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interview with Yuriko Koike

JapanCIA The World Factbook

YI: They look too beautiful to be a wrapping bag.

Yuriko Koike: The subject of environmental issues usually mean global problems but too vague for people. Then I show this furoshiki and people always say, okay, it's important. But for what? This is always the reaction. I thought that by asking people to use this, they might start thinking about global warming or environmental issues in his or her province, not somewhere else. So, turning the perception from macro to micro is a key to realizing policies. This was one of my successes as minister of the environment.

YI: You also started the Cool Asia 2006 campaign. Can this campaign be emulated in other Asian countries?

Yuriko Koike: Sure. I first thought about this in 2005. My concept was followed by Cool Asia Fashion Show the following year. Because in Asia, we share a common climate, which is high temperature and high humidity. When men take off their tie and jacket they feel two degrees cooler. That means that (by doing so) the temperature of air-conditioners can be adjusted emit two degrees less, which will reduce the CO2 emission. This is quite a scientific and logical policy and at the same time people comfortable. And by producing these eco-conscious suits, the corporate world became actively involved. So, it was a sort of win-win project. And people love that. In Japan, before the country opened up, 150 years ago, men wore funny traditional hairstyle like sumo wrestlers, and they carried swords in their Kimono. That was a typical uniform of the samurai. After Japan opened up and western culture came in, the samurais were asked to shave their hair and take off their swords. They felt so uncomfortable, because their tradition and their lifestyle were changed sodrastically. People were confused. Now is the time to return to our Asian traditional lifestyle. It's more eco-conscious. It's more comfortable, like Indonesian batiks, like the Philippine barong tagalog. I don't know whether businessmen feel comfortable in traditional Kimonos, but anyway, my message to people is to think about global warming and to each individual, you are the one to play the key role, and at the same time, my message is for Asians to be Asians.

YI: Following the climate change conference in Bali, there has been a lot of talk about carbon trading. Do you think carbon trading is the solution to address the problem of global warming?

Yuriko Koike: I think the international rules on that are not yet set. This is the time to discuss what kind of international rules or regulations are necessary for the expected carbon trading. Looking at the experience in the United States when it reduced the waste gas, they used the same type of trading system. But we should have more complete regulations to make the system more effective and more valuable. And I think Japan is a country that should be buying or trading carbon emissions. As a consumer country, we would like to have more concrete and transparent system, because we will be using the taxpayers' money. Not only carbon trading, but other global rules to preserve the environment, more transparency and more internationality is essential. International regulations should be set up at the earliest.

YI: So, this is how Japan can play a role in seeking solutions to the problem of global warming?

Yuriko Koike: Yes, Japan is known as the country which produces energy-efficient technology and operating system for cleaning the air and water. Japan can contribute to the world by using the high-tech or even low-technology, based on our own experience. Japan has no natural resources, especially crude oil. That's Japan's inconvenient truth, but this inconvenient truth motivated innovation in our technology to be more eco-conscious. So, certainly Japan can contribute much, and I am always proud to cite Japan's eco-power: the solar power system, the air conditioning, television, refrigerators and other appliances. These are all eco-conscious products.

YI: One last question on the environment. I read today in the newspaper that the government just launched its basic ocean policy. In your opinion, is this the right thing to do?

Yuriko Koike: Well, Japan is surrounded by sea, and it is quite natural that it advocates to having sound rules which fits with the world. It's a step forward in utilizing and protecting the ocean.

YI: Ms. Koike, that has been very interesting. Once again, thank you for your time.

Yuriko Koike: Thank you, I enjoyed that.

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