'No Time To Waste' Warns Japan Climate Activist

'No time to waste' warns Japan climate activist

Tokyo, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 16th Jun, 2021 ) :Kimiko Hirata has spent nearly half her life fighting to wean Japan off its dependence on coal, and now isn't the time to slow down, the award-winning activist warns.

"I'm hopeful, but we have no time to waste," said Hirata, the international director of Japan's Kiko Network NGO.

"Our future will be gone if we don't act now," she told AFP.

It's a message that Hirata, 50, has long worked to drive home in the world's third-largest economy, which upped its reliance on coal after the 2011 Fukushima disaster took its nuclear plants offline.

On Tuesday, the soft-spoken activist was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for her work, particularly on blocking new coal-fired power plants in Japan.

The country's 140 coal plants generate nearly a third of its electricity, second only to liquid natural gas-fired plants.

A signatory to the Paris climate deal, Japan was the sixth-biggest contributor to global greenhouse emissions in 2017, and last year the government set a new 2050 goal for carbon neutrality.

That significantly firmed up Tokyo's climate commitments and was a "major step forward," Hirata said.

It comes after years of efforts by the Kiko Network -- kiko is Japanese for climate.

The Goldman prize awarders said the Kiko Network's "sophisticated, multi-pronged, national anti-coal campaign", launched in 2011, helped block a third of 50 new coal projects.

The work Hirata spearheaded prevented "the emission of 42 million tons of CO2 per year," they added.

Hirata is modest about her achievements, citing efforts at a local level, and warning more is needed.

"I think (our work) helped put the brakes on to a certain extent," she said at her office in Tokyo.

"But there are more coal plants than before, so in the broader sense we still face challenges and haven't won a victory yet." Despite having devoted her adult life to tackling climate change, Hirata had no particular interest in environmental issues as a child.

Born in southern Kumamoto prefecture, she was 20 and studying education when she attended an environmental lecture that she said made her feel "like I was hit by lightning." "I was in huge shock when I realised that humans were harming the earth," she said.

"We were living this carefree life, without any sense of guilt." But despite a growing environmental interest, deepened by reading former US vice president Al Gore's book "Earth in the Balance,", she initially went to work for a publisher.

Unsure how to translate her environmental interests into a career, she decided to intern with a climate NGO in the US.

It was a leap of faith, and all the more so given that internet access was limited at the time, so she picked her target organisation by flipping through a directory of US NGOs at a local library.