INTERNATIONAL AVIATION BUNKER FUEL EMISSIONS - no free ride
At present, emissions from international aviation bunker fuels are not requi red to be included in national inventories. The aviation sector represents o ne of the fastest growing emissions sources. These emissions are likely to t riple in the next couple of decades, and occur at altitudes where their glob al warming potential is multiplied. Consequently, they would represent more than the total Annex B reduction commitment.
Aviation is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions: for the coming decades the annual demand and emissions from this sector are expected to increase by 6% and 4% respectively. If this rate of increase is maintained, aviation emissions alone could be greater than the 5.2% reductio n target for Annex I countries by around 2015.
In spite of these predictions, emissions from international aviation are cur rently excluded from the national inventories of the Parties. The allocation of emissions from international bunker fuels is still unresolved. SBSTA has been wrestling with the questions of allocation ever since the Convention en tered into force, and has suggested a number of solutions including: no allo cation to national inventories, allocation according to the country where th e fuel is sold, allocation according to the nationality of the airline or of the aircraft registration and allocation according to the country of departu re or destination of the aircraft. In theory, the methodological question re lated to allocation should be easy to solve. It is therefore clear that the issue is rather a political one.
Article 2.2 of the Kyoto Protocol, which is a binding article, calls upon th e Parties to "pursue limitation or reduction of emissions of greenhouse gase s from international aviation, working through the International Civil Aviat ion Organisation (ICAO)".
Subsequently to the Kyoto Protocol, ICAO held its general assembly (that onl y meets every three years) in September/October 1998. The assembly endorsed only the formation of Working Groups on Emissions and on Market Based Mechan isms under the Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection, but did not d ecide on any measures to comply with the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol. Thus, there will be no further decision taken by ICAO before its next genera l assembly in 2001.
The environmental NGOs hope that all the Parties share our demands about the necessity to take quick action. We are demanding that:
・ SBSTA 10 should develop proposals for the allocation of aviation emission s and prepare recommendations for COP5;
・ COP5 should decide on the allocation of aviation emissions to the Parties;
・ COP5 should consider modalities for including international aviation emis sions attributed to the Parties in the first budget period.
Japan signs international court treaty
Japantimes July 19, 2007
The move makes Japan the 105th country to ratify the Rome Treaty and gives the Hague-based court a new strong financial supporter. Tokyo has pledged to pay 19 percent of the court's annual budget of about 90 million euro, or $ 124 million, said the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, a nongovernment group that supports the court's work.
"Japan's ratification is a major endorsement of the ICC and the new system of international criminal justice established by the Rome Statute," said William Pace, convener of the coalition. "Japan is an important world power; we hope its decision will press other major powers and more Asian states to join the ICC."
Among the countries that have not ratified the treaty is the U.S., which fears Americans could be unfairly prosecuted for political reasons.
Osamu Nikura of the Japanese Network for the ICC said Tokyo wants to be involved in the court's work.
"As the one and only country that has suffered the devastation of a full-fledged nuclear attack, we believe it is time that our country plays an active role in the promotion of peace and human rights in the world," Nikura said in a statement.
Japan will formally join the court Oct. 1, the court said in a brief statement.
Established five years ago, the court has yet to stage a trial.
YASUKUNI SHRINE VISITS, A CATHOLIC DILEMMA
Japan Catholic News April 2006
TOKYO (UCAN) -- The fifth annual visit of Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro to the Yasukuni Shrine that honors Japanese military personnel who died in uniform since the 1870s has produced the fifth annual protests from China and Korea.
The visits do not generate much excitement here in Japan since, for the most part, there is not much interest in Yasukuni or other issues related to it. After all, most Japanese were born after World War II ended. The Japanese empire and its sins are as remote from them as the invention of the telephone in 1876 was remote from people who lived under that empire.
The number of Japanese passionately interested in "protecting"Japan's colonial and imperial image is declining rapidly as the country's long-lived elderly die off. Their influence will probably disappear in the next decade or so. Those who oppose visits are also decreasing as anti-everything holdouts from the 1960s mellow. The majority does not care. This is not apathy; it is a normal lack of interest in the "once upon a time."
I am among those who think the annual uproar from China and, decreasingly, South Korea is related to the interests of the governments in those countries. Rousing people to manufactured indignation over what the Japanese did three generations ago is a handy way to distract citizens from developing or expressing indignation over what their own governments may be doing today. The decline in anti-Japanese activity in South Korea as that country has democratized illustrates the point.
