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E-alert Interviews (August 2008)
Building a Bridge for Environmental Cooperation between Japan and China: The China of today, host of the 2008 Olympics

Mr. Hideaki Koyanagi
Director, IGES Beijing Office

Mr. Hideaki Koyanagi joined the Ministry of the Environment (former Environmental Agency) in 1977, working on general environmental administration for 20 years. In 1997, he was assigned to the Japan-China Friendship Environmental Protection Center as a JICA specialist (senior advisor) and awarded the National Friendship Award in 2000, the highest honor bestowed on foreign specialists by the Chinese government.
In 2001, he returned to Japan and worked in various capacities in the Ministry of the Environment, including as manager of the Groundwater & Geo-Environment Office, and Environmental Information Office. He returned to China again in 2003 as a JICA specialist (individual specialist for promoting the development of model environmental cities) and was transferred to the post of chief advisor for Phase III of the JICA Japan-China Friendship Environmental Protection Center Project in 2004. Mr. Koyanagi joined IGES in April 2006 as the Director of the IGES Beijing Office Establishment Programme and has served in this position since July 2006.

Part1 Interviewed on 8 July 2008
>>click here to Part 2


China's action to improve the environment for the 2008 Olympic Games

----We have heard that Beijing has established and is working on 20 practical environmental targets in its goal to organise an environmentally-friendly "Green Olympics."

Koyanagi:

When Beijing was in the running to host the 2000 Olympic Games and lost to Sydney, one of the reasons was the concern over Beijing's environmental problems. For this reason, the city began to put environmental measures into effect from around 1998 for its candidacy to host the 2008 Olympics. In submitting its candidacy, Beijing pledged to organise a "Green Olympics," announcing 20 "environmental targets" and investing USD12.2 billion for environmental measures over the decade leading up to the Olympic year.


----Are the effects of such environmental measures actually being felt?

Koyanagi:
The principal source of energy in China is coal. To fulfill their pledge for the Olypmics, Beijing switched nearly all of its energy needs to natural gas and other clean energy sources. A natural gas pipeline has been built from Shaanxi Province more than 1,000 km away, with pipes laid under Beijing roads. In addition, more than 90% of energy needs by major industrial boilers in the city (approximately 16,300 units) is supplied by natural gas and other clean energy sources. This has led to the reduction of sulfur dioxides and particulates generated by coal combusion, which are the major causes of air pollution.

Large factories were also moved to the outskirts of the city, loop roads have been built to address the traffic issue, and the number of subway lines are rapidly increasing. With this multilateral environmental action, the city planned to make overall improvements to the environment.

Beijing's environmental measures for the Olympic Games

(1) Completion of natural gas pipeline supplying gas to Beijing
(2) Improvement of coal combustion boilers
(3) Wider use of district heating systems
(4) Improvement in traffic infrastructure and construction of new major roads
(5) Improvement in public transit system and use of clean fuels
(6) Stronger regulation over car emission gases
(7) Improvements such as prevention of dust generation in construction projects
(8) Protection of drinking water reservoirs and improvement of water quality
(9) Improvement of water quality and increase in water in canals
(10) Development of water-conserving agriculture and reduction of dust caused by agriculture
(11) Development of sewerage systems
(12) Reinforcement of hazardous waste processing
(13) Construction of city garbage detoxification plant
(14) Closing of plants that are serious polluters
(15) Plant relocations
(16) Increase in greenery coverage to more than 40%
(17) Construction of greenbelts, etc.
(18) Protection & reinforcement of nature reserves
(19) Reduction of chemicals that destroy the ozone layer
(20) Environmental consideration for Olympic Games venues and facilities


The top environmental concern at the Olympics: Air pollution

Koyanagi:
Air pollution is an environmental problem that closely touches our lives. In China, air pollution levels are rated on an atmospheric index scale from 1 to 500 and is reclassified for easier labeling as "excellent," "good" or "grave" when disclosing results and forecasts to the public. In comparing air quality in Beijing today with that of 10 years ago, air quality levels were classified as "excellent" or "good" (low air pollution level) for only 100 days of the year a decade ago, while in 2007, that number reached 246. It is about 2.5 times higher than level 10 years ago. Although there is argument over the credibility of the data, it at least means there has been quite a degree of improvement.

