Global Environment

Statement by Prime Minister of Japan Ryutaro Hashimoto at UNGASS

* UNGASS: Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly for the Overall Review and Appraisal of the Implementation of Agenda 21

23 June 1997, United Nations, New York

At the Earth Summit five years ago, the international community initiated a grand effort to protect our beautiful planet Earth and permanently ensure prosperous and peaceful lives for all humankind. Regrettably, however, despite the enormous efforts of the international community since then, the global environment remains gripped by many problems. If the situation remains as it is, it may be difficult to pass on this irreplaceable Earth to the twenty-first century. Now, let us renew our determination and seriously consider concrete measures to promote sustainable development, a goal upon which we agreed at Rio de Janeiro.

Immediately before coming here, I renewed my determination, together with the other leaders at the Summit of the Eight held in Denver, to preserve the global environment. I would like to stress two points: our responsibility to future generations, and global human security. Bearing these points in mind, we must develop a strong consciousness and shoulder our responsibilities. We must change our lifestyles. Moreover, we must develop innovative environmental technologies and promote their transfer to developing countries in order to foster sustainable development. In light of the need today for a global effort to tackle environmental issues, the United Nations is assuming ever-greater importance. Let us renew our pledge to cooperate with the United Nations.

Among our many environmental problems, global climate change stands out as a serious issue that directly affects not only the lives of people today but also the future existence of the human race. The Third Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will be convened in our ancient capital of Kyoto in December. We must spare no effort to ensure a successful conclusion of the Conference. At the Denver Summit, the eight countries agreed that they would commit to meaningful, realistic, and equitable targets that would result in reductions of greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2010. This is a message addressed to this special session as well.

Let us also at this special session demonstrate, as the general will of the United Nations, our firm commitment to the success of the Kyoto Conference. I assure you that Japan is resolved to do its utmost in this regard, and I sincerely appeal to all the countries gathered here to extend their cooperation to the Kyoto Conference.

It goes without saying that we must strive, also from a medium- and long-term perspective, to solve the issue of global climate change. For example, if we want to stabilize the density of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at a level about twice as high as it was before the Industrial Revolution, it will be necessary to reduce global per capita carbon dioxide emissions to one ton by the year 2100. This is a great challenge that cannot be met with the existing technology. Therefore, it will be necessary for the whole world to unite in order to achieve this objective. For this purpose, and to accelerate, with international cooperation, efforts to prevent global warming, I would like to propose an initiative, to be called the Comprehensive Strategy for the Prevention of Global Warming, or Green Initiative. It is consisted of two pillars: Green Technology and Green Aid. Under Green Technology, we will promote the efforts of developed countries in the development and dissemination of energy conservation technologies; the introduction of non-fossil energy sources such as photovoltaic power generation; the development of innovative energy and environmental technologies; and worldwide afforestation and preservation of forests. Under Green Aid, we will utilize ODA and private financial resources to cope with the issues of energy and global warming and promote cooperation with developing countries through the development of human resources.

I appeal to like-minded countries for their participation and cooperation. In the past, Japan had a very serious pollution problem. And on reflection, it successfully strengthened its environmental policies in a fundamental way. Also, since the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Japan has enacted its Basic Environmental Law and established its Basic Environmental Plan, thereby making clear its new environmental policies. At the Olympic Winter Games, which will be held in Nagano next year, every possible consideration will be given to preservation of the environment. And we have declared "Preserve and Nurture the Natural Environment" as the theme of the Aichi Expo, which will be held in the year 2005. Japan is prepared to present not only its successes but also its failures, and to cooperate with others so that its mistakes will not be repeated.

Official Development Assistance (ODA) plays an important role in promoting sustainable development in developing countries. Its ODA adheres to the principle that environmental conservation and development shall be pursued in tandem. Japan reached the ambitious target it set for itself at the Earth Summit, and actually exceeded the targeted amount of ODA in the environmental field by more than forty percent, providing 1.44 trillion yen (which is approximately US$13.3 billion) in assistance over the five-year period.

Although my government is now facing severe budgetary constraints, it will give the greatest possible consideration to ODA in the area of environment. As a second initiative, I would like to announce that we would promote a new plan entitled Initiatives for Sustainable Development toward the Twenty-first Century (ISD) for the developing countries.

The plan of action under the Initiatives is as follows.

First, air and water pollution measures: Japan will promote the establishment of the Acid Deposition Monitoring Network in East Asia. Utilizing the environmental centers it has helped established, Japan will, for example, enhance the monitoring capacity of individual countries and work to establish an information network on pollution.

Moreover, it will further promote the transfer of environmental technologies for the prevention of pollution.

Second, on the issue of global warming: Japan will promote transfer to developing countries of technologies related to the conservation of energy and new energy sources, including transfers under the scheme of Green Aid, to which I referred a moment ago.

Third, water issues: Japan will further promote the creation of water and sewage systems and will continue to work to prevent water pollution, which causes damages to people's health and harmful effects on the environment.

The fourth issue is the preservation of the natural environment. The issue of forests is especially important. We will promote cooperation in efforts to afforest wide areas. In the area of preservation of biodiversity, we will promote efforts mainly through the Biodiversity Center in Indonesia, which was established through the cooperative efforts of Indonesia, the United States, and Japan. With regard to the preservation of coral reefs, we will establish a research center on coral reef preservation in Asia and the Pacific, which shall play a central role in creating a network for research cooperation.

Last, but of no less importance, is the promotion of environmental education.

We believe that heightening the environmental awareness of all people through environmental education is fundamental to the creation of an environmentally sound world. We intend to cooperate in promoting worldwide environmental study programmes, and support international research collaboration by establishing the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, which will engage strategic research to develop new policy means among others.

From the depths of postwar devastation and despair, Japan has achieved rapid economic growth since the end of the Second World War, experiencing severe pollution problems in the process.

Perhaps, no other country can share both the suffering of a developing country and the concerns of a developed country to the extent as Japan. This is why Japan makes it a national policy to cooperate in the promotion of sustainable development.

I pledge that I shall make every effort to ensure that this beautiful planet Earth is passed on to the twenty-first century.

Now let us launch the partnership for global environmental preservation and development.

Thank you for your kind attention.