And yet, the Yasukuni Shrine does provoke strong emotions among the generation of Japanese who lived through the imperial period. A large number of them look on the shrine not as a place that honors 14 class-A war criminals but as the place where their dead fathers, brothers, sons, husbands and friends are remembered. For them, questions of colonialism, war guilt and politics are irrelevant.
For others of that generation, Yasukuni is a reminder of the militarism and injustice that victimized the Japanese as well as others. They oppose visits to the shrine by political figures. Frequently, they advocate building another memorial to commemorate all victims of Japan's Asian wars, civilian as well as military, foreign as well as Japanese.
Those who oppose Yasukuni tend to be most vocal about it. Sometimes, they provoke a response from the small number of diehards who would glorify Japan's imperial past, which Yasukuni's museum and overall ethos certainly do. The majority stays out of the fray.
The issue can be divisive even among some Catholics who lived through the war period.
Following the August commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Japan's defeat, the letters column of Katorikku Shimbun, Japan's Catholic weekly, has carried many letters pro and con about the visits to the shrine and the somewhat related issue of amending the Constitution to regularize the situation of Japan's military. Some people go beyond excusing Koizumi's visit and even advocate such visits to the Shinto shrine by Catholics.
After Koizumi visited the shrine on Oct. 17, Japan's bishops issued a protest. However, their statement is unlikely to end the controversy among older members of the Church. Ironically, Catholics who favor not only politicians' visits to the shrine but even encourage Catholics to visit despite what the bishops say can claim to have an ally. The Vatican.
In the 1930s, at a time when militarists had taken control of the Japanese government and society, Catholics in Japan faced a problem. Children had to go to Shinto shrines as part of their school activities. In September 1932, Archbishop Jean-Baptiste-Alexis Chambon of Tokyo asked the Ministry of Education to clarify whether or not such visits were religious. A week after the archbishop sent his letter, a response came saying such visits were a manifestation of patriotism and loyalty, not a religious activity.
Based on that, Cardinal Pietro Fumasoni Biondi, prefect of "Propaganda"(now the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples) in Rome, sent word to Japan in May 1936 indicating that since visits to Shinto shrines were not religious activities, Catholics were allowed to make such visits.
After Japan's defeat in 1945, the U.S. occupation authorities ordered the denationalization of Shinto shrines, including Yasukuni. Thereafter, they were to be religious entities. At the first post-war gathering of Japan's bishops in May 1946, the bishops decreed that Catholics henceforth were not allowed to go to shrines in either a private or a public capacity.
That probably would have put the issue to rest except for a 1951 declaration from the Vatican stating that the 1936 decision was still in effect. It may be significant that this statement was signed by Cardinal Fumasoni Biondi, who had signed the 1936 one. Might a reluctance to admit having made a mistake 15 years earlier have caused him to reaffirm the earlier position?
In any case, the last word from the Vatican is the cardinal's reiteration of permission for Catholics to go to Yasukuni and take part in its rituals. There is now a move afoot to have the bishops of Japan look at the issue and make some sort of statement on the issue.
If that happens, though politicians will continue to visit the shrine as long as its supporters remain party contributors and voters, Catholics at least would have a clear teaching from their bishops to follow or ignore.
Aging bridges of Japan
Japantimes Sept. 2, 2007
The collapse a month ago of a freeway bridge over the Mississippi River near downtown Minneapolis offers an important lesson for Japan, where a large number of bridges are expected to reach the end of their useful life in the near future. The collapse points to the danger inherent in old infrastructure for which repair needs have been ignored. The central and local governments must get serious about systematically reinforcing or replacing old bridges.
The 580-meter-long Interstate 35W bridge was built in 1967. The ferro-concrete structure, spanning the 120-meter-wide river, has four lanes in each direction. About 50 vehicles fell into the water when it collapsed; so far, 13 deaths have been confirmed. The bridge was used by up to 200,000 commuters every day.
Japan's transport ministry believes that a similar bridge collapse is unlikely in Japan because the government has switched to the policy of carrying out preventive repairs in time. But complacency must be avoided. Roads, bridges and tunnels are getting old in Japan as well. According to the ministry, the nation has about 140,000 bridges, each 15 meters long or longer, that are used by vehicles. In fiscal 2006, 6 percent of those bridges were 50 years or older. That age category will rise to 20 percent in fiscal 2016 and 47 percent in 2026. It is usually assumed that a 50-year-old bridge should be replaced.