However, more than 100 days a year is still not a good enough figure. Honestly speaking, no one knows what the air quality will be like during the 16 days of the Olympic Games. Whether the weather and air quality will be good during this period is a gamble. Another issue is the frequent rise of photochemical oxidant levels during the summer, and this will pose the greatest impact to athletes. China does not officially monitor photochemical oxidant levels, but Beijing authorities appear to be privately concerned about this problem.

Beijing Olympic Stadium "Bird's Nest"
In Beijing and cities in the surrounding area, the renovation of gas stations was implemented on a large scale to cut the emission of hydrocarbons, which is the cause of photochemical oxidants. The renovation project was nearly complete by June. Oxidants and particulates from car emissions also cause air pollution, and special traffic control regulations took force on July 1 to prepare for the Olympics. It is a two-phase programme in which vehicles without adequate environmental control measures (called "yellow-label cars") are not allowed into the city during Phase 1 (July 1 - September 20) and control based on license plates will be enforced from July 20 to September 20. Cars with an even-numbered license plates will be allowed on even-numbered days, and those with odd numbered plates may enter on odd-numbered days. Driving regulations are also imposed on large vehicles and cars from outside Beijing. It is an exercise of authority that can be regarded as extremely aggressive and tough. I believe it will have a huge impact on everyday life.

Beijing rates 60 out of 100 in environmental control

----What score will you give to Beijing's environmental efforts for the Olympic Games?

Koyanagi:
I wish I would give a score of 80 out of 100, but it would be around 60 to 70. I find it typical of China to have to implement coercive traffic controls and temporary suspension of factory operations and construction work as a last resort. Measures of this kind will make air quality improvement possible even in the worst polluted areas, but is not something that can be maintained. It will get worse again after the Olympics. (Laughter)


"I will be going to China next month, at once"

---- Please tell us how you became involved with China's environmental problems.

Koyanagi:
I had been working for the (then) Environmental Agency and was asked in spring of 1997 whether I'd like to work in China as a JICA specialist. I had never been to China before but decided to go after considering it overnight. I took the assignment in September 1997. My response at that time was "I will be going to China next month, at once." This episode was reported in China's People's Daily.

When talking about China, I think that people's reactions are divided into two groups: those who become immersed in the culture and those who develop a dislike of the country. Somehow, I ended up settling there, by an accidental throw of the dice when choosing my path in life.

During the first three and a half years, I worked as a senior adviser for Phase II of JICA's China-Japan Friendship Environmental Protection Center Project. I returned to the Ministry of the Environment after the project was complete but was assigned once again as a JICA specialist to China in 2003. Under the "Japan-China Joint Initiative on Environment toward the 21st Century" proposed by the late Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, there was a cooperation programmeme to promote the development of model environmental cities, which focused on improvement of the atmospheric environment in three cities. My assignment was as a technical cooperation specialist, which was a tremendous job.

The second challenge

Koyanagi:
When I was assigned to China in 1997, the project was a large-scale one, involving five to seven Japanese specialists. There were Japanese speaking counterparts on the Chinese side, and the work was located in Beijing, which was a highly convenient and comfortable area to work. However, the second assignment was as an individual specialist, having to start from scratch and to think and worry about where to start. Unlike the previous large-scale project, budgets for individual specialists were small. To start up work in remote areas, I had a hard time when communicating with the local people, since I was unable to hire an interpreter. At one time, I had to work while taking painkiller injections for my stomach. Under such circumstances, I was able to build connections and trust, although slowly. It made me realise the importance of human ties in China.

Later, I was transferred to the post of leader in Phase III of the Japan-China Friendship Environmental Protection Center Project, while continuing to work at my previous job. With the increase in the workload, I had to travel more than 30 times a year to areas outside Beijing. With each business trip taking about four days, I was traveling inside China for 120 days each year.


---- And, later, you were assigned to IGES from April 2006...

Koyanagi:
Establishment of the IGES Beijing Office
Phase III of the project ended in March 2006. However, I was thinking of working in related fields because I had established ties with China over the years.

It was at that time that the Japanese and Chinese governments were looking into the possibility of a large-scale CDM business cooperation project. It was a project that was being mediated by IGES. This intergovernmental cooperation programme required a specialist capable of negotiating with the Chinese side and steering the direction of the project. It was to this job I was assigned.

