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Cool Biz Campaign Heats up

Jun Yotsumoto

Office workers in Japan are doing without their jackets and ties now that the annual "Cool Biz" energy-saving campaign is underway. The government is encouraging people to turn up office temperatures and scale down office wardrobes. It is all part of efforts to fight global warming.

Officials at the Environment Ministry went into Cool Biz mode on the first day of May. The campaign used to start on June 1st, but in 2011 it was moved up one month to address electricity shortages following the accident at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

Department stores began featuring Cool Biz-related items in April. One office worker didn't waste any time getting started. "I broke out my cool biz wardrobe today because my company told us to," he explained. "I was wearing a tie up until yesterday." Another was less willing to make the switch. "It's a bit hot, but I want to look professional when I greet customers," he said. "And that means wearing a tie."

Despite such resistance, the number of businesspeople donning more casual summer attire is expected to grow as Japan enters the hot and humid rainy season and the scorching summer.

The Cool Biz initiative began in 2005, with organizers calling on businesses to set their thermostats at 28 degrees Celsius or higher. Officials with the Environment Ministry estimate that the campaign helped reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2.2 million tons in fiscal 2012. That's more than double the reduction achieved in 2005.

CO2 emissions reduced by COOL BIZ

And 56.4% of people surveyed by the ministry said their workplaces are changing their policies because of the campaign. Cool Biz has indeed caught on, but participation has leveled off in the past few years.

Japan's government wants to reduce the country's greenhouse gas emissions by 26% from 2013 levels in the next decade and a half. But Japan's carbon dioxide emissions have been on the rise, in part because all of its nuclear power plants are offline.

While the campaign's impact on emissions reductions may be small, its role in raising public awareness about the environment seems to be heating up.

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