Since an enormous amount of money will be needed to replace all old bridges, the central and local governments are trying to prolong the life of old bridges by detecting weaknesses and carrying out repairs in advance. But as of February 2007, only 13 percent of the nation's municipalities were conducting regular checks of bridges.
An encouraging sign is the formation of an association comprising Kyoto University, the ministry's Kinki Regional Planning Bureau, construction companies and other organizations to study ways to improve bridge inspections with the use of high technology. The central and prefectural governments need to extend technical support to municipalities. Better ways to financially support them also should be considered.
Despite economic recovery, suicide rate remains high
Japantimes June 1, 2007
The hanging death of the farm minister this week grimly underscored the country's stubbornly high suicide rate — and the government's struggle to discourage large numbers of Japanese from killing themselves.
Toshikatsu Matsuoka, 62, hanged himself Monday just before he was to face questioning in the Diet over a series of scandals that have rocked the government since he took office last September.
With that act, Matsuoka became one of the more than 30,000 Japanese who kill themselves every year — the second-highest suicide rate in the industrialized world. Japan's suicide rate per 100,000 people stood at 25.5 in 2003, compared with Russia's 38.7, according to World Health Organization figures.
"We are facing a kind of crisis," said Takanori Suzuki, a Cabinet Office official in charge of suicide prevention. "Our previous measures were not effective . . . and we will have to move quickly."
More than 32,500 Japanese took their own lives in 2005, up 0.7 percent from the year before, the latest National Police Agency statistics show.
Japan has long been known for having a tradition of suicide, but the numbers exploded to over 30,000 a year in the late 1990s amid a long economic slump that forced mass restructuring at companies — and drove many men in their 50s to kill themselves.
Those numbers have remained high despite the economic recovery, leaving officials bewildered. The government set up programs to counsel the depressed and increase awareness of mental illness to no avail.
The sense of crisis has only been heightened in recent years with the increasing incidence of group suicides arranged among strangers over the Internet. The victims often drive to an isolated spot, seal the windows of their vehicles and asphyxiate themselves with fumes from a small charcoal burner.
Last June, the Diet enacted a law to bolster prevention, setting up Suzuki's department at the Cabinet Office to work on suicide reduction measures.
In the latest step, a panel of experts drafted measures in April that aim to cut suicides by 20 percent by 2016 to around 25,000 a year, including bolstering mental health support services such as counseling at workplaces and a network of community psychiatrists. The outline also defined suicide as something someone is "forced into" by social or economic pressures, instead of a personal choice by the weak-minded.
Yasuyuki Shimizu, who represents Life Link, a nonprofit organization providing support for suicide prevention, said Japan has failed to curb suicides because society minimizes the importance of personal troubles.
Shimizu also blamed the lack of flexibility and diversity in schools and companies, where the unorthodox or people with personal troubles can be ostracized.
"In this country, it is difficult to live without belonging to a group, and once you fall out there is hardly a chance to go back in," he said.
The effort faces cultural hurdles in Japan, where taking one's life has a long history as an honorable way of atoning for public disgrace and expressing the depth of one's shame. Matsuoka's situation fit that description.
"Death puts an end to everything, and the victim becomes a god, and free of criticism," said Yukiko Nishihara, founder of the Tokyo branch of Befrienders Worldwide.
Nishihara said she was alarmed when she saw Matsuoka's haggard face during Diet sessions last week. She said he seemed "over the edge," and she regretted that the signals were overlooked.
While the economy has recovered strongly, analysts say the fruits of that have been enjoyed only by major corporations and their employees, rather than workers of small and midsize companies, which have dominated recent bankruptcies.
Nishihara said those who commit suicide are often hardworking, serious people. Because they are diligent, their workload gets ever more demanding until they break down with health problems or depression.
Chongryun Tokyo HQ sale seems set to fail
Japantimes June 14, 2007
The deal to sell the Tokyo headquarters of Chongryun to Harvest, an investment advisory firm headed by an ex-chief of the Public Security Intelligence Agency, will probably fail because the buyer can't get the money to buy the pro-Pyongyang group's premises, sources said Wednesday.
Harvest, whose president is Shigetake Ogata, former agency director general, is having trouble raising the funds to buy the 2,390 sq. meters of land and 10-story office building belonging to the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan after the deal was revealed, the sources said.
The Public Security Intelligence Agency monitors groups for subversive activities, including Chongryun and Aum Shinrikyo.