Since IGES did not have a Beijing office at that time, the IGES Beijing office (IGES Sino-Japan Cooperation Project Office) was set up at the Japan-China Friendship Environmental Protection Center, with the idea that an office would be necessary to strengthen cooperation with China in the future.

---- Please tell us about the project that you are working on at present.

Koyanagi:
I am involved in many activities and programmes, reaching out into different things. In addition to the CDM cooperation programme I mentioned, I am now putting priority on cooperation in water environmental protection.

The water environmental problem is the next major issue to be addressed

Koyanagi:
Site for a new wastewater treatment plant: this stream looks superficially clean but has been polluted by wastewater
Basically, cooperation to protect the water environment, including the conservation of drinking water, is crucial. However, Japan's ODA (economic cooperation programme for China) places priority on global environment issues and problems that affect Japan as well. Because water quality is a problem restricted to specific areas within China, it is not likely to become a global-scale concern and does not directly impact Japan. For this reason, this field is low in priority for cooperation programmes. However, I was well aware of its importance for many years. Because of this personal concern, I had been actively communicating the importance and the need for cooperation in water protection to various relevant areas and authorities, including the Prime Minister's Office, on every occasion.

Although I don't know whether my efforts have had any effect, the issue of cooperation in water quality was mentioned as the first point in the joint communique on strengthening cooperation in environmental protection, which was issued during the visit by the Chinese Premier Wen Jiaobao in April last year. The cooperation programme took form over the next year, leading to the conclusion of a memorandum on a joint venture into diversified wastewater treatment in rural areas in China during the visit by the Chinese President Hu Jintao last May. Finally, cooperation between the two countries on water issues in China was agreed upon by the top leaders in both countries.

The cooperation programme is presently operating under the initiative of IGES, as the main organisation on the Japan-side. Although I feel the pressure of the importance of this mission, I am motivated by the fact and find it meaningful that the success or failure of this project will depend on IGES.


---- Please tell us about what future activities are planned for the IGES Beijing Office.

Koyanagi:
In addition to continuing survey and research cooperation in the areas of CDM and water quality protection, we are participating in various bilateral cooperation programmes in the area of the environment, such as development of a recycling society, measures to address global warming, measures to alleviate environmental contamination and co-benefit programmes. We are also placing emphasis on advisory activities. I feel that the role of coordinating and guiding the bilateral environmental cooperation programmes in a direction shared by both China and Japan is extremely important.

Although the IGES Beijing Office has been in operation for only two years, it has gained recognition from a large number of people (in both China and Japan) in that short period of time.

Ties with people:
The focal point in Japan-China environmental cooperation

---- You have been involved in a range of environmental fields in China until now, haven't you?

Koyanagi:
Yes, I was involved in the areas of air, water and waste and am currently concerned with global warming. I have taken part in almost everything except conservation of the natural environment. Today, I am a jack-of-all-trades in the area of environmental cooperation between Japan and China. (Laughter)

Because my job and title has changed over the 11 years that I was involved in cooperation with China--from JICA to the Ministry of Environment, then back to JICA and later to IGES--the Chinese appear not to know to which organisation I belong. However, the Chinese place importance on human connections rather than organisations. So since I have been involved in bilateral cooperation programmes all these years, there actually isn't much difference in what I do, regardless of the organisation. I am happy and grateful that people come to me for advice whenever there is a problem, saying, "Let's ask Xiaoliu (Chinese for Koyanagi)."

Through these inquiries, I am able to gather information and discover new developments. It becomes a way to transmit information as well. This is a great advantage for myself, as well as IGES.


---- Please tell us about what you expect from IGES in the future.

Koyanagi:
Although IGES is a policy research organisation, it is important for IGES not only to conduct research but also to make itself part of the realisation process. Outreach activities are also important in transmitting information and getting people to listen. By communicating information with added value that is exclusively from IGES, its reputation grows. The speed of changes that are taking place in the world is tremendous. We need to take rapid action. No matter how good a recommendation is, its value depreciates if it errs in timing. I believe we need to act with foresight in observing policy developments and to communicate ideas and recommendations that are suited to the moment.

---- Thank you very much. Xiexie.

Koyanagi:
Bukeqi (You are welcome.)

Interviewers: Megumi Yajima and Sae Yamaguchi (Information Dissemination and Outreach Programme)


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