News

Japan Seeking China's Cooperation to Cut Air Pollution

Multimedia

Audio

Japan is trying to enlist China's help to fight air pollution around East Asia. Some environmental experts in Japan believe their country's problem with declining air quality can be traced to its giant neighbor. But, as Liz Noh reports from Tokyo, assigning blame is a politically sensitive issue.

Officials with Japan's Environment Ministry say their counterparts in China have agreed to cooperate in the fight against air pollution.

Japanese officials say former Environment Minister Masatoshi Wakabayashi and China's environmental protection head, Zhou Shengxian, reached a verbal agreement in late August. But, the details of such potential cooperation have not yet been worked out.

Earlier this year, Japan experienced high levels of ozone pollution, also known as "photochemical smog", which is caused when sunlight reacts with emissions from cars and factories.

Komichi Ikeda is the deputy director of the privately funded Environmental Research Institute. She says the current smog problems have not been seen in Japan since the 1970s, when the country was still industrializing.

Ikeda says China is now in a similar position.

"And it's another time to watch the photochemical pollution that must be coming from China, because there are very high concentration[s] in China now," she said. "They have industrialized very quickly and there are no specific or enough control[s] of pollution from automobiles and stationary sources.

Ikeda says 28 Japanese prefectures have had warnings for high levels of ozone pollution this year, particularly along the Sea of Japan, across from China.

China's cities have some of the world's worst air quality and the problem is spreading. Pollutants from China have been found in the air in South Korea, Japan and even as far away as the West Coast of the United States.

But finger pointing by Japan at China is a diplomatically unpopular approach.

Reiko Sodeno is deputy director at the global environmental issues division of Japan's Environment Ministry. She says Japan is trying to collect more specific data without accusing China directly.

"Experts pointed out the effects of China. But at the moment, they cannot show concrete contributions from China to Japan," she said. "We notice the effect, but we cannot tell the concrete value or rate of contribution."

That is why Japan is urging cooperative research with China to try to solve the problem.

Sodeno says Japan has suggested the two countries work together to monitor ozone levels, using equipment Japan would provide. Japan is also promoting an easier, less-expensive way to monitor ozone, using simulation models.

However, Japanese officials say since there is no written agreement yet, Japanese and Chinese environment ministries must continue talks to work out the details.

Sodeno says getting China to cooperate in research using simulation models could be difficult.

"The simulation model issue, it's more delicate and sensitive because using [a] simulation model, we can detect where is the source and how it contributes to air pollution in Japan," she said.

Sodeno also says transparency could be an issue and that it could be difficult to get accurate data from Chinese officials for scientific research.

Masako Ogawa is deputy director of the environmental cooperation department at Japan's Ministry of Environment. She is more optimistic about plans for cooperation.

"There may be some bureaucracy and [we] may have some problems, but I understand it's very important to engage them from the beginning to have some discussion or dialogue," she said.

Ogawa says the Chinese government is anxious to tackle the problem, particularly because China has committed to cleaning up its air before the Beijing Olympics next summer.

Beyond the Olympics, China has a five-year plan to reduce energy consumption and pollution.

Ogawa says Japan's efforts to help clean up China's air are part of a long commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which are thought to contribute to global warming. The emissions are chiefly the result of burning carbon-based fuels, such as coal and oil.

Japan is working to get the international community to agree on a new framework to limit greenhouse gas emissions that would replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012. Drafted a decade ago, the Kyoto Protocol sets mandatory emissions cuts for developed nations, but does not require mandatory cuts by developing countries, such as China.

Ogawa says that, although discussions with China may lack detail now, Japan sees them as an important step to engage China on environmental issues in a broader, global context.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs