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Mar. 10, 2015 - Updated 04:16 UTC



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From Kyoto to Paris

Takafumi Terui

Jan. 6, 2016

Delegates at a UN conference on global warming reached a historic agreement in Paris last month. It was the latest and most significant step in a process that started in Kyoto in 1997. The road to the agreement has been long, but one representative from a Japanese NGO has been traveling it since the beginning.

Her name is Mie Asaoka and she has spent decades campaigning to tackle climate change. "Finally we've made it," she said after watching the historic deal come together in Paris. "Now the world can fully implement measures to tackle climate change."

Asaoka says that the 1992 Earth Summit in Brazil first brought the issue to her attention. Scientists warned that greenhouse gas emissions were contributing to global warming.

Five years later, her hometown Kyoto took center stage at climate change talks. Asaoka joined the UN conference as an observer. She welcomed other campaigners to the city and helped raise national interest in the talks.

When she returned from Paris last month, she went to see the hall where the Kyoto Protocol was formally adopted. She remembers the events clearly. "It's been a long road since the Kyoto Protocol," she says. "But we've reached a new level with the Paris Agreement."

Critics have called the Kyoto Protocol ineffective, but Asaoka says that without it, they wouldn't have reached the agreement in Paris. "Our predecessors worked so hard on the Kyoto Protocol and the UN Climate Change Convention," she recalls. "That's the road we're still traveling down. Those agreements are the foundations for this more comprehensive framework."

After the Kyoto Protocol in the late '90s, Asaoka campaigned successfully for labels on electrical devices to indicate their energy efficiency. She also helped create a system to make renewable energy more affordable. Asaoka says the important thing now is how to implement the Paris Agreement in our daily lives. "I really believe we have to act now so that future generations will appreciate that we did our very best," she says.

Asaoka says people have to play a part if they want the Paris Agreement to bring real change. She says she'll keep fighting to make sure everyone knows what's at stake.