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Nationwide Effort to Tackle Global Warming (March 28, 2005)

Politicians and NGO members mark the start of the Kyoto Protocol. (Jiji)
Now that the Kyoto Protocol on the prevention of climate change has come into force, Japan is busy seeking out innovative ways to meet its obligations under the protocol. The protocol obliges Japan to reduce its emissions of several greenhouse gases, the substances blamed for global warming, by at least 6% from 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. To achieve that target, the government is not only urging industry to cut its emissions of carbon dioxide - a major greenhouse gas - but is also promoting grassroots measures among regional authorities and individual households.

The E3 Era
Industry is expected to do its part by reducing harmful emissions from factories and offices. In addition, manufacturers are being asked to develop more energy-efficient products. TV sets are one example. Producing the new generation of flat-panel liquid-crystal displays generally results in about a 30% reduction in emissions compared with the production of conventional cathode-ray-tube TVs. This same technology has, however, prompted a boom in TVs with very large screens, which consume more power than smaller sets. Further efforts will be needed to ensure that advances in TV technology translate into lower emissions.

Now that efforts to deal with environmental issues are seen as a key element of corporate social responsibility, Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) has announced a goal for Japanese businesses to keep their carbon-dioxide emissions below 1990 levels. Amid such efforts, a new business sector has emerged: energy services. Companies in this field advise other companies and organizations on ways to cut their energy use.

One of the most promising new approaches to the problem of climate change is bioethanol, a type of alcohol made from sugarcane and sawdust. The substance is being produced in Okayama Prefecture, where about 70% of the land is forest. The prefecture plans to make all its public-use vehicles run on gasoline containing bioethanol from fiscal 2005. Gasoline containing 3% bioethanol is called E3. E3 can be used legally in Japan, as the law stipulates that fuel can contain other substances as long as they do not make up more than 3% of the volume.

The Ministry of the Environment, which is actively promoting the use of bioethanol, plans to make all gasoline sold in Japan E3 by fiscal 2012. The ministry has established a system of subsidies to help gas stations make the necessary modifications to handle the new fuel.

Meanwhile, individual households are the target for various energy-saving campaigns organized by local governments. Many of these campaigns focus on promoting small, day-to-day activities to get people to use less energy while at home. People have been advised, for example, not to leave the shower running while in the bath, to turn their kotatsu (heated tables) down from high to medium, and to lower the temperature of the water from 40 to 30 degrees Celsius when washing dishes.

One major corporation staged a contest among consumers, asking them to come up with new energy-saving ideas. Among the winning entries were (1) leaving TV sets unplugged while not in use and (2) fitting curtains to refrigerators to prevent cold from escaping.

Containing Carbon Dioxide
Another way of keeping carbon dioxide levels down is sequestration, which means burying the gas deep underground. This is the theme of recent work at the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth, which is conducting experiments involving an aquifer, a layer of earth 1,100 meters underground. The goal of the research, being conducted in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, is to seal carbon dioxide into the layer, out of harm's way.

Another experiment in Yubari, Hokkaido, involves injecting carbon dioxide into coal while at the same time retrieving methane from the coal, a feat that has never before been achieved. The methane would then be used as an energy source. Researchers at Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co. have a similar idea: to store carbon dioxide in vast underground vaults. Plans are now afoot to sequester the greenhouse gas underground at a site in Australia.

Japanese companies and households are joining the national effort to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and meet the targets set by the Kyoto Protocol.

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Copyright (c) 2005 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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