Tokyo's Climate Change Leadership


by Junko Edahiro

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) is tackling global warming with new initiatives. These innovative and comprehensive initiatives seem to say, "Municipalities lead Japan!" While Japan's national climate change goal is to "reduce greenhouse gas emissions by six percent from 1990 levels by 2012," Tokyo has set a more aggressive goal of "reducing its emissions by 25 percent from 2000 levels by 2020."

The TMG started to take substantial measures for coping with climate change following an administrative policy speech by Governor Shintaro Ishihara in September 2006, in which he declared that Tokyo would play a leading role in Japan and cut its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in half by mid-century.

Three months later, the government published a policy document, "Tokyo's Big Change: the 10-Year Plan." This policy set the major goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 25 percent from 2000 levels by 2020, and introduced Tokyo's policy for changing the structure of society by realizing its 10-Year Project for a Carbon-Minus Tokyo.

To help implement this, the "Strategic Joint Committee for an Environment-Friendly City" was established in January 2007 as an internal organization involving multiple departments in the Tokyo government and headed by its deputy governor. Its underlying policy is this: If the structure of the society needs to be changed, then all stakeholders in the society should work together to bring this about.

The following March, the "Fund to Promote Measures against Climate Change" launched with a budget of 50 billion yen (about $4.3 billion USD) for fiscal 2007. The establishment of this fund made it clear that the project would be solidly backed with authority and money. In only six months since the governor's speech in September 2006, Tokyo had taken a giant leap. This initiative was realized with "effectiveness and speed," Governor Ishihara's motto since taking office.

To realize an effective movement, it is necessary to implement individual policies while understanding major trends. A "Project for Practical Application of Next-Generation Biodiesel Fuel" was launched in February 2007, followed in March by the establishment of a "Conference on the Expanded Use of Solar Energy," designed to achieve the use of solar thermal and solar light in the Tokyo metropolitan area on a scale of about one million kilowatts.

Tokyo's green power purchasing movement also aims to change the structure of energy supply and consumption by taking advantage of the city's purchasing power as a major consumer, and to encourage residents to select the energy source they want. A seminar in March 2007 attracted an audience of more than 200 people from municipalities and companies. Acknowledging that the actions of concentrated sources of purchasing power can change the energy structure, the Green Energy Purchasing Forum was initiated in June. It now counts 80 organizations among its members.

Also in June, the Tokyo Climate Change Strategy was released as a defining document for the basic 10-Year Project for a Carbon-Minus Tokyo policy. It calls for:

(1) Creation of a mechanism to bring Japan's environmental technologies into full play

(2) Creation of a mechanism to encourage large businesses, smaller businesses and households to achieve CO2 emissions reduction in accordance with their own capacities and on their own responsibility

(3) Implementation of strategic and intensive measures during the first 3 to 4 years as an initial period of shift towards a low-carbon society

(4) The use of private and public funds, tax incentives, and bold implementation of the investments needed to achieve CO2 emissions reduction.

Among various strategies, Tokyo has given high priority to building construction. Most buildings built today will last beyond 2050. Thus, their design and construction should reflect the specifications that will be required in 2050.

Another remarkable initiative is Tokyo's plan to introduce a carbon trading system. National-level emissions trading has not been realized in Japan due to opposition from business sectors that insist it could reduce Japan's international competitiveness. Governor Ishihara, however, says, "We will start emission trading in 2010 despite the opposition. We will also join the International Carbon Action Partnership (ICAP), consisting of the European Union and major American states. We believe this action will drag our country into the emission trading market."

Under the emissions trading scheme proposed by Tokyo, larger companies will be obliged to reduce CO2 emissions and encouraged to engage in emissions trading with small-and-medium-sized companies (SMEs) that can potentially conserve energy and reduce CO2. TMG believes the scheme will achieve CO2 reduction in a cost-effective way while stimulating SMEs' business and environmental activities.

As mentioned above, Tokyo has set the major target of a 25 percent reduction by 2020 compared to 2000 levels. When discussing this kind of bold target, people in Japan usually cannot get past talking about whether or not it is possible. However, Governor Ishihara has taken the resolute stance that officials of the Tokyo government who cannot achieve any results should leave their jobs. This has created a proactive atmosphere and convinced officials that it is their role to develop ideas about how to achieve the target, as opposed to merely discussing whether they can make it or not.

The governor's determination is clearly expressed in his statement that, "Tokyo will do whatever is necessary to curb climate change." He has formulated the vision, and is letting officials work out what needs to be done to achieve the goal. This kind of "backcasting" approach forces officials to search out and identify their next step towards the goal. Officials confirm that this way of doing things is significantly different from the way things used to be. The governor's strong leadership and clear vision about combating global warming is driving Tokyo's environmental policy forward.

The TMG is striving to achieve this challenging goal in an integrated way by combining various measures and initiatives. Its own departments and agencies, other local municipalities, industries and citizens are playing their respective parts while collaborating with each other. All the measures proposed by Tokyo are openly discussed at stakeholder meetings (three such meetings have been held so far).

Tokyo also takes the citizen perspective into consideration in its measures and policies. A net cut in energy consumption and a shift to renewable energy are necessary to achieve emission reduction. The focus of the national energy policy is on reduction measures by type of energy. In the case of household energy consumption, for example, the national government first looks at the types of energy used (electricity: 47 percent; city gas: 47 percent; kerosene: 6 percent) then devise measures for each. This is a top-down approach.

Tokyo, by contrast, first asks, "What are citizens using energy for?" The answer is, to make life more comfortable. With this demand-centered approach, Tokyo pays more attention to how energy is being used (lighting and home electronics: 37 percent; hot water: 43 percent; heating and cooling: 20 percent). Starting from this point, Tokyo then asks itself, "What services are necessary to make life comfortable for citizens, what energy is required to provide such services, and where does that energy come from?"

Electricity is essential for lighting and home electronics, but the amount of electricity purchased from utilities can be greatly reduced through energy conservation and introducing solar photovoltaic systems. To supply hot water and room heating and cooling, however, low-grade heat sources can be used. A combination of energy conservation, passive energy use and the use of renewable energy (e.g. hot water supply
systems using solar thermal energy) can significantly reduce the amount of gas purchased.

Since it is difficult to build large-scale facilities to produce renewable energy in Tokyo, the metropolitan government is also planning to help launch renewable energy projects in other areas. This will in turn help revitalize local economies and create jobs.

Tokyo is now campaigning to win the bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Looking forward to 2016, Tokyo is striving to become a low-carbon yet affluent city that can be a model for other cities in the world. We applaud Tokyo for its efforts, and hope its enthusiasm will be translated into action that produces significant results.

Junko Edahiro wrote about the history and evolution of Tokyo in this post.

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