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Japanese activist achieves incredible feat changing country's energy consumption after nuclear disaster: 'I was shocked'

Kimiko Hirata is proof that dedication and collaboration can achieve remarkable results.

Kimiko Hirata is proof that dedication and collaboration can achieve remarkable results.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Meet Kimiko Hirata, a climate activist on a mission to transform Japan's energy landscape — and a recipient of the coveted Goldman Environmental Prize.

As a founding member of the Kiko Network, a Japanese NGO dedicated to halting the rise of global temperatures, Hirata worked to build a sustainable future for her country and the world. More recently, she has worked as the executive director of the nonprofit Climate Integrate.

Hirata's journey began in the 1990s, after reading about the dangers of dirty gas pollution. Inspired to take action, she quit her publishing job to join the environmental movement.

Since then, she's devoted her life to the cause, from supporting Japanese civil society at the Kyoto Climate Summit to launching a national campaign against coal power.

In the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan turned to coal as a major energy source, as the Goldman Prize website explained. Hirata knew this posed significant climate risks.

"To be honest, I was shocked," she said in a Goldman Prize video. "Coal power plants produce millions of tons of CO2 per year. They also emit heavy metals and air pollutants, including mercury, that endanger human health and the environment."

She rallied activists, collaborated with experts, spoke at public hearings, and built international partnerships to raise awareness about the hazards of coal and pressure Japan to change course.

Hirata's multi-pronged approach paid off. Her campaign prevented the construction of 13 coal plants that would have created over 1.6 billion tons of CO2 pollution. That's like taking 7.5 million cars off the road for 40 years, according to the Goldman Environmental Prize.

By averting 42 million tons of pollution annually (the pollution that would have taken place over the lifetimes of the coal plants), she's helping to limit the rise of global temperatures and create a healthier environment for everyone.

What's next for this powerhouse activist? Hirata continues to lead the charge for a coal-free Japan and inspire climate action worldwide. She's proof that dedication and collaboration can achieve remarkable results.

Hirata proves that we have the power to build a sustainable world if each of us steps up. Together, our actions can change the trajectory of our planet. So let's get to work.

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