Late night beers and cup noodles – The latest casualties in the fight against global warming
During the COP3 event of December 1997, in Kyoto, Japan committed itself to a reduction of greenhouse emissions by 6%. With this goal set the local governments of at least 10 prefectures have recently announced the bold plans to restrict the opening hours of some of Japan’s forty two thousand convenience stores.
According to press reports the local governments are considering curbing late night operations of the stores as a step towards reducing their energy usage and carbon dioxide emissions. The debate over restricting operating hours began in Kyoto City this year. The city plans to establish a panel review in co-operation with convenience store owners to discuss the new opening hours for the next fiscal year, a sentiment mirrored by Saitama, Kanagawa and other prefectures.
Kiyoshi Hijikata, chairman of the Japan Franchise Association (JFA), estimates that cutting store opening hours by one third would reduce the industry’s carbon dioxide emissions by a mere 4%.
Logistical operations such as merchandise transportation are typically conducted at night during quiet periods. These would have to be moved to daytime hours during times of higher traffic congestion. In addition to this a large portion of the store’s electrical systems including security and refrigeration would remain on during the closed hours.
By far the largest operator of 24hour convenience stores in Japan is Seven-Eleven Japan Co., Ltd which, as of 2007 operated over twelve thousand stores nation-wide. Company president Toshiro Yamaguchi expressed his regrets that the local governments had made these proposals without prior talks with industry representatives. In a statement Yamaguchi said that these new operating hours could reduce each stores profits by 20%. “If this happens, our current business model will lose its foundation”.
The amount of CO2 released from all of the Japanese convenience stores amounted to an estimated 0.2% of Japan’s CO2 emissions. An official from the JFA said that even if all stores were to reduce their opening times to 16 hours, the lost CO2 would “only amount to 0.009 percent” of the nation’s total.
Local governments have been eager to present original and innovative climate change solutions in the wake of 2008’s G8 summit in Hokkaido. However, these new proposals make no mention of Japan’s many thousands of twenty four-hour fast food restaurants, Internet cafes, Pachinko parlous and Manga cafes.