"It's a serious problem that could damage public trust in our agency . . . I sincerely apologize for causing trouble," Toshio Yanagi, current agency director general, told a panel of the Liberal Democratic Party's panel on judicial affairs.
Ogata told a news conference that several investors have become hesitant about financing the purchase, which he said was for 3.5 billion yen, since the deal was reported in the media.
However, Ogata said the deal must be finalized before a court decision Monday in a lawsuit in which the state-backed Resolution and Collection Corp. has sued Chongryun for repayment of loans linked to nonperforming loans the corporation took over from 16 failed credit associations. It says 62.8 billion yen in loans were effectively lent to the group.
"Chongryun will be ousted from the head office if it loses the suit and the court seizes the property to put up for auction later, and that will hamper its role of supporting Korean residents in Japan," Ogata said.
The former security agency chief said he made the deal so he could help keep Chongryun operations going and guarantee that its affiliates' rights are protected.
"I also think the deal serves Japan's national interests," Ogata said.
Chongryun is North Korea's only representation in Japan and its headquarters is considered the de facto embassy. Evicting Chongryun could draw a harsh reaction from Pyongyang and damage already fragile bilateral relations.
Ogata said he believed Chongryun would use the 3.5 billion yen to pay for the loans, which would stop the court from seizing the property.
The deal for the land and the building Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward was signed earlier this year, and ownership listed in the public property registry was changed June 7, Ogata said.
Chongryun has agreed to pay Harvest, located in Tokyo's Meguro Ward, 350 million yen a year to lease the building and has the right for five years to repurchase the property.
China rivalry marks TICAD IV
Govt seeks African support on climate change, UNSC membership
Yomiuri May. 31, 2008
The government believes it has built a concrete diplomatic footing with African countries at the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV), which closed Friday.
However, it is unclear if TICAD IV will lead to African support for Japan's bid to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.
Fifty-one of 53 African nations took part in TICAD IV. Of the 51 participating nations, 40 sent their presidents, vice presidents or premiers.
A senior Foreign Ministry official said: "TICAD IV became one of the biggest international conferences ever held by the Japanese government. I feel that trust between African countries' and Japan has crystallized."
Japan's hosting of the conference has fueled its rivalry with China over Africa. China has been economically penetrating African countries for natural resources, and in 2006, it held the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Beijing. Thirty-five heads of state from African countries took part in the forum.
Government officials are pleased by the number of leaders that participated in TICAD IV.
"TICAD's participation figures are comparable to FOCAC's," one official said.
At the conference, the Japanese government announced assistance measures for African countries. One measure was a promise to double Japan's official development assistance in the next five years. This included providing a loan of up to 4 billion dollars in yen.
At a Thursday meeting on escalating grain prices, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said: "Japan promised to provide assistance measures to Africa. These measures include supporting food production expansion and improving agricultural productivity. We're prepared to make further contributions."
China's total trade with African countries came to 73.5 billion dollars in 2007. Total trade between Japan and Africa was 26.6 billion dollars in 2007.
"This conference has been assisting African countries since 1993. As this year's host, we wanted to be more competitive than China," a government official said.
Increasing government loans to Africa aims to support African countries' development of infrastructure such as roads. In turn, it will be easier for domestic companies to expand investments there.
However, some experts point out that the 4 billion dollars loan looks bigger than it actually is because previous debt repaid by countries will be deducted from the amount of the new loans. Thus, the net amount the countries will receive is expected to be less than 4 billion dollars.
There were instances when the conference did not go as Japan expected.
The government planned to include a statement in the Yokohama Declaration to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent from current levels by 2050. However, the government withdrew this provision after encountering fierce opposition from South Africa, a major polluter.
Fukuda held bilateral talks with 40 leaders of African countries and seven private sector Africa supporters.
At the meeting, Fukuda asked for support of U.N. Security Council reform and Japan's bid to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.
The government hopes to gather momentum for Security Council reform through support from African countries, which hold about 25 percent of U.N. General Assembly seats.
Fukuda met with 47 people during the summit and saw varying responses. John Kufuor, president of Ghana, was a strong supporter.
"We will support Japan becoming a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council," he said.
However, some countries were not as positive. Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba said, "I will take the issue back to my country and examine it."
A government official said: "Most participating countries showed understanding or support on the [United Nations] issue. However, only a few countries went beyond their past stances and expressed their support for our bid."
"Algeria, Egypt, Libya said they won't approve the Security Council reform if they can't become a permanent member themselves. I'm worried some countries are showing superficial support for Japan while in their hearts they are less than supportive," he added.