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News Navigator: Do 'Cool Biz' summer clothes campaigns really cut emissions?

Employees at the Ministry of the Environment are seen donning Aloha shirts for the start of "Cool Biz" season on May 1, 2017, in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. (Mainichi/Tatsuya Fujii)

The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about "Cool Biz," Japan's annual light summer-business-attire initiative to cut air-conditioner usage.

Question: May 1 is the start of "Cool Biz" season, right?

Answer: Yes, it is. "Cool biz" was introduced by the government in 2005, when the Kyoto Protocol international emissions reduction agreement came into effect, to curb Japan's carbon footprint. This year marks the 15th "Cool Biz" period.

Initially it began June 1, but after the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, "Cool Biz" was temporarily moved to May 1 to promote energy saving. For various reasons, including that half the days in May in Tokyo exceed a summery 25 degrees Celsius, the early start stuck.

Q: The idea is to wear light clothes and aim to set the air conditioner to 28 C, but does changing your clothes really make you cooler?

A: If you must remove your summer suit jacket and your tie, you will feel the temperature has declined by 2C, according to the Energy Conservation Center Japan. There are myriad options to get you through the hot summer, with many clothes made from fabrics that breathe well or are soft on the skin.

Q: Did the initiative bring CO2 emissions down?

Before "Cool Biz," the average temperature setting at offices across the country in 2005 was 26.2 C, according to the Environment Ministry. The ministry estimates that carbon dioxide emissions were cut by 1.69 million metric tons across the country during the sixth "Cool Biz" summer by raising the temperature setting -- equal to the amount emitted by 3.93 million households a month.

Q: The outfits sported at the ministry this time must be very "cool" indeed then?

A: Not always. After the 2011 earthquake, the ministry's Lifestyle Policy Office ran a "Save before style" campaign in fiscal 2011 and 2012. From June, "Super Cool Biz" rules meant that depending on conditions, jeans and t-shirts were deemed acceptable work attire. These days Hawaiian Aloha shirts and Okinawan Kariyushi shirts are permitted, but T-shirts are not appropriate.

(Japanese original by Ai Oba, Science & Environment News Department)

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