The Spirit of
“Mottai Nai”

Yuriko Koike
describes how one of the world’s most urbanised countries is working towards a sustainable environment through action on waste and climate change

Many of the world’s current environmental problems arise from fundamental socio-economic activities, including regular business activities and daily life. Recognising this, we need fundamentally to re-evaluate our economic activities and lifestyles. This can be done by proactively mobilizing all our knowledge of environmental conservation. I believe that this will lead to the establishment of a sustainable society by ensuring a synthesis of environmental protection and economic growth.

Japan will advance policy measures to bring about a fundamental socio-economic shift to realise a sound material-cycle society and establish a low-carbon economy.

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Prof. Wangari Maathai, who serves as Assistant Minister for Environment of Kenya, highly evaluated the Japanese spirit of “mottai-nai” – meaning behavior or attitude that respects and conserves products and resources – when she visited Japan in February 2005. Believing that it is necessary for the entire globe, she has been working on disseminating the word, hoping that it enters everyday usage, like the Japanese word “tsunami”.

Formulating guidelines
In the spirit of “mottai-nai”, Japan is committed to accelerating the establishment of a sound material-cycle society through the 3Rs: reducing, reusing and recycling waste. It is committed to promoting the comprehensive and systematic reduction of materials, and their sound cyclical use, so as to realise a zero-emission society. To achieve this, we will accelerate the reduction and recycling of municipal wastes by formulating guidelines on sorted collection and fees for waste treatment.

We will encourage local governments to build efficient and effective waste treatment and recycling facilities, and johkasoh on-site household sewage treatment systems by creating a new subsidy for establishing the sound material-cycle society. We will conduct a review process to revise the Law for the Promotion of Sorted Collection and Recycling of Containers and Packaging. Revisions of other laws concerning waste treatment – including the Waste Management and Public Cleansing Law – will be introduced during the current Diet session to strengthen measures to address large-scale illegal dumping and the inappropriate export of wastes and to establish a more appropriate system.

The promotion of reducing, reusing and recycling wastes, resources and products – also known as the “3R Initiative”, – has become an important issue internationally. A ministerial meeting held in Japan in April 2005 formally launched the 3R Initiative, advocated by Prime Minister Koizumi at the G8 Sea Island Summit in 2004. Through this opportunity, I am committed to extending 3R activities into the broader international community.

Environmental Problems
In the past year, Japan first endured a record-breaking summer heatwave, and then found itself suffering great loss of life and significant damage from an extremely high number of typhoons hitting the mainland. In such circumstances, I believe every citizen directly perceives the changes and abnormalities of the climate system, and their consciousness has been raised as a result. This heightened awareness gives us an opportunity to renew our awareness of climate change and other environmental problems as issues deeply connected to us. The frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events are projected to increase as climate change advances.

International society took a step forward in mitigating climate change with the Kyoto Protocol’s entry into force on February 16, 2005. I believe that it is essential for Japan – as the country which chaired the Third Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, at which the Protocol was adopted – to fulfill its commitment to its six per cent reduction target. Furthermore, Japan should promote a low-carbon economy, before other countries, through promoting mid- to long-term policies and measures including developing and disseminating relevant technologies.

To this end, the Government of Japan will set forth a Kyoto Protocol Target Achievement Plan, including policies and measures to ensure steady steps for realizing our country’s commitments under the Protocol. It will also promote measures including support for the concentrated application of renewable energy to local communities; the development of state-of-the-art technologies and the creation of new businesses to combat climate change: the establishment of a voluntary domestic emissions trading system; and the organization of an intensive campaign to develop a broad national movement. In addition, we will be working on a revision of the Climate Change Policy Law to introduce counting, reporting and disclosure systems for greenhouse gas emissions by business.
The frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events are projected to increase as climate change advances

Positive interactions
The Government believes that a new environment tax would prove to be an effective additional measure. Specific plans for introducing one were released by the Ministry of the Environment in 2004, and the Government of Japan will review it in a timely manner, aiming to ensure the effectiveness of the policies and measures laid forth in the Kyoto Protocol Target Achievement Plan.

International negotiations on commitments for “post-Kyoto” will be launched in 2005 and Japan is committed to working proactively on establishing common rules among all the parties through policy dialogues with other countries.

As part of our work to establish a low-carbon economy and to realise a sound material-cycle society, we will promote activities to encourage a revision of economic activities and shifts in lifestyle. These will include technological innovations and awareness raising among citizens to accelerate a significant change in the economic and social life.

We are committed to promoting efforts focused on local communities, especially within families and schools. We will promote community development which will contribute to ensuring positive interactions between the environment and the economy. We are also committed to promoting environmental conservation activities and environmental education, with which people will interact closely as part of their daily lives – such as support for refurbishing school buildings with eco-friendly designs, for introducing fuel cells and for promoting environmental education at home. We further pledge to promote the development and dissemination of environmental technologies, including applying nanotechnology, and to promote the incubation and enhancement of environmental businesses.

We are committed to continue making international contributions, including disseminating our environmental technologies and lifestyles and proactive involvement in environmental cooperation in and around the Asian region.

On this basis, we will revise the existing national Basic Environment Plan to incorporate the fundamental perspectives underlying these new environmental policies.

As we implement these measures, we are committed to further strengthening linkages between the government and other stakeholders like citizens, civil groups, business entities and local governments. To take one example, we will work to enable every stakeholder to approach environmental issues with increased interest and participate in environmental conservation activities, through proactive efforts on public relations activities focused on and around “Environment Month”, every June.

Whether we are able to make the 21st century a “Century of the Environment” and turn our society into a sustainable one will be determined by how we live our lives today. We are at a crossroads. We have a responsibility to move forward unhesitatingly to accomplish what needs to be done to conserve the Earth for future generations, looking beyond short-term convenience.

We are determined to make every effort to establish an environmentally sound nation, in which each one of us can realize we are responsible for protecting the Earth, as we carefully assess our efforts to improve the environment

Yuriko Koike is Minister of the Environment, Japan.

PHOTOGRAPH: K.Nonthaburi/Still Pictures

This issue:
Contents | Editorial K. Toepfer | Challenges and Opportunity | Bridging the Water Gap | Golden Gateway to Green Cities | The Spirit of “Mottai Nai” | Cities without Slums | People | Rapid Progress | At a glance: Greening Cities | Charging into the Future | Star profile: Tokiko Kato | The Female Factor | Unlocking People Energy | Think Local | High Achievements | Life at the Top | Books and products | Focus On Your World | Black Sea, Green City?

Complementary issues:
Issue on Global Waste Challenge 2004
Issue on Energy 2003
Issue on Climate and Action 1998