It is business as usual here in this beautiful city, where the people prefer to talk more about the leaves changing colour in the ongoing autumn season than the historic Kyoto Protocol that was signed by the world leaders here in 1997 and which will end in 2012.
It is not that people are not aware of the existing Protocol on climate change but not many would, perhaps, be aware that it was coming to an end in just about two years from now.
“People are highly aware of the global warming, particularly, the younger generation. When they discuss climate change, they talk of more steps that need to be taken to prevent global warming,” says Yukiko Takehana of the Kyoto Centre for Climate Actions.
The Centres for Climate Actions were set up in 1998 across Japan to initiative local actions to prevent global warming. But rather ironically the one at Kyoto was set up in 2003.
“One cannot say that Kyoto has done more or achieved more because the international Protocol was signed here. It has done just about as much for environment as other Prefectures in Japan,” Ms. Takehana said.
Kyoto, known for its breathtakingly beautiful autumn, came into limelight after the Kyoto Protocol on combating climate change was signed here. Kyoto is now less known for being the capital of Japan for a good 1,200 years before Tokyo was developed about 140 years ago.
Shinji Harada, a teacher at the Kitakuwada High School here says people talk about preventing global warming by making a more strong commitment for bringing down carbon emissions in the future. “Even less than six per cent as committed by Japan under the Kyoto Protocol is not enough and not achievable with the present steps,” he says.
Ms. Takehana says that it is the younger generation that has benefited more from signing of the Kyoto Protocol here. After that historic agreement, environment education was introduced in the schools and there were big time awareness campaigns on climate change that have influenced the young people. “But Kyoto Protocol signing or ending is not enough. People here want more actions to be taken to expand the provisions of the agreement to overcome global warming.
Climate change figures in the conversations more than it did before the Kyoto Protocol. Even industries and general public have become more aware of the climate change,” she explained.
“I know about the Kyoto Protocol and that the new Prime Minister wants to reduce the carbon emission by 25 per cent (as against 1990 levels),” says Iyori Nishizawa, 18-year-old student of Kitakuwada High School, where he is pursuing a three-year course in forestry.
Forestry management is an important aspect of climate change. No forests can result in disastrous consequences, he adds.
Japan depends on imports for nearly 80 per cent of its wood demand. It is said here that if this imported wood were replaced by locally produced wood, carbon emissions could be reduced by more than 50 per cent due to the fuel used in transportation from far off places. The students of the Kitakuwada High School in Kyoto Prefecture – where 75 per cent of the total area is covered by woodland – are making log houses and furniture using local timber.
The Kyoto Centre for Climate Action also issues certificates to building companies and those contractors who use local wood are given a certificate under which they can receive subsidy from the local government.