Opening Speech for Japan-New Zealand Environment Workshop
by H.E. Mr. Kyoji Komachi,
Ambassador for Global Environmental Affairs of Japan

On 25 March 2008 at Mita House

1. Introduction

I would firstly like to welcome you all to the Japan-New Zealand Environment Workshop today in Tokyo. Especially for those who endured the eleven-hour flight from New Zealand, I would like to extend my sincere welcome.

The idea of this workshop dates back to June 2005 when Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan and Prime Minister Helen Clark of New Zealand held bilateral talks in Tokyo. They issued a joint press statement after discussing a wide range of issues. Both leaders agreed to strengthen the bilateral relationship between the two countries. One of the main topics they discussed was the Environment. As quoted in the joint press statement, "Both governments will strengthen their co-operation to deploy and develop existing and new climate-friendly technologies, as well as to facilitate transfer of such technologies to developing countries."

Here we are today to realize one of the top agenda items agreed by the leaders of the two nations. As is also mentioned in the joint press statement, both countries have undertaken to promote bilateral dialogue amongst academics and researchers. Therefore, we have included not only government officials but also academics and researchers from both countries in this workshop.

Now, I would like to start the workshop today by giving you a brief summary of Japan's Environment Diplomacy. This broadly covers international cooperation, forests and illegal logging, biodiversity, the 3R initiative, education for sustainable development, and water and sanitation.

2. Japan's International Cooperation in the Environment Field

Japan has played a leading role in tackling environmental issues, as Japan stands as Kankyo Rikkoku, that is, we have a national commitment to the environment.

This year Japan hosts TICAD IV and the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit, and we will be raising the Environment as one of the key issues at those meetings.

Among the environmental issues, climate change is one of the most urgent matters that all nations must tackle together. At the Davos Conference held in January this year, our Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda presented his "Cool Earth Promotion Programme" in his special address. It consisted of three parts: post-Kyoto Framework; International Environment Cooperation; and Innovation. I won't go into the details now, but Hisajima-san will discuss this matter in detail in Session I. I would like to introduce some of the other environmental issues which Japan has been dealing with.

3. Forests and Illegal Logging

As a major timber-importing country and a member of the G8, Japan has actively engaged in assisting timber-producing countries' efforts to achieve sustainable forest management. It has also called upon the international community to address illegal logging, which is one of the most difficult obstacles to promote sustainable forest management.

Japan took the initiative in organizing the International Experts Meeting on Illegal Logging that was attended by 51 representatives and observers from the Governments of timber-producing and consuming countries, including New Zealand, as well as international organizations, the private sector and civil society. The outcome of the Experts Meeting is expected to be delivered to the Hokkaido Toyako Summit.

4. Biodiversity

The current rate of biodiversity loss remains at a critical level. The issue of biodiversity needs to be addressed more attentively, taking into account the potential impact of climate change. Given that Japan and New Zealand have been working together in the related fora such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, it is expected that we will continue to cooperate toward COP10 of the CBD to be held in 2010 in Japan.

5. 3Rs

The 3R Initiative (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) was launched at the Sea Island Summit in 2004 by adopting the "3R" Action Plan proposed by Japan. The 3R initiative contributes to establishing a sustainable and low-carbon society and promoting compatibility between the environment and the economy.

Japan is actively supporting the creation of a sound material-cycle society, meaning a society in which the consumption of natural resources is reduced and the burden on the environment is minimized by promoting the 3Rs, in cooperation with peoples in partner countries, and hosted the Ministerial Conference on the 3R Initiative in April 2005, the Senior Officials Meeting in March 2006, the Asia 3R Conferences in November 2006 and March 2008.

In order to develop a sound material-cycle society not only at a national level but also at the international level, under international frameworks, such as the Basel Convention, it is important to promote the effective use of resources including recycling of wastes, whilst protecting human health and environment against the adverse effects resulting from those wastes.

6. ESD

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is a concept that promotes education that aims to change values, as well as actions, in order to achieve a sustainable future in terms of environment, economy, and society. ESD contributes to raising public awareness on the necessity of achieving sustainable development, so it is a useful tool to address global environment issues including climate change, and to help make a sustainable society a reality.

Given such significance, the "Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014)" was decided at the 2002 UN General Assembly upon Japan's initiative. Japan has contributed to funds-in-trust to make information on ESD activities widely available. We also submitted a resolution with Germany at the UNESCO 34th General Conference in order to further promote ESD. In addition, the Government of Japan is planning to organize the International Forum on ESD Dialogue 2008 to review progress.

7. Water and Sanitation

Water is closely related to the environment and climate change. For example, issues such as the rise in sea level, as well as thawing of glacier lakes caused by climate change. Water is a cross-sectoral issue that relates to development, human security, disaster prevention and peace. At the half way point to the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), there are still a number of people who are without sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumura delivered a policy speech on water and sanitation on 22 February 2008 entitled "Good Water Governance". Recalling that water is essential to maintain all life, ecosystems and economic activities, he called upon the international community to take action on addressing water and sanitation issues on a global basis.

8. Conclusion

I have outlined some of the major issues which Japan has been dealing with in the fields of the Environment other than climate change. There are many issues to tackle and I hope that this Japan-New Zealand workshop will provide an opportunity for networking and new ideas. I hope you will have a fruitful workshop today and the study tour tomorrow in Tsukuba. I will be joining you tomorrow for the visit to Tsukuba.

Thank you.

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