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Thursday, Jan. 3, 2008

Q&A

G8 summit to showcase environment technologies

Known for its cool summers and snowy winters, Hokkaido, the venue of the Group of Eight summit in July, is blessed with a rich natural environment and vast landscapes. It is a popular destination for nature lovers and people looking for outdoor activities such as skiing and rafting.

What is the profile of Hokkaido?

The main island of Hokkaido and hundreds of islets make up Japan's northernmost prefecture.

The main island is the second largest in the Japanese archipelago. The prefecture, at 83,456 sq. km, is the nation's largest. It is nearly 40 times bigger than Tokyo but has a population of 5.63 million, less than half the capital's population.

Why was Hokkaido chosen to host the summit?

Though a latecomer last year to the summit host race, Hokkaido was the surprise winner thanks to then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who strongly supported the bid.

Abe reportedly wanted to show off Japan's great natural beauty and support for environmentalism, as global warming will be high on the upcoming summit's agenda.

Some government officials say Hokkaido was chosen as a way to boost the local economy, which has suffered a great deal from cutbacks in public works projects.

In recent years, the trend has been to hold G8 summits in the countryside to create a "retreat" atmosphere for the leaders, allowing them to concentrate on their talks far from urban crowds and noise.

Safety is another consideration. Because the summit venue, the Windsor Hotel Toya, stands on a hill, it will be relatively easy to guard the G8 leaders and limit access to the site.

Where will the international media center be located?

The Rusutsu Resort Hotel & Convention in Rusutsu village, about 27 km away or about 30 minutes by car from the Windsor Hotel Toya, will serve as the press center for about 4,000 journalists.

News conferences and briefings will be held there and the Rusutsu Resort will provide reporters with a place to work as well as accommodations.

The media center will also showcase Japan's environmental efforts. The government plans to display some of the nation's cutting-edge environment-friendly technology there.

What will be included in the environmental display?

The government hasn't decided on details, but the display will probably include a solar power system and other energy-saving systems.

Hiroshi Fukada, secretary general for the G8 summit at the Foreign Ministry, said Japan's advanced energy-saving technologies can be found in many products, but they are not readily visible, so the display will be designed to make it easier for journalists to understand how such technologies are being used.

Fukada said shuttle buses connecting the major facilities will be environment-friendly and will include fuel-cell vehicles.

In addition, the temporary press center building itself will feature cooling equipment that will use snow stored in winter to air-condition the rooms, and a solar power system.

During the 2000 G8 summit in Okinawa, the local people called attention to the problem of U.S. military bases in the prefecture. Will Hokkaido address the long-standing dispute over the Russian-held islands off Hokkaido?

Because the summit will mark the first time a Russian president visits Hokkaido, local residents hope to somehow raise the isle issue, but it will be difficult.

The government warns that the dispute over the islands has nothing to do with the summit, while Hokkaido is well aware that the priority is to make the G8 meeting a success.



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