Expected Role Of Japan In Environmental Issues

July 14, 2008

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How can Asia as a region respond to the many issues facing the world? "The Future of Asia" conference heard a variety of opinions and ideas, including those from Ichiro Kamoshita, Lee Maan-ee and Rachmat Witoelar - environment ministers from Japan, South Korea and Indonesia - during the session on global warming.

Moderator: Global warming is a serious global problem, not just an Asian one, and the job of environment minister is among the most demanding today. Asia is one of the world's fastest growing regions and at the same time one of the greatest producers of greenhouse gases.

Witoelar: Dealing with climate change is just as significant as dealing with the global economic slowdown. We will be held responsible historically for the policies we adopt. Indonesia is putting emphasis on environmental policies; we are currently enforcing stricter regulations on illegal dealings of harmful substances. Global warming poses a huge risk to continued economic growth.

It was an honor to host in Bali the 13th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 2007. But we must revise Bali's action plan for long-term emission reductions. Japan can play a significant role in Asia's success on this matter.

Moderator: Concrete goals set by developing countries would encourage other countries with high emissions to do the same.

Lee: Unusual weather patterns caused by climate change have taken many lives and changed many livelihoods. If we act now, we can make some changes using just 1% of gross domestic product. Advanced nations should take the lead. Developing countries should act according to their abilities. We need financial and technological support that's in line with reductions in emissions.

Moderator: After the Kyoto Protocol, how should Japan lead within the framework that was established?

Kamoshita: Industries, for example, are trying to carry out action plans they've devised to reduce carbon emissions. However, awareness is still lacking among regular Japanese households. To realize some of the goals set forth in the Kyoto Protocol, it is ideal for all entities to develop a goal and work toward that.

Moderator: What are some of the points where Japan can lead?

Kamoshita: The post-Kyoto Protocol calls for a 50% reduction in greenhouse gases worldwide in 2050. Japan's Cool Earth 50 is an initiative that addresses the issue. If the goal is to cut emissions by half, Japan will be required to achieve a midterm goal of 25-40% reduction. Then in 50 years, Japan will have to cut emissions by 50% or more. But is it appropriate to discuss percentages now? How much time can we allot toward a 25-40% reduction in the context of international negotiations? These are some of the questions we need to ask as we balance national profit versus environmental benefit.

Moderator: There'll be a lot of work involved in solving our environmental problems while maintaining economic growth.

Lee: Korea is positioned between advanced and developing countries. Rapid growth is creating an imbalance between regions and industries. We sympathize with the plan set forth by advanced nations to reduce emissions by 2050, but we need to seriously consider how we can get there. Goals established for the advanced nations or the sector-by-sector approach set forth by Japan are too huge a burden for Korea. We are here to brainstorm our post-Kyoto Protocol approach, but we are not ready to set numerical goals.

Moderator: How should Asian countries cooperate in areas such as wages and technology?

Kamoshita: Japan rode out the oil shock with energy-efficient technology. There are countries that will experience that same sort of situation. If we shared Japan's technology and know-how, we could transform our societies into low-carbon ones. Our knowledge also helps combat air and environmental pollution.

Lee: Asia is a region of differing religions and ethnicities. In large countries like China, India and Indonesia, varieties abound. We need a creative solution to our environmental problems. The countries forming ASEAN will be required to find solutions that take into consideration regional differences, the profits of member nations, differences in human resources and the general level of understanding among the population.

We need to share some ideas about what worked and what failed, including Japan's experiences. If we developed our communications technology, we could create and tap into Asia's regional databases. We should maximize the contributions Korea, China and Indonesia can make, while making use of the media of each nation to overcome these problems.

Titles of speakers, names of companies, etc., were correct as of the time when the forum was held.