In Focus

2007 New Year Greetings

January 1, 2007

photo:Masatoshi WAKABAYASHI
Masatoshi Wakabayashi
Minister of the Environment

Happy New Year. As we begin 2007, I would like to take this opportunity to give my heartfelt thanks especially to those who have supported our environmental policies last year.

Since I had the honor of becoming the Minister of the Environment in September last year, I have worked on global warming, waste problem, and other issues. In the course of my work, I realized anew that today's environmental problems are closely related to our economy, society, and our daily lives. We must, therefore, actively make efforts to tackle the issue of environmental load resulting from our daily activities and ordinary business operations.

The Third Basic Environment Plan, endorsed by the Cabinet in April last year, calls for the use of an integrated approach to improve the environment, economy, and society. This concept points out the possibility that environmental measures can not only enhance economic growth but also revitalize local communities. In order to build a low carbon society and a sound material-cycle society, which are in urgent need today, we must take a hard look at our lifestyles and business activities, and resolve on making the society and the economy sustainable.

With this in mind, I would like to undertake the following measures in the coming days:

In our pursuit of a low carbon society, the measures to mitigate global warming have taken on urgency as never before. The first commitment period for reducing greenhouse gases, as stipulated by the Kyoto Protocol agreed upon by the international community, will begin next year. Japan has committed to an average reduction of 6% of greenhouse gases between 2008 and 2012 relative to the 1990 level. Sadly, the preliminary figures of FY 2005 show an increase of 8% instead. We must take immediate action.

We must mobilize everyone and employ all policy instruments to speed up the policies and measures spelled out in the Kyoto Protocol Target Achievement Plan, beginning with the adoption and promotion of renewable energies such as biomass energy, solar energy, wind power, etc. We must also rigorously carry out the plan revision scheduled for FY 2007 to steadily fulfill the 6% reduction commitment.

The FY 2007 Tax Reform Proposal mapped out by the ruling party towards the end of last year stipulates, in light of the start of the Kyoto Protocol's first commitment period in 2008, a comprehensive study of the environmental tax, and a long-term consideration for the establishment of a preferential tax treatment for bio-fuel. Our taxation system will shift towards more environment-oriented in the future to support policy measures designed to arrest global warming. To be more proactive, we will reach out to seek policy dialogues with major emitters, such as the United States and China, and take initiative in negotiation in the international arena to help shape an effective future framework for the post-first commitment period so that it will be participated by all countries.

In our pursuit of a sound material-cycle society, we will continue to promote 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, with primary focus on waste reduction) such as through the implementation of the amended Containers and Packaging Recycling Law that spells out measures to reduce waste generation. We will work closely with local governments using the regional environment offices established two years ago as the command centers for eradicating illegal dumping. Furthermore, we will advocate the "Mottainai" spirit to the world, advance the 3Rs initiative in the G8 Summit slated to take place in Japan next year, and take leadership in international initiatives for building a sound material-cycle society.

With a view to comprehensively improving the environment, economy, and society, we will devote efforts to promote "greening of the economy," including raising environmental awareness in the financial sector and encouraging green purchase. We are also committed to vigorously advance environmental education and the research and development of environmental technologies.

In working towards a harmonious coexistence with the nature, we plan to amend the National Strategy on Biological Diversity to step up our efforts to protect biodiversity. We will also strive to build "a society that is in harmony with nature" by using the various natural resources wisely, eco-tourism is a good example, and by enhancing the conservation and management of wildlife. To ensure that our living environment will be safe and comfortable, we will implement a wide range of measures: measures to control automobile exhaust in big cities; measures to improve the urban environment, such as by adopting the "Cool City Concept" to tackle the heat island phenomenon; measures to protect the water and soil environments; measures to properly manage chemical substances; measures to rein in pollution-related problems, such as the Minamata disease; measures to control asbestos; measures to prevent damages from toxic gases, etc.

I would like to ask for your continued support and cooperation in advancing environmental policies by re-examining your lifestyle. I wish you all a happy and rewarding year.

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