As last week’s euphoria over Biden’s bold climate commitments and EU’s green legislative advances slowly fades away, I catch myself humming that classic ABBA New Year tune. Yes, this year’s Earth Day party is over, no more champagne and fireworks, but hopefully we may still “have our hopes, our will to try; if we don’t, we might as well lay down and die.”
The aftermath has left me, alongside many others, I am sure, with mixed feelings. There is, on the one hand, a desire to embrace the avalanche of political goodwill and rejoice at these climate initiatives and attempts to standardise and regulate the wild west of green investing. Last week’s progress is, after all, “an extraordinary step that should be commended, and emulated by everyone,” as Christiana Figueres, one of the original negotiators of the Paris climate agreement, claims.
On the other hand, there are the critics. Some scientists are calling the new EU’s Taxonomy a greenwashing tool, while others claim that Biden’s pledge is neither ambitious nor fair, just smoke and mirrors. And the sceptical voice of young Greta, scolding the U.S. congressional committee last Thursday, reverberates still: “We’re not so naive that we believe things will be solved by countries and companies making vague, distant insufficient targets.” Her words remind me of other angry young activists, always demanding more, even the impossible.
So, here we are, wondering whether the future of decarbonization will be littered with broken promises and missed commitments. And whether these promises and commitments are stretching far enough, even if they are made in earnest.
I do admire Greta’s tireless efforts of putting pressure on those in power and holding them accountable for their (in)actions. It is, after all, our collective civic duty that she has taken upon her tiny shoulders to carry. So, if I sometimes want to defend politicians and businessmen who try to do the right thing, maybe it is just a symptom of being indoctrinated by the establishment. I am, however, old enough to remember when the first feed-in tariffs and renewable portfolio standards were introduced, and fiercely criticised by sceptical environmentalists. Admittedly, these policies for encouraging more wind and solar generation didn’t look all that promising at the time, yet without them, would we be able to view renewables as a viable alternative to fossil fuels today?
So, should we just give politicians and law makers a break, let them work their magic in peace, ever so slowly and methodically? By no means! Then they might decide to relax and fall into a comfortable slumber, reverting to feeble symbolic gestures, the way Sweden’s Green party has done. Let’s keep them on their toes, demand more, demand the impossible!
 Remember the slogan that leftist students scrawled on the walls of Paris during the turbulent summer of 1968? “Soyez realistes, demandez l’impossible,” or “Be realistic, demand the impossible.”
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