National / Politics

In diplomatic debut, new environment minister Shinjiro Koizumi pledges to make action on climate change 'sexy'

Reuters, JIJI

Shinjiro Koizumi, Japan’s new environment minister, has pledged to mobilize young people to push his coal-dependent country toward a low-carbon future — by making the fight against climate change “sexy” and “fun.”

Koizumi was speaking Sunday at the United Nations in New York, on the eve of a U.N.-hosted climate summit. Activists are understood to be planning to float a blimp showing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe emerging from a bucket of coal, to protest Japan’s plans to build new coal-fired power plants.

“In politics there are so many issues, sometimes boring. On tackling such a big-scale issue like climate change, it’s got to be fun, it’s got to be cool. It’s got to be sexy too,” Koizumi told a news conference in New York.

“We are committed to realizing a decarbonized society, and we are ready to contribute as a more powerful country in the fight against climate change,” he said.

Japanese students in Tokyo were among the millions of young people who took to the streets Friday to express fear and outrage over the failure of governments to control greenhouse gas emissions, which hit a record high last year.

Considered a rising star on Japan’s political scene, Koizumi, 38, became the third-youngest lawmaker to join a post-World War II Japanese Cabinet when Abe announced a reshuffle earlier this month.

The son of charismatic former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, he is regularly rated by voters as the lawmaker they would most like to see in the top job when Abe steps down.

During the meeting at U.N. headquarters, the high-profile politician cracked jokes in English without reading from his prepared remarks.

At the same time, he sought to express Japan’s determination to lead the world in discussions on the fight against climate change.

Noting that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the city of Kyoto have announced goals of reducing carbon dioxide emissions to effectively zero by 2050, Koizumi revealed that an official from Yokohama has also offered to follow suit. He said he got such a commitment after asking the official ahead of the meeting which city would be next to adopt the target, touting the pledge as a success from his first 10 days in the post.

“Right ahead of the U.N. meeting, Minister Koizumi asked me if it’s OK for him to mention … that he has successfully persuaded the city, and I said yes,” said Eriko Yakushiji, head of Yokohama’s headquarters for the fight against global warming.

Later, Koizumi told reporters: “I demonstrated the way a politician should send messages and express ideas, not only by reading a prepared text.”

Koizumi assumed his first ministerial post in a Cabinet reshuffle conducted by Abe on Sept. 11.

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