Closeup Japan

Japan aspires to become a low carbon society

As evidence of what we have done to our planet earth during the last three centuries in the name of progress is becoming clearer everywhere around the world with the passage of time, issues related to global warming, too, are becoming almost a common household topic of discussion in each and every corner of the globe. How to tackle the problem in a meaningful way is gradually becoming the focal point of attention in such discussions, though disagreements on what needs to be done abound.
Japan was rather slow, compared with some other advanced nations, to discover the environment. But once the Japanese became convinced of the damage the process of industrialisation and our extensive dependence on fossil fuel are inflicting on human habitat, the country started to move fast to catch up with others in tackling the problems of global warming.
As a result, new initiatives and ideas to find a durable solution to environmental problems are being floated in Japan almost on a regular basis, both by the government and the private sector. All such efforts essentially try to address the issue from a broader perspective.
The ongoing campaign to save the environment received a much-needed boost in Japan during the administration of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. It was towards the end of his tenure that the government launched the "Cool Biz and Warm Biz" campaign that has brought about a 2.55 million ton reduction in the emission of carbon dioxide during the winter of 2005 and the summer of 2006.
The campaign calls for setting the air-conditioners at a higher level in summer and a lower level in winter, thereby reducing the emission of carbon dioxide through lowering the consumption of electricity.
Offices, where regular and virtually non-stop usage of air-conditioning units emits a significant amount of greenhouse gases, are particularly encouraged to follow the recommendations.
The brief tenure of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which came to an abrupt end last September, also had a new environment initiative of its own in the form of a "Cool Earth 50" plan.
The plan called for a fifty percent reduction of greenhouse gas emission by 2050, taking 2012 as the base-year; hence the catchy name. It should be noted that 2012 is a landmark year for global environment, as it will mark the expiration of the Kyoto Protocol that was worked out in 1997 after very extensive and lengthy negotiations.
The Protocol compels the signatory nations representing the advanced industrialised block to bring down their greenhouse gas emissions to 6 per cent below the level of 1990.
With the departure of Shinzo Abe from the political arena of Japan, his environmental initiative, too, suffered more or less the same fate, though the concept it heralded has not been forgotten or abandoned totally. The new Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has come up with his own idea of giving a boost to the environmental issues, soon after assuming office last September.
Japan is now trying to draw global attention to the country's environment initiatives by placing Fukuda's recommendations at the top of the agenda of the July summit of Group of Eight industrialised nations that Japan will be hosting in a resort town in the northern Island of Hokkaido.
In his policy speech delivered last Friday at the opening of the regular session of the Diet, Fukuda stressed specifically on issues related to global warming and consumer protection, and pledged to work on making the country "a low carbon society."
The measures Japan is now taking to deal with environmental issues include defining specific steps in realising the objectives of the long-term strategy for countering global warming in line with the "Cool Earth 50" initiative of the previous administration; compiling a plan for environmental and energy technology innovation that would help in achieving the zero emission target; and creating model environment cities in cooperation with local governments.
The prime minister, in his policy speech, also emphasised the importance of Japan's role as an "environmental power," and urged maximum use of that power so that the energy saving and energy conservation technology of Japan could be used widely in the country and beyond.
Japan has, in fact, made significant breakthroughs in moving towards fulfilling the aim of becoming a low carbon society in the true sense. In steel and cement production, for example, Japan has achieved the world's highest level of energy efficiency.
Nuclear energy, considered to be the most eco-friendly way of generating power despite the risk of radioactive fallouts in case of accidents, is a core power source in Japan, accounting for one-third of the country's total electricity generation.
The concepts of recycling and green consumerism made significant headway in recent years, and public awareness of the problems related to the environment and the role of citizens in countering such problems, too, gained widespread support.
Solar power, another environment-friendly device for generating electricity, is gradually gaining ground among consumers, and Japan has already become the largest producer of solar cells in the world. The total sales of Toyota's hybrid automobiles in Japan and overseas reached 1 million units in April 2007, and the energy efficiency of Japanese air-conditioners is considered to be at the highest level.
The country is now aspiring to become a low carbon society in the true sense by the year 2050, which would mean making extensive use of solar energy and greenhouse gas free energy sources, as well as widespread use of fuel-cell vehicles to realise zero emission in the automobile sector.
Automobiles are widely seen as one of the main culprits responsible for polluting the earth, as they alone account for nearly 20 percent of the global emission. A low carbon society will also have an extremely efficient production process, making efficient use of energy in homes and offices.
Earlier this month, an expert panel of Japan's environment ministry said that global warming could raise the country's average annual temperatures by up to 4.7 degrees, from 1961-1990 levels, in the last three decades of the current century. The panel has now launched a study on how the higher temperatures could impact on or damage the environment between 2020 and 2030.
The environment ministry also thinks that widespread efforts by individuals could reduce Japan's emission of carbon dioxide by up to 10.5 million tons in fiscal 2010.
The measures that individuals need to take for ensuring that gain are not something big or difficult to achieve; they include such small steps like turning off tap water when not in use; driving in economic ways, such as switching off the engine at red lights; choosing to buy environment friendly products; bringing their own shopping bags to stores; and frequently unplugging electrical appliances to reduce standby electric consumption.
People in Japan are generally becoming aware of the severity of environmental problems, and are ready even for bigger sacrifices. In an Asahi Shimbun poll conducted in November last year, 76 per cent said that they thought that the earth was ill or seriously ill, and nearly half supported a "green" tax on consumption of petroleum, coal, and other fossil fuels.
The government of Yasuo Fukuda is hopeful that, at the G8 summit, Japan will be able to lead the way in deciding a post-Kyoto framework that would tackle environmental problems successfully.
Setting a numerical reduction target is considered by many as a key component of any such initiative, and how far Japan will be able to convince the United States about the need of numbers remains to be seen, as policy makers in Washington have made it clear that they are not willing to abide by any decision that would compel countries to follow a set target fixed in numbers.
Monzurul Huq writes from Japan.


৪৩ মিনিট আগে|অর্থনীতি

যুক্তরাষ্ট্রে পোশাক রপ্তানি ১৭.৮৮ শতাংশ কমেছে

উচ্চ মূল্যস্ফীতির কারণে সব দেশ থেকে পোশাক আমদানি কমিয়ে দিয়েছে যুক্তরাষ্ট্র।