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Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010

Matsumoto to focus on global green efforts


Staff writer

With less than a month to go before the convention on biological diversity in Nagoya, newly appointed Environment Minister Ryu Matsumoto said he is doing his best to make the international meeting a success.

News photo
Green credentials: Newly appointed Environment Minister Ryu Matsumoto is interviewed last week. SETSUKO KAMIYA PHOTO

"Environment issues are common issues for mankind, and we need to consider the benefits for humans and the Earth. But at the same time, we must think of national interests," he said. "It will be a challenge to compile an agreement, but it's also going to be a very exciting role to play."

Japan will be playing host to the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, or COP10, from Oct. 18 to 29, when member states will try to set new targets to conserve organisms and come to an agreement on how to use biodiversity in a sustainable and fair way.

But the talks are likely to be tough as industrialized countries and developing nations are split on several issues, including the use of genetic resources.

Entering national politics in 1990, the 59-year-old Matsumoto chaired the Lower House environmental committee in 2000. But back then, he admitted, the most prominent issues were domestic in nature, such as industrial waste management and promoting environmental education in schools.

"I have doubts about continuing our conventional way of life when natural resources are running out and the global population is increasing," Matsumoto said. "We've reached a point where we need to look into this globally."

Regarding Japan's target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent compared with 1990 levels, Matsumoto said he will submit a bill on basic measures to fight global warming that was scrapped during the ordinary Diet session last year.

"At the time of the general election (in 2009) when I first learned of the target, I thought it was too ambitious. But it's a pledge we made internationally," Matsumoto said.

"I believe it's important to set the goal high and work to achieve it, no matter how hard it could be in these changing times. There is a lot to do, including talking to the different industries," he said.

Japan's commitment was announced internationally by then Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama in September 2009 at the U.N. Summit on Climate Change. The pledge for a 25 percent reduction, part of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan's election manifesto, is based on the premise that major countries would agree on ambitious targets.

Matsumoto declined to comment on how much should be achieved through domestic efforts to meet the 25 percent target, as opposed to carbon credits or other means, but he said he will study this while monitoring international discussions and the economy.

As part of Prime Minister Naoto Kan's current team, Matsumoto is doubling as state minister in charge of disaster management. He said both roles have to do with protecting people's lives and property. After the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1996, Matsumoto said he immediately went to Kobe to observe the situation. Returning to the Diet, he took part in launching a special committee that worked on getting life in the city back to normal, noting that one of the first things he stressed was the reduction of secondary disasters.

Matsumoto was a member of the Japan Socialist Party when he was first elected to the Diet from a district in Fukuoka Prefecture. He represents the third generation of his family to be in politics.



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