Japan Wrestles with Kyoto Accord Promises The Japanese government says it will meet its Kyoto target, but a steady rise in commercial construction, transportation use and lifestyle changes are steering the rate of carbon emissions in the wrong direction.
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Japan Wrestles with Kyoto Accord Promises

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Japan Wrestles with Kyoto Accord Promises

Japan Wrestles with Kyoto Accord Promises

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But as NPR's David Kestenbaum reports, Japan is having trouble.

DAVID KESTENBAUM: Do you really think that Japan will be able to meet the Kyoto target?

RYUTARO YATSU: Of course, yes.

KESTENBAUM: Do you think Japan will meet the Kyoto target?


KESTENBAUM: Yuriko Koike was the Environment minister. She is now minister of Defense.

YURIKO KOIKE: Well, we are trying our best to achieve our target. And for the time being, it is - it seems to be bit difficult.

KESTENBAUM: It's hot. His assistant brings in some glasses of iced tea.

YATSU: According to the latest statistics in 2005, the total greenhouse gas emissions has 7.8 percent increase comparing to the baseline here - 1990.

KESTENBAUM: And according to Kyoto, your target was to be six percent below 1990.

YATSU: Exactly.

KESTENBAUM: What's gone awry? Yatsu takes out some charts, which show some good news. Take big industries - steel, cement, auto manufacturers - taken as a whole, the industrial sector has actually reduced its emission three percent since 1990. But emissions from the commercial sector - things like new office buildings - are up 44 percent.

YATSU: It's a very difficult task for us because there are so many, many buildings are now constructed throughout Japan.

KESTENBAUM: Unidentified Man: (Japanese spoken)


KESTENBAUM: Unidentified Woman: (Japanese spoken)


KESTENBAUM: The campaign also urges people to use their own bags at the supermarket instead of plastic ones. You might think that environmentalists would applaud but Lida Tetsunari feels like it's a distraction.

LIDA TETSUNARI: It's a nonsense.

KESTENBAUM: Tetsunari directs the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies in Tokyo. He says the government's campaign reminds me of one from World War II.

TETSUNARI: During World War II, Japanese people are obliged to prepare for the U.S. Army using bamboo swords, or something like that.

KESTENBAUM: A bamboo sword?

TETSUNARI: Yeah. So this is kind of the bamboo sword in 21st century.

KESTENBAUM: Tetsunari says if Japan really wants to meet its Kyoto target, it will have to buy credits from other countries that have cut their emissions. But the costs to offset Japan's eight percent growth in emissions for the five years covered by the Kyoto Protocol?

TETSUNARI: (Japanese spoken) About eight billion, you know?

KESTENBAUM: Eight billion dollars is a lot.

TETSUNARI: Yeah, a lot, of course.

KESTENBAUM: There is a sense in some corners here that the Kyoto accord has been unfair to Japan. You hear this from people in business suits and this guy who wears skintight shorts to work.

NOBUHIKO TAKADA: (Japanese spoken)

KESTENBAUM: Nobuhiko Takada is a famous martial arts fighter. He competes in sometimes violent, extreme-fighting events. Takada is also part of the government's "Team Minus 6 Percent" public relations campaign to get people to be more carbon conscious, but he says he's beginning to despair.

TAKADA: (Through translator) I now start wondering that if this individual effort has any (unintelligible) or not because I feel as if a huge amount of garbage is flown from the sky when I am cleaning and sweeping very hard. The reason why I think like this is that the developing countries such as China and India - the biggest carbon dioxide emitting countries - also the United States walked away from the Kyoto Protocol, and Canada, such a big country, also has created it.

KESTENBAUM: Takada is built like a superhero but there are limits to what even he can do. He has a kind of signature battle cry he does for fights. I asked if he wanted to do one for climate change. He offered this.

TAKADA: (Japanese spoken)

KESTENBAUM: David Kestenbaum, NPR News.

INSKEEP: To see a map showing how climate change is affecting Japan and other parts of the world, just go to npr.org/climateconnections or pick up the current issue of National Geographic magazine.

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