I would like to thank all of you for your support and cooperation this year. I have had too many experiences to report to you. Please accept my apology for not having reported all of them. Being able to exchange views with many of you through this blog is always a pleasure and a great encouragement for me.
I served as Minister of the Environment for almost one year from October 2018 to September this year, and it gave me a great deal of impact and confidence to me as a politician. I felt that the Minister is the most powerful person in the Ministry and he can make almost any decisions by himself, but at the same time he is the highest-ranking officer with ultimate responsibility, meaning that he cannot get rid of any responsibility. My press conference was held twice a week, and it was not always easy to express my views deliberately, but it was a valuable opportunity for me to be able to talk to the people through the media.
2019 was a year for the change of the era. I was incredibly lucky to have witnessed the historical moment of the change from ‘Heisei’ to ‘Reiwa’, and experienced the ultimate bliss of having the privilege of attending the Ceremony of the Abdication of His Majesty Emperor Akihito and the Ceremony of the Enthronement of His Majesty Emperor Naruhito as a member of the Cabinet. I was filled with gratitude through these rare opportunities.
As Minister of the Environment, I did my best efforts to fulfill my duties representing the Ministry. The activities which I engaged in were as follows: the execution of green tax on automobiles to reduce environmental burdens, the promotion of Paris Agreement aiming to limit the temperature increase to below 2°C and pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C, the control of coal thermal plants, the introduction of coal tax, the reduction of fluorocarbon gases, coping with marine plastic pollution, charging for the tax on plastic shopping bags, the dissemination of environment-friendly hydrogen energy, concluding an agreement on mutual cooperation on environment with Kyushu University and Tokyo Institute of Engineering respectively, animal welfare activities, and the reforming of Shinjuku National Garden. I worked hard on these efforts both as a minister representing the organization, and as a politician.
In addition, at my press conference when I retired from my post as Minister of the Environment in early September, I announced the need for discharging the treated water—stored at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station—into the Pacific Ocean, and the news spread over the country and abroad through the mass media. I had been considering this issue seriously for a long time, and after I discussed with many experts, I was convinced that discharging the treated water would produce no harmful effects on the environment. I convinced myself, “Someone should say it.”
Furthermore, the issue of the Japanese government’s purchase of Mageshima Island which belongs to Nishinoomote City, Kagoshima Prefecture, was resolved at the end of November, though the negotiations between the government (the Ministry of Defense) and the land-owning company lasted for about 15 years. Both parties concluded a sales agreement on the Mageshima Island on November 29. I was involved in the negotiations as a coordinator, and I believe that I contributed much to the resolution of this issue. The details of these activities are reported in my Japanese blog and in my book published this September. Please refer to: Yoshiaki Harada. 2019. Kankyo Taisaku koso Kigyo wo Tsuyokusuru (Coping with Environmental Issues Strengthens Enterprises.). Fukuoka: Shukousha.
A new year will come in two days. I wish you all the best in the second year of the Reiwa era.