Address by H.E. Professor Akiko YAMANAKA
Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan
at the Science and Technology in Society Forum
11 September 2006
As in the phrase "mother nature", our global environment is very much like a mother that protects and fosters the human race. Humans are able to carry out their activities thanks to this nature. On the other hand, these activities are doing harm to "mother nature". As a matter of course, the progression of economic and social activities is necessary, so the challenge is how to make development and the environment compatible. Moreover, the issue of environmental security is closely related to Human Security.
The problem is, the present condition is caused by closely interrelated and complicated human economic and social activities, and that the effect on the environment ranges widely.
For this reason, it is necessary for each actor, such as governments, corporations, communities, families and individuals to carry out an appropriate combination of measures.
In addition, the environmental issue is not an issue of one country alone. It is in both cause and effect a matter for the whole international community, and is precisely the kind of a global issue that requires international cooperation.
Global warming is especially a big challenge for mankind.
In considering these issues, the solution to these problems must be based on the fundamental transformation of each and every person's mindset for environmental security, and it is important to construct a broad network of environmental protection movements.
I have mentioned that complicated human activities are accelerating the negative effects on the environment. Here's a domestic example.
We are facing a significant lifestyle change, and the rapid expansion in the number of 24-7 shops as well as the increase of large shopping centers due to population growth in the suburbs have caused increased energy consumption, resulting in the emission of greenhouse gases and causing global warming.
In addition, the mechanism of mass production, mass consumption and mass disposal relates to the issue of illegal dumping, and is also affecting the environment in that processing the wastes itself requires a lot of energy.
To cope with such situations, we think it necessary to take measures to reduce energy consumption and divert to a Material-Cycle Society.
In terms of reducing energy consumption, it may be an option to suggest that large enterprises should save energy, but to our surprise, the cumulative effect of each individual's subtle actions has a big impact. For instance, an average Japanese person consumes 230 plastic bags a year when shopping, but if we brought our own bags, plastic bags would no longer be necessary. In addition, if we reduced excessive wrapping such as plastic trays used for food, it would contribute to saving energy needed to produce, recycle and discard and thus be an eco-friendly action.
In terms of converting to the Material-Cycle Society, promotion of "the three R's", that is, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, is important. In any case, it is essential that each citizen refrains from wasting things.
Building a Low Carbon Society
On the international front, acid rain, yellow sand, air pollution or ocean pollution, for example, are spreading beyond borders. For these issues, close international discussions and cooperation are necessary.
The results of global warming, for example, the rise in temperature and sea level, the increase of unusual weather such as floods or droughts, and the extinction of certain animals or plants, are bringing about serious and diverse problems to the entire human race and the earth.
As a solution to the issue of global warming, the ultimate goal is to stabilize green house gases to a certain level, to reduce significantly the global emission of green house gases and to newly create a low-carbon society.
In Japan, the Cabinet has adopted the "Plans to achieve the goal set in the Kyoto Protocol", and is carrying out a nation-wide project to achieve the goal set forth in the Kyoto Protocol.
On the other hand, global warming is an issue that requires the unanimous effort of the international community. To modify the greenhouse effect, we think it important that every country makes an effort to reduce greenhouse gases according to their ability, and that we build an effective framework to encourage the main emitters to make every effort possible. Our nation would like to continue playing a leading role in making the future framework for dealing with global warming.
To achieve that, it is vital for developing countries in need of development which are thought to emit an increasing amount of green house gases to think of measures in accordance with the principle of "sustainable development".
Furthermore, in the field of innovation, promotion of innovation to realize a low-carbon society, such as hybrid cars, is essential.
I would further like to state that as environmental security is a vital issue to human life, it must be considered from the comprehensive viewpoint of Human Security, aimed at protecting the indispensable and fundamental parts of life, and realizing the freedom and possibility of every individual. In regions suffering from poverty, protecting the environment directly contributes to protecting the residents. This is even more important in areas whose environment is devastated by war or conflicts.
For example, in Cambodia, the UN-HABITAT is carrying out various community-led programs aimed at improving the living environment in the slums in Phnom Penh. Japan is supporting these programs through the Trust Fund for Human Security. These efforts are of great importance.
As for water, which is the theme of this session, we cannot overlook the issue of water quality, that is, the supply of clean, unpolluted water as well as the issue of water quantity, namely the shortage of water supply, or "too little water". More than one billion people do not have access to safe drinking water.
Moreover, water is unique in that it is unevenly distributed, and measures to control hazards such as floods, or "too much water", are essential. More than a third of the world's natural disasters are floods, and more than half the victims of disasters are said to be flood victims.
Water is important in considering environmental security. International drainage basin areas that cross borders cover 45% of the earth's land surface, and the inhabitants alongside account for 40% of the world's population. The fact that as many as 145 countries are said to be located at least partly in drainage basin areas, indicates that water is indeed an international issue.
Thus, concerning water, which is closely related to Human Security, the "World Water Forum" is being held led by the World Water Conference. Japan is playing an active role in solving these water related issues, and in 2003, the third World Water Forum was held here in Kyoto, Shiga and Osaka. In addition, in the fourth World Water Forum held in Mexico this March, we proposed a plan called "Water and Sanitation Broad Partnership Initiative (WASABI)", to provide ODA more effectively in the field of water and sanitation.
Lastly, I would like to mention the importance of transforming our mindset to protect the environment and the networking of such an idea. Japan has a tradition of protecting the environment on a community basis, such as controlling the natural environment according to the people's lifestyle called "Satoyama", meaning "home mountain", and managing the waterways in the community. I would assume that many other countries have similar traditions.
Based on these concepts, I hope that such community measures will be linked one after another, like many rings making a chain, and that the movement to protect "mother nature" will spread around the world.
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