadership on climate change.

Sadly, that leadership, for the most part, was missing. G20 nations – those major carbon emitters without whom we cannot possibly meet the Paris Agreement target of a 1.5 degree temperature rise – were unable or unwilling to come together and make the commitments needed to end fossil fuel use.

The science tells us that the world must be carbon neutral by 2050 if we are to avoid the worst consequences of the climate emergency. Around the world we are already seeing some of those consequences play out. I’m sure I do not need to remind you of the 2018 June-July floods in western and central Japan, which are estimated to have cost between $7 and $23 billion. Those floods were just one example of what we can expect to see with greater frequency and ferocity.

The climate crisis is a battle for our lives and, currently, we are losing.

The world faces a climate emergency that presents an existential challenge to our existence. But whilst the stakes could not be higher, we also have the solutions at hand to prevent it – if only we seize the opportunity.


Mary Robinson - Elder
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This is why this TCFD summit is so important. At a time when climate leadership from the world’s major economies is so desperately needed, I welcome this initiative by Prime Minister Abe, and I hope the important discussions that take place here in the coming days can swiftly move on to concerted action.

Japan should rightly be proud of the number of signatories it has brought together around the TCFD. Transparent disclosure of climate-related assets is a first, crucial, step to embedding climate risk decision-making in business. This matters because without business and finance playing a transformational role in the urgent shift to a carbon-free world there will be no transition to speak of.

I would also urge you to incorporate gender equality in your disclosure because of the strong gender impacts of climate change.

Japanese companies are already leading innovation on energy storage, electric vehicles and smart urban planning. Whilst this is welcomed, we now need to see the same innovative ambition and spirit of competitiveness focused on renewable energy supply at home and abroad too.

The financial risks of remaining wedded to a fossil fuel economy are already being witnessed, and we are seeing major Japanese companies and investors joining a global trend in moving away from non-renewable investment.

The world needs Japan’s great industrial powerhouses to recognise the imperative of rapidly committing to go fossil-fuel free – and the risk of not doing so. The future of our planet will not be well served if the titans of the industry become obsolete and defunct, because they did not act in time to adapt to the realities of our changing climate and economic paradigms.

The climate science is clear, the economics are inevitable and, I believe, public demand for action now has unstoppable momentum. It is time for Japan to revive the spirit of the Kyoto Protocol and once again lead the world on planetary sustainability.

Prime Minister Abe wrote in 2018 that “Spending money on green earth and blue ocean is a growth generator”, calling for more ‘disruptive innovation’ before it is too late.

The Elders fully support this sentiment, and I hope this summit can further expand the understanding of the opportunities for investment in green growth across the political and businesses community in Japan.

Thank you, and I look forward to fruitful discussion over the coming days.

 

Read Mary Robinson's speech in Japanese.

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