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Despite a sign of global economic recession, the private sector can help solve environmental issues by creating new business and stimulating the economy, according to Noel Brown, former director of the North American regional office of the United Nations Environmental Program.

Companies around the globe are urged to meet the demand of consumers who are increasingly becoming keen of environmental issues, he said Friday.

“We believe that economic sustainability and profitability are possible, if you initially invest to create environmentally sound products,” Brown said in an interview with The Japan Times in Tokyo.

He also said that the degraded environment would eventually lead to low productivity by harming workers’ health.

Giving high marks to the Japanese automobile industry’s efforts to tackle environmental issues, Brown suggested holding an “automotive summit” to discuss policy incentives and encourage automakers to build green cars.

Brown currently serves as president of the Friends of the United Nations, a nongovernmental organization promoting public support for various U.N. programs and causes. He was in Tokyo on route to Sendai to hold a news conference on the “Masters of the Arctic” exhibition there.

Asked about the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty to curb global warming, Brown gave his basic support for Japan’s persuasive-but-not-aggressive stance against the United States.

In March, the U.S. disavowed the 1997 treaty, saying it is not in U.S. interests and unfairly exempts developing countries from cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

With the move invoking fury and protests across the globe, the European Union has called for the ratification of the treaty without the U.S., the largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

“I think perhaps the Japanese strategy is a wise strategy to leave the door open for continuing consultation and dialogue on this matter, not simply attacking the United States publicly,” he said.

Brown said Japan can take the initiative to promote advanced technology and innovations to meet the Kyoto target of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to pre-1990 levels.

“Japan could be a frontline state in dealing with the climate issue, if it wants to,” he said.

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