On the eve of a United Nations climate summit in New York, newly minted Japanese environment minister Shinjiro Koizumi spoke at a news conference for foreign media, stressing his commitment to climate change and the importance of mobilizing the younger generation in the effort to reduce his country's dependency on coal. This happened days after hundreds of thousands of protesters around the world, including participants in five Japanese cities, participated in a Global Climate Strike on Friday to voice their outrage at the failure of governments to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

“We are committed to realizing a decarbonised society, and we are ready to contribute as a more powerful country in the fight against climate change,” Koizumi said.

However, both domestic and international media have zoomed in on the fact that Koizumi used the word "sexy" to describe his recommended strategy for presenting climate change to the public:

“In politics there are so many issues, sometimes boring. On tackling such a big-scale issue like climate change, it’s got to be fun, it’s got to be cool. It’s got to be sexy too,” Koizumi was quoted as saying.

For example, Reuters covered the story with the headline: "Make climate fight 'sexy,' says Japan's new environment minister." The Japan Times headlined their story: "In diplomatic debut, new environment minister Shinjiro Koizumi pledges to make action on climate change 'sexy'."

Japanese climate activists and opposition politicians later criticized the comment as lacking substance, and expressed frustration over a lack of policy details.


The larger context in which Koizumi made those remark has been omitted in much of the reporting on the matter, both domestically and abroad.

A video posted by Japanese news broadcaster TBS on their Twitter account presents a more complete picture of what happened.

In case you're unable to view the video, here is the transcript (emphasis ours):

"...On tackling this issue, everything's got to be fun. And she added, 'also sexy' (laughter) Right? Yeah, I totally agree with that. So, in politics there are so many issues, sometimes boring. But on tackling such a big-scale issue like climate change, it’s got to be fun, it’s got to be cool. It’s got to be sexy too. As I said, the young generation is a key. For mobilizing them and empowering them, it's got to be fun."

The "she" in question is former UN climate official Christiana Figueres, an architect of the 2015 Paris Agreement to curb global warming who had invited Koizumi to meet companies and banks invested in Asian clean energy projects.

According to a report in Climate Home News, at least as early as 2012, Figueres had used "make green sexy" as a call for action. Seeking to acknowledge and recognize Figueres' idea, Koizumi borrowed her phrase in his comments. Moreover, Koizumi didn't conclude with "sexy," returning the focus on "fun" at the end.

While this does not reveal any further information about specific policies or actions Koizumi intended when he picked up Figueres' slogan, which she presumably reiterated earlier in the news conference, it arguably presents a more nuanced picture of the new minister's actions in his diplomatic debut.

But nuance doesn't make for a sexy headline...


By - grape Japan editorial staff.